Friday, January 2, 2015

The Greatest?

I just finished reading an article dedicated to the blog of ‘one of the greatest business minds living today’.  The article is a summary of twelve of Seth Godin’s golden wisdom nuggets, things that are apparently stunning revelations to those of us who are less informed.  The phrase ‘one of the greatest’ bothers me.  The difference between one of the greatest business minds and me is that he developed a large readership and I currently sport two regular readers, so if you are reading this, thank you.  I’ll buy the next round. 

The truth is that any business owner or entrepreneur who survived the downturn and terrible recession of 2008 and 2009 is one of the greatest minds.  Any person who starts up a business and survives the first ten years is also one of the greatest.    

Today I also read a Forbes article called ‘The Best Investment Advice of All Time’ .  Once again, I was unsettled.  We idolize the people who teach us to invest our money in the market and make millions from the stock market and in banking.  We seem to have lost the understanding that the people who actually made those investments successful were the entrepreneurs and managers who ran the companies that actually made the profits.  Those people were some of the greatest business minds of all time.  Smart investing involves throwing money at good businesses. 

Back to the Greatest Business Mind.  Seth Godin is successful.  He is a marketer although he did start one company that actually packaged books.  It was eventually sold to his employees so that he could focus on marketing concepts.  I would not disparage him.  He made it, accomplishes his goals daily and is famous for his ability to innovate and make money.  I’m sure that he is a great guy as well.  He certainly looks the part.

Now take a look at an entrepreneur who starts building machine parts in his garage, envisions and then builds a company that employs twenty people in ten or fifteen years, and keeps employees until they retire.  He is not rich or famous.  He becomes, however, an employer and a manager.  What he started with his own hands, he built into a business that supports families.  It produces a product and it influences a large number of suppliers, customers and employees.  The smart investor may buy into the company at some point and make a bunch of money.  The person who started it and built it from scratch is, to me, the hero of the story.  He’s the greatest mind.

You have to have been an entrepreneur or have at least observed the struggles involved in building a company in order to appreciate my comments.  The entrepreneur always starts with a solid idea that he or she can build something better on his or her own.  That is the beginning.  As the product becomes successful, the entrepreneur has to learn and practice a whole new skill set called management.  That same entrepreneur has to make a huge leap from doing it on his own, to trusting others to do it the way he wants it done.  He has to learn how to make those others happy and keep them working.  He has to make sure that money is sufficient to pay the bills.  He has to learn to envision expansion, growth and marketing success.  Anything short of this becomes failure.  It can happen at any stage of the process. 

For any business to survive for even a few years, dedication, study, openness to change and adaptation are keys.  It takes a fabulous mind and a very strong will to continue on, to slog through daily failures in order to survive.  At some point, outside factors like competition and a thoroughly uncooperative government begin to interfere and require attention.  The entrepreneur turned manager and salesman has to become a politician and marketer.

There is no single ‘greatest business mind’.  In truth, there are a whole lot of people at all stages of their own business cycles and all of them possess the greatest business minds.  Here’s hoping that a whole new group of them continues to open up new businesses and that we continue as people to allow them to do their work.  We need them.  We will always depend on them.

Perhaps those who get recognized and famous and published would be better known as the greatest communicators alive today.  Or maybe the greatest marketers.  Sounds more appropriate to me. 

Happy 2015.