The Truth About Entrepreneurial Resources
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In Part One, the focus was on the plight of failing entrepreneurs. Here we’ll look at some of the critical players involved, and a glimpse into the truth about available entrepreneurial resources.
The first important player is government. In general, North American governments do a quality job of providing educational and, in some cases, financial assistance to entrepreneurs. This is great news for focused entrepreneurs who need technical business planning and financial guidance. But when it comes to failing businesses in grave difficulty, counseling is often of little value. Entrepreneurial resources seem to dissolve in these cases. What can be done? Much more in the planning stages (and of course, the Focus Program tackles exactly that issue). Traditional resources much first come to grips with another root cause of failure, namely the entrepreneur. Business failure deals every bit, if not to a great extent, with the person who owns and operates the business. And that issue needs to be dealt with long before business plans are ever written.
Many agencies, whose reason for being is to support small businesses, often find themselves helpless. For example, if a loan is made to a sick business, that cash injection will most likely just prolong an inevitable death. In spite of its desire to do so, an outside agency cannot affect real change in an individual business for several reasons. Business failure can’t be overcome short of day-to-day corrective involvement in a venture. Like marriage counseling, by the time the couple arrives, it may be too late.
This is not an attack on our government agencies, the volumes of fine work they do, or their level of commitment. However, it is an expression of concern for their ability to effect change. The people who work within these agencies are primarily administrators, educators and past executives. Those are honorable people, but their experience, mindset and skills often do not relate to the entrepreneurial lifestyle and personality. Working as an executive manager in corporate America or an agency administrator and owning a business are not at all similar. What if the support positions were filled by ex-entrepreneurs? The parties would perhaps relate better, but it wouldn’t be the answer because small business is about living and working in the trenches, and only the owner does that on a day-to-day basis. The differences between living through a business failure and talking about it are simply like night and day. If you’ve been there, you know it’s true. Business failure begins long before the business is ever launched.
The next important player is the banker. In terms of financial assistance, the banker can be a great asset, but don’t forget, our focus is on troubled businesses. Due to priorities and abilities, not out of lack of care or concern, the banker cannot champion the cause. In times of trouble, the banker will attempt to ‘work out’ the problem, but be assured, collection, in one form or another will take precedence over entrepreneurial counseling. Once again, you will not generally find a mindset fit between an entrepreneur and other personalities.
Now consider schools. Educators teach us about management systems, and today, we have many entrepreneurial courses of study. However, knowing how to effectively manage a system does not equate to the demands of entrepreneurship. We are fortunate to have brilliant minds housed in prestigious academic settings, but as important as business principles and systems are to successfully running a business, once again, those issues are not at the very heart of entrepreneurship.
Of course, we have to include the entrepreneur’s family, friends and other confidants. As deeply concerned as they are for the welfare of their favorite entrepreneur, they are usually not effective entrepreneurial resources if the venture is in trouble. Mostly, after listening tirelessly with sympathy and empathy, friends and family eventually have to get back to taking care of their own lives. Spouses, children, parents, friends and trusted business advisors may feel the owner’s heartache as though it was their own, but usually they are helpless by-standers. When a business is in trouble, so is the owner.
So, this all sounds rather bleak, doesn’t it? We have government agencies, banks, educators, friends and family all around, but really no one to help. Do you recall the Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? “Water, water everywhere, nor a drop to drink.” The analogy works quite well in our story. Just as a thirsty sailor cannot survive on saltwater, the foundering entrepreneur may be surrounded by caring souls totally incapable of providing needed sustenance. There is logical help.
Now, let’s focus on the star of the show, the entrepreneur.