The Truth About Entrepreneurial Resources
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In Part One to this series the focus was on entrepreneurs as national treasures and the devastating impact of their high failure rate . Here we’ll look at some of the critical players involved and the truth about entrepreneurial resources. The aim of this discussion is not to attack available resources, but to see them in the context of increasing small business success. The problem and question throughout this series is: How do we lower the rate of small business failure?
Government: An Entrepreneurial Resource That Tries
The first big player is government. In general, North American governments do a quality job of providing educational and, in many cases, financial assistance to entrepreneurs. This is great news for those in need of technical business and financial planning. However, a lost in the world of self-employment, a person who should not be in that situation, cannot benefit from that assistance. When it comes to failing businesses and those in grave difficulty, counseling is often of little value. The person should not be in the business and the damage has been done. The initial planning stages were not complete. Adequate vetting would show the entrepreneur or the business plan or both to be lacking.
Traditional resources, once again, deal with the facts of entrepreneurship, meaning its objective features. But it’s the subjective nature of entrepreneurship that mostly fails, meaning the entrepreneur. Business failure begins and ends 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 most likely will just prolong an inevitable death. In spite of its desire to do so, government cannot affect real change in an individual business. Business failure can’t be overcome short of day-to-day corrective involvement in a venture. As in marriage counseling, by the time the couple arrives, it may be too late.
This is not an attack on our government agencies as entrepreneurial resources, their work, or their level of commitment. The people who work within these agencies are primarily administrators, educators and past executives (SCORE). These are honorable people, but their experience, mindset and skills generally don’t relate to entrepreneurial lifestyles, personalities, and needs. Working as an executive manager in corporate America or an agency administrator and owning a business are not at all similar. If those support positions were filled by ex-entrepreneurs, the parties would perhaps relate better, but it still wouldn’t be the answer. Small business is about living and working in the trenches. 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.
The next important player is the banker. In terms of financial assistance, the banker may be an asset, but our focus is on troubled businesses. Due to priorities and constraints, not out of lack of care or concern, the banker cannot champion the cause. In times of trouble the banker attempts to ‘work out’ the problem financially. Collection, in one form or another, is the goal. 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. Every business course deals with a business function except the most important. Again we say, it’s the entrepreneur and their mental, physical and financial health that drives an entrepreneurial venture. Business schools are important resources, but their charter is not issue at hand.
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’re not 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. The entrepreneur is the heart and soul of every business. The entrepreneur must be their own best resource.