I read an interesting blog article recently by Jorge Diener describing a theory he has about entrepreneurship. I found it to be amusing, accurate and provocative. Jorge Diener is eminently qualified as the founder and CEO of Visionary Partnerships LTD and DHM International Productions LTD, two European companies, CEO of Diener Initiatives and Communications LTD, CEO of Imagine Bulgaria LTD and CEO of Global Jewish Initiatives.
Mr. Diener draws on his training, coaching and consulting experience with over 1000 leaders and managers of all different backgrounds and sectors. I think Jorge’s theory is important because it offers a view of entrepreneurship from a global perspective.
In “The Every Second Schmuck”, Diener explains that the word “schmuck” is Yiddish, the language that his Polish Jewish grandfather spoke, as most Central European Jews did decades ago. The word has since been adopted as part of American English slang and is a cute way of saying someone is not smart.
Diener asserts that a phenomenon he calls the “subjective, pessimistic look at our odds to succeed” is responsible for the belief some people have that their odds of winning or succeeding are less than fifty percent and in many cases under ten percent. This belief, more than anything else keeps them from attempting self-employment.
Even so, reliable statistical data indicates that the percentage of self-employed, entrepreneurs and business owners/shareholders is approximately 50 % of the active population in some countries . A study on self-employment from 2008 revealed that 43.5% of the active population in Turkey and 36% in Greece are self-employed. In other words, every other person is self-employed!
Attempting to prove his theory that entrepreneurship is driven more by belief than skills, Diener selected two people who admired successful entrepreneurs and asked them to rate the entrepreneurs on a scale of 1 to 10. On the scale, a 1 was a total “schmuck” and a 10 was “smart in every sense both intellectually and emotionally”. Then he asked them to rate themselves on the same scale in comparison to the entrepreneurs.
Interestingly, the two people who thought of themselves as “schmucks” rated themselves in the top thirtieth percentile of the successful entrepreneurs. Based on statistical findings and this experiment, Diener believes that virtually any schmuck can succeed in business if they have enough determination, motivation and commitment. That, and a willingness to do what others won’t.
If you subscribe to this blog, you know that our purpose is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed. In a previous post titled, “The DNA of Entrepreneurship”, Mike Clough cited a longitudinal study on entrepreneurship that was released by the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy. The study provides empirical evidence that early self-employment increases the likelihood of self-employment later.
This data resonated with me personally. Those who know me well are aware that I am a self-employed management consultant. My expertise is the connection between people and their work. Employment has fascinated me since I was a young girl, self-employment in particular.
In addition to her role as wife and mother of six (a pretty big job in and of itself), my mother took care of the payroll and bookkeeping for my Dad’s business. In retrospect, I now see that my parents, who were both entrepreneurial and headstrong, were destined to have violent clashes over how to run the business.
I remember a particularly bitter battle that finally culminated in my Dad shutting down his steel erection business for a few years. Here’s what happened. Dad had given almost every male member of our extended family a job at one time or another. While it gave them a way to make a very good living, it created a lot of tension in our home.
The chief source of angst was that most of our extended family members lacked the same dedication to the business that my Dad had with the exception of my brother-in-law. Consequently, my Dad came to rely on him and quite naturally began to groom him to take over the business. This made Mom furious because she thought my brother should get the business. Mom didn’t seem to notice that my brother wasn’t the least bit interested in taking over the family business. He was the star of our high school football team and had his heart set on becoming a professional athlete.
Yes, growing up in an entrepreneurial environment bought me a ring-side seat to the kinds of unique obstacles family businesses have. In a previous article titled, “Small Business Family Affairs”, Mike Clough addressed some of these obstacles and offered some effective strategies to overcome them.
Apparently Dad wasn’t the only one in the family with entrepreneurial tendencies. Mom and her best friend, Eleanor, used to drive around and look for old porch swings that people were giving away. They would refurbish them and sell them for a profit.
One day, after Mom and Eleanor had driven around all day without finding a single porch swing, my Mom noticed a beautiful German Sheppard sitting on the corner. She said to Eleanor, “That dog looks as if he’s lost. I’ll bet someone is looking for him and would pay a reward to get him back.” Eleanor looked at my Mom in horror and said, “Are you nuts? That dog could have rabies and bite us if we try to put him in the car!” But, anyone who knew my Mom, knew that once she made up her mind to do something, there was no stopping her. So, off they went with the dog in the back seat. Sure enough, the next day, there was an ad in the paper offering to pay a reward for a lost German Sheppard.
After Dad shut down the business, Mom and her best friend Eleanor decided to go to work as employment counselors. This decision would prove to be a career defining moment for me, even though I was only a teenager. Mom’s life as an employment counselor was colorful, to say the least. Although Mom didn’t start the employment agency, she worked on straight commission, which is a form of entrepreneurship.
I never understood why, but, back then, employment counselors didn’t use their own names. My Mom’s assumed name was “Alice Page”. By day, Mom was “Alice Page”, dressed in conservative business attire as she doled out career advice. By night, she donned an apron and morphed into a wife and mother of six. Then, while she cooked dinner, she would regale us with stories of impossible-to-please hiring managers and outrageously unrealistic job applicants. That explains why my older sister and I both got into the employment industry.
Actually, while my mother’s latent entrepreneurial tendencies had a profound influence on me, they are not that unusual. In fact, the importance of female entrepreneurs was the subject of a previous article titled, “Business Is Women’s Work” also by Mike Clough.
In summary, there are millions of people, apparently in every country, who stand on the sidelines as spectators, watching successful entrepreneurs as if they were the only ones with enough talent and smarts to be on center stage. So, they continue to work in jobs they hate, getting up each and every morning dreading the day ahead, dreaming of another life, but doing nothing about it. If you are one of these people, dreaming about a life where you get to perform on center stage, doing what you love, don’t wait another minute!
Posted by: Susan Fronk