The Evolution of the Entrepreneur: Leading the Leaders

We left off our last discussion saying that 2019 would be a make or break year for the entrepreneur; calling for an “all hands on deck” mentality from outside parties to become more involved in the creation of a truly empowered, stronger, and more viable entrepreneurial class.

But what does this mean exactly?

The idea of all hands on deck usually conjures feelings of misgiving and fear, with many prospective and existing entrepreneurs balking at the thought of big business and even the State using their resources and power to meddle in (at best) or lord over (at worst) their day-to-day operations and the narratives of their success.

It’s safe to say that this course of action is the exact antithesis of what we need for small businesses to feel comfortable working with the rest of the kids in the proverbial sandbox. It leads to all sorts of negative downstream effects including over-reliance on outside help to run the business, as well as alienation, whether intentional or incidental, if entrepreneurs begin to view help with scepticism. This ultimately results in small business owners wanting to have nothing to do with outside help.

But what if that support were metered properly? What if, it was received in the same spirit that it was given? With altruism and a genuine wish to use one’s resources to help another succeed?

It may sound a bit “pie-in-the-sky” but is that idea so far-fetched? For example, as bankers, we routinely talk with our customers (private, commercial, and corporate) about working together to achieve success. We structure products and services to exactly that end. We communicate openly and honestly and, in so doing, work together to map out the best possible way to achieve our respective goals, which (spoiler alert) are more often than not the same. When one succeeds, all succeed. There can be no compromise to this.

So then why should the way we empower entrepreneurs be any different?

Calling back on our discussions about effective leadership, as we have learned, it doesn’t always mean taking control or taking over. There are numerous case studies and real-life examples of how the most effective leaders are able to empower by example and motivate others to aim for success simply by providing well-intentioned and positioned advice.

Or, in the case of engendering the next class of small business leaders, by simply providing them access to the tools and the guidance they need to reach that next level of success and sustainability.

When it comes to how I think entrepreneurs and the Corporate and State Sector should work together, Vera Nazarian (Author of the Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration) comes to mind: “Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone’s hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.”

Nowhere is this more evident than in the current state of affairs of the modern-day entrepreneur.

Whether innovator, researcher, buyer or even opportunist, it takes a great deal of work to transform a multimillion dollar idea into multimillion dollars. However, it also takes help and coaching.

It takes outside players stepping out of themselves or what they perceive as their roles to put themselves in an entrepreneur’s shoes so as to better understand not just how one can help but also how one set the rubric for those helped to go on to help others.

It takes reaching out and being reachable. It takes all hands on deck working together to build a fertile entrepreneurial ecosystem; an environment characterised and defined by the right coaching, knowledge, community, support, and tools small business owners need to thrive.

So as much as we have to lead leaders with our knowledge, expertise, and access to resources, it also calls for us to lead (and be led) by compassion, an equal willingness to listen and to share, and most of all, by example.

It is pivotal, for the most part, that those players outside of the entrepreneurial class understand this and, what’s more, are willing to act upon this with the same sense of urgency that we so often demand and expect of our small business owners.

The fact remains that while the best entrepreneurs are able to turn daring and innovative ideas into reality, creating jobs and adding significant value to both their companies’ and the nation’s bottom lines, they need our support to do that.

That support may take many different forms but I truly believe that if given with the truest sense in which it is meant, and not as a form of control, progress is attainable.

We may never agree on the metrics, and that is perfectly fine.

However, we should all be able to agree that as much as we demand that successful entrepreneurs think differently and make the right decisions – including when to reach out to others for help – in the same breath, those outside of the entrepreneurial sector must be ready, willing, and able to support them when they do reach out.

As partners, we must be able to recognise where and how we can help. As leaders, we have a duty to act upon that recognition and, in so doing, listen to, just as much as we lead, other leaders.

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