No Entrepreneur is an Island

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Early in my adult life I knew I had the push, desire, and drive to begin projects and make them work.  I remember as early as sixth grade organizing musical groups  for our school because we did not have a music instructor that year.  In 10th grade,  I began an after school piano program  at a local elementary school.  They  paid me well and funded all my high school years and first year of college.  I didn’t know at that point that 10th graders don’t really take on that kind of project.  In our  churches,  I thrived on the energy that came from conceiving and implementing  programs and activities that were new and created a buzz and fulfilled a purpose. I knew I was a starter.

At the same time, if I have to be honest, in all my endeavors, I noticed a certain lack of concrete, in depth planning,  I could get the ball rolling but I really fell short at developing detailed plans to get the job done or see something continue after I was no longer involved. I often said I wasn’t a maintainer, but in all honesty it was more than that.  I usually just made it up as I went along.  I knew it was a flaw in the mold of my makeup, but as long as I could keep inventing ideas,  having creative solutions come to mind effortlessly, and use all my energy to pull off a project, I was OK.  But then I met my wife…..(insert Dragnet music….)

She, too,  has an incredibly insightful entrepreneurial mindset, but hers is expressed much differently.  She is creative, determined, and always sees a project through from beginning to end.  However, while I thrive on having multiple projects and ideas swirling all at the same time ( after all, you have to have multiple lines in the water, right?  See  Ecclesiastes 11:2 for a validation of my belief!!)  she is focused and determines the entire path of a project.  She is meticulous!  Did I mention she loves details? Then there is the  other major difference – she focuses on one thing at a time!  Yes,  just one thing!! ( I used to pray that I was not the one thing :).

It was early on in our dating that I realized this difference and I actually  was incredibly thankful.  They say opposites attract and this was certainly partially true.  I remember the exact moment, (evening after my senior recital), location, (sitting in her driveway  while she was dropping off some supplies in Clarks Summit, PA),  and the circumstance, (she had just pulled off an amazing reception for my Senior Recital)  when I realized that God had put us together as a team because we each needed the strength of the other.  I think we would have been successful as individuals, but together the results would be more significant.  **A side note – while we were opposite in methodology, we were 100% agreed in our value systems.  That’s huge and the subject for another blog article.

In the churches we served, in the conception of Masterworks, and when she developed her National Area of women in Mary Kay, it was always a joint effort.  When I got my Real Estate License and opened the doors to my business, I realized again how important it is for every entrepreneur to have the “other half” of the equation involved in the process.  We all have areas of natural talent and natural ability. In fact I read that Real Estate is a talent driven business.  However, 87% of agents fail miserably in their first year.  The problem is that I don’t know of any business that is built solidly on one person’s talent.  It usually takes multiple vantage points, and multiple methods to do anything well.  That’s why athletes have coaches, why CEO’s have boards….for me, it’s my wife – for you it may be a mentor or a coach or just a good friend who sees your flaws and runs with you anyway.  But to succeed you need someone who helps you with areas where you are just not….TALENTED!

I had an acquaintance who passed his Real Estate license.  He began quickly and with his people skills, he took off with several high visibility clients.  He was incredibly successful – AT FIRST. While he was loaded with talent and people skills, he hated detail work.  His success began to tank when he actually sold the same home twice and each time it fell through because he had not been thorough in the detail work.  Needless to say – the high visibility clients let their friends and neighbors know what was going on and he was out of business as quickly as he had climbed the ladder of success.

I also realized that for many years I would get frustrated with Susie’s attention to detail.  I thought she was spending too much time on little things.  There were mountains to climb and lives  to change and I didn’t understand how the color or amount of napkins at a banquet was important in that picture.  But…now I see it.  As I watch people respond to her methodology,  I realize everything in the process is important.  The big ideas and then the details – it takes all the parts to make the dream work! I believe with all my heart that it’s a huge blessing that I not only have her,  but that some of her methodology ( I wish it were all,  but I’m making progress) has rubbed off on me.  I still like to have multiple lines in the water but now I know there has to be a plan and system in place to make sure the process is smooth.  Details are critical!  Communication is imperative and follow through until the very end is non negotiable!

When I began Real Estate school, I was immediately aware of the incredible number of details and legal liabilities that I had never realized were part of the Real Estate process.    In our personal real estate transactions,  we have gotten burned several times because we used an agent that did not have their eye on all the moving parts.  Once,  because of an agents error,  I discovered we were $10,000 short the night before a closing (the agent just said , “I hope you can come up with it fast!),  another where the deal fell through two days before closing because the agent wasn’t skilled in a specific area.  That should never happen if all the moving parts are monitored and in place.

Whatever business you are in – you have to figure out where you are lacking and don’t be too proud to find the person or people who can help you sure up those areas.  It’s easier to put our head in the sand and ignore our weak areas.  But in the long run, for our benefit, and the benefit of everyone we serve, we need to ask and rely on the strength of those who have skills in areas where we need help.  This has been a painful truth for me to admit – especially on days where I think I have it all together.

So, here are my E! lessons from this blog:

1. No entrepreneur is an island!  To be really successful you have to run hard with your strengths, and work equally hard on the areas you struggle with.

2.  Find people who share your values, but have different skill sets and talents.   After all, it’s always easier and more enjoyable to run with someone else at your side.

3.  It takes more than being good with people or people skills, you still have to LEARN skill in your area of expertise.


*My better half and I celebrating 40 years of married life in Central Park last week!  I will always be thankful that God gave me someone who possesses  the skills I do not. You’ll have the privilege of hearing from her in weeks to come.

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