Most books on entrepreneurship invariably focus on the well-known entrepreneurs and they are usually business related. However, throughout the book I have emphasized that we are all born with the potential to think entrepreneurially. There was a study done that measured divergent thinking in children and they were measured at three times in their school life. When measured at 5 years old 98% measured high on divergent thinking capability. This dramatically reduced over the next ten years, demonstrating that we are educating it out of children.
Therefore it was important to me that the examples that I finish with are what most would call ‘ordinary’ people. I will explain why I say most people would call them ordinary after I have shared their stories.
This particular man was known to be particularly clever academically, was a member of Mensa and at the age of eight he moved to the class a year ahead and stayed there for the remainder of his school life. This meant finishing at 17 years old. Rather than go straight to university he took a year off. (What would now be termed a gap year)
After a summer floating around Europe he returned to England, and needing work he started in a bar. This led to going into partnership with someone to have their own bar and when the need arose to increase income he found a temping job at a major IT company whilst still keeping his interest in the bar. Not content to simply go to work and temp he started to get educated in IT issues and soon was in even more demand from the IT Company.
When the temp agency refused to increase his wages he started his own company and contracted directly with the IT Company. Soon he was in demand and he found himself headhunted. Having worked for major companies at home and abroad he now has a good job in the City of London. When he first reached a salary of five figures doing what he enjoyed doing he asked his father if he still needed to go to university!
This is a case of believing in yourself, having the confidence to try what you wanted rather than what everyone expected, to take risks and to be prepared to work hard to achieve the vision.
This man was well educated, from a good middle class home and with all of the social skills and education to make his way in the world at university and in the social sets. He was the sort of person that aunties and uncles loved. He was well dressed, well spoken and ideal to wheel out for social engagements and family gatherings.
But because he was well dressed and well spoken no one recognised that his true happiness came from working not as a team but on his own or in small groups. His love was not social gatherings but numbers. He was very adept at computing and his ideal was to do numbers on his computer.
So, much to the dismay of those around him he dropped out of university and took a number of jobs that gave him the chance to work with numbers, spreadsheet reports and financials. Suddenly he was doing much more of what pleased him, but still he was often working in a team.
Given that his solitary way of working was coupled with a reticence to take orders and commands from others, it was natural that he should think about running his own business. However, although he had the skills to deliver a good product, he lacked the confidence to sell and market his product. Luckily he found a partner who had such skills but required a product to compliment his skills. This partner also became his life partner. They now run a very successful business together as well as living a successful life together in their own home.
This example teaches two things. Firstly, not everyone wants to be part of a large corporate empire. More importantly, if you do not have all of the skills needed, don’t be afraid to seek out those who have complimentary skills. They may not all turn into life partners, but they will make good business partners.
In the interests of equality I am please to include women in the entrepreneurial cases. This woman went on holiday to the sunshine and whilst there she discussed with her travelling companion the dissatisfaction with her life so far. She wished that she could work in sunny places as something like the holiday representative they kept seeing.
When she returned from holiday she set about trying to find out about how to become a holiday representative and discovered a course that could be taken on line. The course offered interviews with three top companies if she scored highly enough on the course.
She worked at the course every opportunity she had and even used a mentor on occasions. At the end of the course she had worked hard enough to score 96% and she went for the first of her interviews. After a day of interviews and evaluations she was offered a job.
Less than a year after she had sat on the beach dreaming, her hard work resulted in her departing to the South of France on her first assignment. For several years she continued the dream of travelling to exotic places and enjoying the responsibility of organising her own work.
Eventually, returning to her home country she used all of her skills to gain a senior position in a company where she got valuable business experience. After she started a family, she used these skills to start her own business to fit in with bringing up her daughter.
The second of the women in this group of ordinary people was the other woman on that beach discussing dreams. She was someone that had lived all of her life within 15 kilometres from where she was born. Everyone assumed that she would always live there and few knew that she had come so close in the past to opportunities to leave her native country.
Her husband was lucky enough to travel the world with his job and was content to travel backwards and forwards to see her. But once she articulated her dream to the other woman on the beach it was there in her mind. So the next time she was due to meet up with her husband she went to him rather than him coming home.
After two weeks with her husband in another country she discussed and agreed with her husband that they should make their home where he was now working. This would save travelling and would mean they were together and not separated by two continents.
So home she went and, again by hard work, she sold and got rid of all material possessions, she sold the car and she sold the house. All of this was achieved in three months and she left her native country two weeks before the other woman took up her first holiday representative job. Interestingly, through hard work, a self-belief and self-confidence they both achieved their dreams within ten months of the chat on the beach.
I realise that many people have holiday homes as well as their native base, or expats that move abroad to their favourite holiday locations. But this was not the case when the woman set off to join her husband. This was a total commitment to a plan that had lived in her head most if her life. This was not slavish following of a husband, but a calculated risk, where failure was not an option and where hard work and self-belief would make it happen.
As I said at the start of this section, in many ways these people are ordinary people that achieved their dreams through the very characteristics that we have talked about in this book. However, I also said that they were ‘apparently’ ordinary. To anyone that reads this book I hope they will be seen this way and that they will act as an inspiration to the reader to also behave entrepreneurially.
However, to me they are extraordinary because the brave lady in the last example is my lovely wife and the other three are our children. What the four of them achieved they did themselves, but in doing so they gave me more opportunity to see my beliefs in action and for that I thank them all.