Someone sent us this link tonight. It was a list of the top 30 business books according a website for entrepeneurs called thinkentrepreneurship.com. I started scrolling through the list. #1 was Dale Carnegie’s all time classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People probably the best business, sales and personal wisdom book of all times. So I immediately decided to respect this list maker’s taste and judgement. He didn’t start off with the book BANG! about the AFLAC Duck, for example. A host of other great ones followed–some old and timeless like Think and Grow Rich, best sellers like Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, and some of the more new age ones by Tim Ferriss and Daniel Pink.
Now here’s the rest of the story. #20 was, you guessed it (I didn’t guess it by the way) The UnStoppables. Always a nice surprise for anyone who’s ever written a book, believe me. The host of the site also has a podcast interview series with some excellent past guests. One of the most notables for me was “The GPS Girl– also the voice of Siri–Karen Jacobsen. She even looked like Siri–blonde, willowy, sweet, patient, loving and kind. I expected her to be wearing two giant hearing aids though because she is clearly hearing impaired–she NEVER understands my voice!!! But you didn’t see those in her publicity shot. He also had the guy who started 1-800-Got-JUNK, Brian Scudamore.
I called the host, Peter Sveen, to thank him. We started talking a little about the book and he asked if we could do a show. Of course, I said. Secretly, I’m hoping we get to include a call-in with Siri. Something tells me she’s a born entrepreneur.
One of the most interesting things about statistics on entrepreneurs and new business is how wide ranging they are. Some get cited as urban wisdom — like the venerable “80% of all new businesses fail in ten years. Or when filtered through cyberspace, make that 90% fail in just five. But recently, the stats I’ve seen say the five year number is much closer to 50%. That is, half of all business start-ups are no longer in operation after five years. About 70% are no longer operating by year ten.
Now wait a minute. These statistics about “failures” are what the average Optimizer enjoys citing as “proof” that entrepreneurship is a dismal risk–why they are not foolish enough to try it. Are you kidding me???
If these numbers are true, it means that almost 50% are SUCCEEDING–still alive and kicking after 5 years! Employing their founders and associates, feeding families and offering the chance for financial, personal and emotional independence. Even if it were only 20% still in business, that’s still an astonishingly positive number and it’s under YOUR control. People throw hundreds of dollars a year playing the state lotteries with odds like 80 billion to one. And by the way, the companies that cease operations don’t necessarily collapse into a smoking hulk after those five years. Businesses can be sold, transferred, merged or re-purposed–not just declared bankrupt.
And here’s something we definitely know. An entrepreneur’s chances of succeeding go up significantly--like by 30% the second time he or she tries. And even more the third time. This lottery starts to look like a non-lottery after a while doesn’t it? Hardly a game of chance. Seems like the operating principle ought to be get started, learn as you go and keep on swinging. Your chances of long term job security seem about as high if you choose to be an entrepreneur creating employment, as they’d be if you were a job seeker hoping a corporate employer will hand you an opportunity–then let you keep it for more than five years. The Navy SEALs will tell you that ‘it’s always better to do it than have it done to you;’ and we at The UnStoppables.com believe in one maxim– ‘daring pays dividends.’ The business you started may be something else or somewhere else after five years. But you will be far ahead of where you could have possibly been in experience, wisdom, professional savvy and growth potential than you could possibly have been otherwise.
Entrepreneurship a dismal risk for irresponsible gamblers. That stats show, it’s a pretty darn good bet.
July 3: Here’s the whole interview with Graham talking about The UnStoppables with Betty Liu on Bloomberg TV In the Loop, broadcast nationally at 8am EST each day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ojc4a8wBAc. Graham was UnStoppable as Betty–for good measure– attempted one slight confrontational shot about half way through. Graham caught the ball in mid-air and smacked it down the base line for the score. Made it look easy.
For all of you who plan to be interviewed on national TV someday, the satellite interview format from a remote location is never a piece of cake. You sit in a studio, looking at a blank camera lens with no monitor so you can’t see the host as you would in any normal conversation. You have an earpiece to hear the questions in one ear, that’s all. And there’s a slight delay to boot. They turn on your feed, the inteviewer says “hello” and bam, you’re live! No second takes.
Thanks Graham for showing us all how it’s done. As Snooks Kelley the legendary Boston College hockey coach used to say: “He put on a clinic.”
Our friend Dr. Jeffrey Zink, a renowned business leadership specialist, told us about this summary of a recent Wall Street Journal cover story he found in the Politico Playbook. Here’s a summary of the summary:
The article was called “Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs,” by Ben Casselman. It said: “Fewer Americans are changing jobs. Companies are hoarding more cash. And the proportion of new businesses has fallen. The result? A less dynamic economy. Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. … Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities. …” “For the first time since such records have been kept, the e Census found in 2008 that more Americans worked for big businesses-those with at least 500 workers-than small ones. The trend has continued since.”
Not good. Sounds like “red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” But why should we care if America’s great tradition of risk taking is losing its mojo?
If you think like an entrepreneur, it’s pretty obvious. Like the article says: “Entrepreneurs…create jobs for many others. And just as important, say economists, are small acts of risk-taking: workers who quit their jobs to find better ones, companies that expand payrolls and families that move from sluggish economic regions to ones with low unemployment rates. Multiplied across the U.S. economy, these acts of faith and ambition help speed money, talent and resources to where they are needed. …”
The WSJ article goes on to say that up until the 1980’s the economy used to take about 20 months on average to recover the net jobs lost in a recession. The early 1990’s recession took almost 3 years. The mild recession of 2001 took four years to get back to our employment peak. And four years after the great recession? We haven’t recovered yet. The overall conclusion backed by “a broad cross section of U.S. economists…is that a necessary kind of risk-taking is on the decline” in America.
Whether decline in risk taking is the disease or just a symptom is debatable. There are myriad global forces contributing to economic re-alignment. But the facts cited here do highlight one great big American reality–a central premise of The UnStoppables: We need millions more entrepreneurs if we are going to win the war for the economic future. The institutional status quo won’t get us there. And the need to mobilize every ounce of our Entrepreneurial potential is as vital an issue as any wartime threat we might have encountered in the past. If what it takes is to educate our students in new ways to understand fear, re-frame failure and to undertake the inevitable risks that that go with any achievement–if our society needs to focus once more on the “emotional mechanics” of doing great things, not just the technical mechanics learned in air conditioned classrooms–then that’s problem we have to solve with all the creativity, innovative spirit, energy and character we’ve got.
America can still be UnStoppable– but only if we dare.
For the full articles go to http://on.wsj.com/14uL8fy
For second time this week. Quite a sight for any author’s sore eyes. The beginning of the Beginning. Thanks to all. –Bill