To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, entrepreneurs aren’t like you and me. Well, actually, they are like me since I happen to be an entrepreneur.
But, the statement holds true regardless. I identify myself as an entrepreneur who also happens to ply his trade in the marketing communications field.
I do so because, in my mind, there are two types of successful marketing communications executives:
1.) The company woman who slowly, but surely, does everything right to consolidate her power base and plays her cards just right to end up as either the CEO of a global agency or CCO at a major organization.
2.) The entrepreneur who started with nothing, chased his dream, endured countless hardships along the way and eventually established a thriving business.
Each group demonstrated enormous courage as they rose to the apex of the industry. But, make no mistake: there are two very different definitions of courage when it comes to the successful global executive and the entrepreneur.
Having toiled at both Hill & Knowlton and J. Walter Thompson, I understand the zeitgeist of the global workplace culture.
Success requires a unique skill set that includes superb counseling, business development abilities, a solid ethical and moral compass, the guts needed to make tough, and sometimes, unpopular decisions AND, critically, the singular ability to navigate shark-infested waters.
While I admire those individuals, they possess no real understanding of the word courage.
Courage means walking away from the corporate world and setting up your own shop. It means lying awake nights knowing you, and you alone, are responsible for feeding a wife and two small children, paying the mortgages on two houses, the leases on two cars and the future college costs of said kids. It also means going hat in hand to friends and family to ask for start-up seed money (we kick started Peppercomm with a $12,500 loan from my older brother and mother-in-law).
Entrepreneurial courage also means occasionally digging into your own wallet to meet payroll (thanks to clients who express no remorse at stringing out their payments to 230 days or more).
Last, but not least, entrepreneurs must ride the roller coaster highs and lows that go along with being master of your own fate (and maintaining the same even keel whether you’ve just won or lost a $2mm account).
That’s why I chuckle whenever I see PR Week publish yet another one of their “Power Brokers” issues. Make no mistake these lists do indeed include the most powerful people in our business. But that power broker moniker is bestowed upon these individuals because they control massive budgets and/or run gargantuan organizations. Money = Power.
We do have a few powerful entrepreneurs who would qualify as power brokers in my mind (if not Steve Barrett’s). I’d include Jen Prosek, Tom Coyne and Lynn Casey on that list.
But, here’s the rub. You do NOT have to play the global power broker game if, like me, you despise the red tape, back-stabbing and arbitrary decision-making that goes along with it.
I’ve just finished reading Unemployable! by David Thomas Roberts. The book is specifically aimed at every single American worker who has had it up to here with playing all the games necessary to make PR Week’s Power Broker list.
It’s chock full of tips for everyone from eight to 81 who has ever aspired to be their own boss. I cannot recommend it more highly (except to Peppercomm employees who will be fired without cause if I catch them reading it).
Having the chutzpah to start ones own business isn’t for the faint of heart. As we know, 44 percent of all new businesses fail within three years.
But, if like 70 percent of your fellow Americans, you don’t like your job this book is your ticket to the promised land.
But, keep in mind the promised land could turn out to be colder than the dark side of the moon. There’s no guarantee of success but, as The Donald said when attempting to woo black audiences, “Hey, what have you got to lose?”