By Jeremy P. Feakins
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Jack Welch
As an entrepreneur, I always look forward to the New Year, and do so with my usual entrepreneurial enthusiasm of what might be ahead.
When looking back at the prior year, it’s good to remember our successes – to focus on what went right, and why. It’s equally important to look carefully at any mistakes.
Mistakes are a critical part of the learning process. We can’t undo the past, so let’s learn the lesson, move on, and vow never to make the same mistake again! No matter our intentions, objectives, and ambitions, there is always something that seems to crop up and ‘throw a wrench into the works’.
As Entrepreneurs, our job is to find a solution and solve these challenges. Jayson DeMers, Founder & CEO of Seattle-based content marketing firm AudienceBloom, describes in his Forbes article some successful and well-known companies that almost failed as startups. All businesses hit a rocky road, and quite a few of them survive to go on and become hugely successful companies. The successful businesses find ways to manage their challenges.
In a 1995 interview, Steve Jobs said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. It is so hard. You pour so much of your life into this thing. There are such rough moments in time that most people give up, and I don’t blame them. It’s really tough.” Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997 after a 12-year absence. He was credited with saving the company from bankruptcy and developing a line of products such as iMac, iTunes and iTunes Store, Apple Store, iPod, iPhone, App Store, and iPad.
I’ve had an action-packed 2016 here at Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation, where I am an Investor and Chairman of the Board. Since 2010, our project pipeline has grown from 0 to 9 renewable energy projects. In 2016, we had our first success in obtaining regulatory approval to build an ocean thermal electric plant in the US Virgin Islands, while advancing the other pipeline projects just as fast as our limited resources would allow. We’ve also raised enough money from investors to start adding to our senior management team.
The successful businesses find ways to manage their challenges.
Believe me, we’ve had more than our fair share of challenges. In my opinion, Ocean Thermal Energy Corporation is a classic example of how entrepreneurs and a strong team can overcome obstacles and win the day. It hasn’t been an easy journey by any means. I won’t list our challenges here (even if I do believe that a problem shared is a problem halved). But, throughout my business career, I’ve advised, encouraged, and proven to entrepreneurs that perseverance can win the day. The endurance, resilience, and strength of my company is a testament to that fact.
Along the way, I’ve taken advice from investors, family members, and business and professional colleagues. While listening to and taking advice is important, entrepreneurs should be wary there too. Everyone gets bad advice. Success.com recently listed 10 Pieces of Horrible Advice Extraordinary Entrepreneurs Ignore. The entrepreneurs described in the Success article made millions by ignoring it.
Entrepreneurship is not the dazzling, glittering path to fame and fortune it’s been made out to be. It’s not even about good ideas or plenty of money in the bank. Being an entrepreneur is exciting, thrilling, and stimulating. It’s about having a firm hand, and explaining the vision to investors, employees, customers, and business partners. It’s about providing direction and running a tight ship. Entrepreneurs are pioneers, innovators, leaders, and inventors. And patience is a must!
But: it is absolutely not about giving up, no matter how tough the journey. According to Wisconsin-based EWH Accounting, “Businesses start and fail at a staggering rate. Every year over a million people start a business of some sort and by the end of their first year at least 40% of them will be out of business. Within five years, more than 80% of them will close. In 10 years, 96% of them will be out of business. Why does this happen? Businesses fail for a lot of reasons, but ultimately because of one reason: the business is no longer financially viable.”
If you have a great idea, plan ahead, write and execute a good business plan, and raise enough money to bootstrap your business through the early years, you’ll be in a good position to manage and grow your business properly. (Read more practical tips for starting a business here.)
Business challenges create considerable pressure, but the opposite is also true. Entrepreneurs who are determined to live up to their commitments not only make a success of their business, but demonstrate to investors, employees, and customers that hard work and responsibility is a critical element of a successful enterprise.
And while we deal with those challenges and battle the odds, entrepreneurship is important because it helps to stimulate and drive the economy. It brings imagination, innovation, vision, and enterprise into the marketplace. It creates companies with the potential to hire millions of people, and with it, new products and services are introduced.
Entrepreneurs are of different genders, backgrounds, religions, and education. They also have different interests. For example, I recently read an article by Jeff Bussgang, General Partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, who wrote about impact entrepreneurship. Impact entrepreneurs pay attention to the social impact of their company, aiming to improve society and the environment. In 2017, I hope more entrepreneurs follow this route.
Always remember: while a business is likely the livelihood of the entrepreneur, you should still make time for yourself and your family. For the New Year, make the resolution of taking at least one family vacation, however long or short, to take a break from work. A good vacation will help you come back to work fired up with enthusiasm and refreshed for the work ahead.