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By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
No good captain would take her ship out to sea without the tools necessary to protect her from the unknown. She has to sail her ship across an ocean fraught with danger and still guide it safely into port. How does she do it?
Well, for one thing, she has to chart out a course. For another, she has to check the weather and get constant updates as she proceeds. For another, she relies on critical tools like her satellite, radar, sonar, and reports from other ships. She has to avoid running aground, running into an iceberg, running out of fuel, or running into a storm.
In other words, she can’t predict what she’s up against, but she can mitigate the risk by using tools, standards, and policies that have been proven to work for other captains in the past.
When you’re an entrepreneur you are the captain of your entrepreneur ship. Just like the real ship captain, you’re up against the unknown. And just like the real ship captain, you can’t predict the future, but you can arm yourself with tools, standards, and policies that have been proven to work for other businesses.
Just like the sea captain, you have to know where you’re going. That means you have to think about why you are doing your entrepreneurship and where it will end up. Is it a passion, or have you just created a job for yourself? Do you want to start a dynasty and expect your kids to take care of you in your old age? Or do you want to build an equity that you can monetize upon an eventual acquisition or merger?
Knowing the port of destination will help you chart the best course.
Also, like to sea captain, you will need a loyal crew that’s fully engaged in the safe navigation of your entrepreneur ship. They must help you avoid the hazards and overcome the challenges. In other words, you must know how to hire, train, engage, lead, and compensate your people.
And like the sea captain, you must understand the conditions through which you must navigate. Your entrepreneur ship must respect the distribution system. It’s not about how great your product or service is, so much as it is how it gets sold and delivered.
The sea captain must be fully aware of the headwinds, the fuel, and the currents in order to navigate safely to port. Likewise, as captain of your entrepreneur ship you must understand and master the art of cash flow management. You must make choices that reduce your need for capital and maximize the use of your resources, even your hidden resources.
Just like the sea captain gets feedback from the other captains out there about the changing conditions, you must likewise develop a network of strategic allies, businesses who benefit when you benefit. You must learn how to use your suppliers and buyers as bankers. They can extend credit, increase terms, and buy in cash, all of which reduces your need for capital.
You can’t plan on smooth sailing out there. But you can plan for the challenges of entrepreneurship. Having been through it ourselves and made it to port successfully, like a Monday morning quarterback, with 20-20 hindsight, we know what we did right, what we did wrong, and what we could’ve done better. We learned the hard way why some of the most common misconceptions about business can sink your entrepreneur ship.
Once we made it to ‘port’, we took the time to sit down and recorded what we call the Guiding Principles for Success (GPS). They won’t guarantee your success, but like the sea captain who relies on proven tools, standards, and policies, they can prepare you for the unexpected. Happy sailing on your entrepreneur ship!
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently, they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact email@example.com.