Raising Businesses… and Swimming

For my first job right after high school, I worked for a stint at a store where people rented videos. The owner of the store was a lady who had run the store well enough, but within minutes of walking in, I could see the untapped potential of the place, and the different ways in which the shop could bring in more income. I could have sat on the ideas and not implemented them; after all, the store wasn’t mine, I was getting a salary and not being paid on commission, in addition to which, the store seemed to be running well enough as it was. However, I dove headfast into my responsibilities and incorporated different marketing practices like “borrow 4 get 1 free” and so on.

Protecting Babies and Raising Businesses

Almost a year into it though, I decided to go into business for myself. I had a business idea, and naturally, I informed the lady who owned the video store that I would be leaving soon. She asked me whether I had found a job somewhere else and when I informed her that I was going to start my own business, she almost fell. It was partly shock, partly laughter and partly from genuine concern! She was concerned enough to try to stop me from making what she saw as terrible mistake. Her heart was in the right place, but every time anyone mentioned to me how hard business was and why it was a bad decision, I could feel my blood boil a little.

You see a business is like a baby to its owner, even when it is still a business idea and has not even materialized yet. Parents jump to the defense of their babies and the hairs at the back of their heads stands up when their children are faced by any threat (perceived or otherwise). Entrepreneurs protect their businesses and any business idea that they have with the same fervor, and so when well-meaning people shoot our business ideas down, some of us get a mental flash-image of punching them in the face; just like we do, when some well-meaning person says that we are not raising our children right!

Learning How to Swim by Swimming

There are very few things in life which we can learn and grow to be very good at, without getting actively engaged in them. None of them come to mind right now, but there are probably about 4 or 5. With the other billions of activities out there, one has to actually do them, in order to learn how to do them. I am yet to meet a person who learnt how to swim without actually, you know…swimming. Business, like swimming, offers two extreme options. You can swim, or you can drown. Now, during the first few tries, you may drink a lot of pool water, but it gets progressively easier and much more fun.

There are swimmers who are extremely graceful, and there are others whose style incorporates more flailing of the arms and less grace. The one thing that they have in common is that if you drop them in a pool, neither of them will drown. In the same way, every entrepreneur has their own style of implementing their business idea. While some may choose to be formal, others are more comfortable with a less formal approach. But both of them are in the pool, which is a far cry from the guy standing at the edge of the pool in his swim trunks, wishing to swim expertly, but overwhelmed by statistics of people who have tried to swim and failed, or given up.

Some great business ideas fail to see the light of the day because their owners are protecting them so tightly that rather than risk disappointment, they keep their dreams buried. But for any entrepreneur to be successful, there is a need to open one’s business up to clients, which inevitably opens it up to other people’s opinions. In the words of Bruce Lee (Chinese American actor and martial-artist), “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.” A little harsh, no? But then again, many truths are.