What I Learned About Entrepreneurship From Watching My Family Members
Observing entrepreneurs is the best way to learn what it's all about. Here's how watching my family members who owned businesses taught me about entrepreneurship.
There's an ongoing debate about whether entrepreneurs are made or born. Can you learn to be a great entrepreneur? If so, what's the best way to learn how to create an amazing business? I believe there's definitely room to develop yourself as an entrepreneur and one of the best ways to move your entrepreneurial learning forward is to observe the entrepreneurs around you.
I was lucky enough to have several business owners in my family -- two grandparents and my mother. I probably didn't realize it at the time, but observing them "behind the scenes" of their businesses were my earliest lessons in what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Thinking back on their behaviors and decisions, I realize that some of my core values as a business owner were formed from seeing them in action.
So what exactly did they teach me? Here are two big lessons I learned:
This word gets circulated a lot among entrepreneurs. We're urged to be scrappy and told that it is a key quality if you want to be a successful business owner. I agree and couldn't have learned the real meaning of being scrappy without seeing how my family members rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty time and again in order to make their businesses succeed.
Take, for example, my mom who went to school to become an art teacher. She had zero business training or background, but launched and ran a franchise maid service in the Cincinnati area. In the early days when the business was just getting going, new customers would call to schedule an appointment. Now the truth was that they probably could have gotten a same-day appointment because the business was new and unknown. But my mom made it seem like things were busier than they were and worked with clients to book appointments a few days out. She did this to create the appearance that the maid service was more in-demand than it was -- people generally feel better about using a service that others are using too.
Have you ever noticed how you'd rather go to a restaurant that's busier than one that has no one sitting inside? My mom knew she needed to create an early perception of demand to make customers feel more comfortable and she used a scrappy approach to do it.
The Unseen Work
There's the business your customers see, but really that is only the tip of the iceberg. There's a ton of legwork entrepreneurs must do to create a seamless and good customer experience and to ensure systems and processes run smoothly. It's one of many reasons entrepreneurs work so much -- 12 hour days, according to this Harvard Business Review article.
This is why it's critical to observe other businesses in the early days when they are just getting started to see what it takes. Of course, there's unseen work all the time even when a business is established, but it's especially common in the startup and launch phases. As the business owner, the success of the business is riding on you so there really isn't a task you shouldn't take on.
I'll give another example I saw when my mom was opening her maid service business. She wasn't sure how she was going to price jobs as she didn't have experience doing this before. So, she and her manager timed how long it would take to clean bathtubs, toilets and light fixtures to get a sense of how long it was going to take to calculate exactly what to charge. In my experience this is typical of the unseen work of a business -- it isn't always glamorous. Often it won't be what you originally signed up to do, but it's absolutely necessary for success.
What To Do If You Don't Have Entrepreneurs in Your Family
Even if you don't have entrepreneurs in your family or immediate circle, these days it's easy enough to find like-minded business owners who you can follow and learn about their journeys. You're reading my blog, so that's one great resource. Also look to other sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com You can also find people at relevant conferences -- it's a great way to network and meet other entrepreneurs that are experiencing similar things as you. By talking to people at conferences, you can always find out what kinds of networking forums and social groups they're a part of -- an excellent way to supplement your entrepreneurial education and have a place to go to ask questions or learn from others on a daily basis.
As entrepreneurs, we are naturally driven to push ourselves and grow, which often means investing in our education and development. Those are great things to do. But don't forget to look at the resources closest to you and identify the lessons right in front of your eyes.
This post was originally published on Inc.com on April 7, 2017.