For most entrepreneurs, our business is more than our job. It is our passion. It is the thought in the back of our mind that is with us constantly as we move through our daily lives. We have given our heart and soul to this endeavor, and it has become part of our family.
When we first start out our business, defining ourselves by our company is fun.
Even for our lemonade stand owner, the attention and notoriety that comes along with owning our own business is great. There are articles written, pictures shared on facebook and suddenly we are known as the ‘new’ lemonade stand that is going to revolutionize the way consumers drink lemonade forever. Think Mark Zuckerberg meets the Elon Musk of lemonade stands.
We are that good!
Well, at least that is what we think when we open the shop on the first day!
But what happens when consumers decide they would rather drink orange juice? Or there is a draught and lemons are suddenly $50/lb? If our lovable lemonade store owner Kenny defines himself as the future of lemonade, how will he feel about himself when consumer behavior changes? Does this change or a supply shortage mean that Kenny has failed?
Now. Regardless of the future success of the lemonade stand, Kenny has already succeeded. He has pushed himself to the limit and expanded his knowledge more than he ever would have on the playground each Saturday. But by defining himself purely as the lemonade stand owner, he has set himself up to feel like a failure when consumers move on from lemonade. Consumers are fickle. External events completely beyond our control are inevitable.
As Billy Joel put it so wisely in his song The Entertainer;
I may have won your hearts, but I know the game and you’ll forget my name if I don’t stay on the charts.
In music, just as in business, this change in behavior will happen.
As owners, we must focus on our skills and internal abilities from the first moment we open our store. Aware that we have won our customer’s heart today, but maybe not forever. But just like Billy Joel will always have his talent to play the piano, we will always have our talent in business and entrepreneurship.
The truth that gets lost in this ever-changing world is that Kenny was never just a lemonade stand owner. He is a gifted entrepreneur. Since he opened his stand he has acquired management, leadership, marketing, and many other skills that are useful in many arenas. More than his peers who have chosen to spend their weekends on the baseball field, he is an excellent candidate for many opportunities in the future and is well prepared for whatever the future holds.
As we begin to wrap up the year, let us take a moment to celebrate the courage we had to embark on this journey. Whether our business has been open 12 months or 12 years, we have challenged ourselves to push the limits and have acquired an understanding about our self and the business environment that we would have never gained without this process.
On December 31, 2017 we are stronger, more competent business owners than we were on January 1, 2017. And no matter what 2018 will bring, we are getting stronger as owners everyday. And will be ready to face the challenge head-on.