Entrepreneurs in our world are venerated for their risk-taking and innovation skills. It is always a great story to tell when an entrepreneur is successful. But we must be careful to ensure that we recognize and applaud the skills that got the entrepreneur to the success and understand that most entrepreneurs cannot do it on their own.
Let’s take a few examples. Steve Jobs is rightly considered an entrepreneur. When he and Steve Wozniak developed the Apple I computer, they came up with a radical new approach to delivering personal computers. Steve Wozniak developed the hardware and software and Steve Jobs sold the vision. Over time, Steve Jobs became the design guru and leads Apple in the development of unique products. But this grand picture wouldn’t have happened without a man named Mike Markkula. Mike was the initial angel investor in Apple and served as the first president. It was his leadership that gave both Steves the ability to do their best and allowed Apple to grow.
Another famous entrepreneur is Oprah Winfrey. She is famous for her TV show, movies, magazine, XM Radio channel, Oprah.com and her tremendous philanthropy work. She is the master of her domain, keeping on top of all of the vehicles that bear her name. But if it wasn’t for Jeff Jacobs, an entertainment lawyer, CEO and 10% owner of Harpo, Inc. (Oprah’s master organization) who runs the businesses, she would not be able to “be Oprah”.
Bill Gates is another entrepreneur who was fantastic at some details, but didn’t have a particularly strong business background. Bill was able to understand the state of technology and envision a world where every desk would have a computer running Microsoft products on them. True innovation, absolutely. But it required Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s first business manager to bring the company to the heights to which it ultimately reached.
Too many entrepreneurs have watched Oprah Winfrey (or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates) and thought that they needed to do everything themselves. Some people chicken out because they know they don’t have all the skills and discount the ones they do have. Others continue through this phase expecting somehow to become Superman (or Superwoman) and manage all aspects of running a business by themselves. Neither of these solutions is optimum.
Entrepreneurs need to be open to get a helping hand in developing their business. Sometimes they can get free advice to help them along. But more often, they need to understand that they will need to pay to get the highest level of support. Sometimes it is cash and other times equity. In all cases, it is better to have 50% of a million dollar idea than 100% of a failure.
The real test of the entrepreneur is how much they are willing to sacrifice to see their idea become a success. Find those folks who have skills where you are lacking. Sell them on your vision and get them to help you deliver. You will be the richer for it.