A Passion for Entrepreneurship
by David Bertelsen
(updated 11th January 2005)
Entrepreneurship is my passion. It is THE driving force of my life. The desire to create and succeed in business is what sustains me and inspires me to face the coming day. Entrepreneurship to me is what architecture was to Howard Roark, what music was to Mario Lanza, what writing was to Ayn Rand.
It is the passion that defines me. Entrepreneurship is me and I am entrepreneurship. I know that I must integrate it into my plans if I am to lead a happy and fulfilling life.
That is why I recommended the idea of this group and am pleased to be a part of what I think could be a wonderful community of passionate people.
What can we achieve here at Solo Entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is not something one learns at school or at college. Having completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree many moons ago I share Lindsay's contempt for MBAs and most business scholarship.
Entrepreneurship, to me, is a challenge of the human mind. One of my favourite objectivist passages is:
"Economic progress, like every other form of progress, has only one ultimate source: man's mind - and can exist only to the extent that man is free to translate his thought into action".
(Nathaniel Branden in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal)
So how to we develop our minds to spark entrepreneurial success?
That, to me, is the primary challenge for Solo Entrepreneurship.
To develop our minds, my first great hope is that we can create a community of support, learning and mutual inspiration. That we can be each other's fuel as we splutter against the problems of daily grind and seemingly endless red tape and red numbers.
I have been very fortunate in 2004 to have met several self-proclaimed "successful entrepreneurs". I say fortunate because the sense of community and hope that they have given me was extremely opportune and uplifting at a time when my business was at a turning point. I discovered that the old adage of surrounding oneself with good people applies equally for entrepreneurs. As individualistic and atomistic as entrepreneurship often feels and appears - we - as much as anyone - have an enormous need for social interaction.
The friends I met taught me more in 3 months than I had struggled to learn by myself over the previous 5 years. Although they were generous with their time and support, what helped me most was the feeling of not being alone, the feeling that I could soak in the riches and inspiration of people who respected and celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit, treating crazy new ideas with enthusiasm and practical wisdom instead of the sneering derision that one encounters all too often in socialist Europe.
That's a community I'd love to see develop here at SoloEntrepreneurship.
Let me try and introduce a practical example by describing my current business situation.
I arrived in Palma de Mallorca, Spain in 1999 speaking no Spanish and having had no real experience in running my own business. I had worked for years for other people and had a bit of money saved up so when I noticed the almost complete absence of public internet access facilities, decided to set up what is now the islands oldest internet café.
Strangely, I had a few years with almost inexplicably easy success. I made a comfortable living and fancied myself as the next Big Thing in the business world.
Sadly, I was soon to discover that market opportunities as large as the one I had found close fairly quickly, and by 2002 prices for internet access had fallen 75%, internet cafés were opening on every corner and I'd taken my eye off the ball for just a little too long. I started losing money.
So I did what all good, hard-working but ultimately self-deceiving entrepreneurs do, and started working longer hours and putting more savings into the business. In short, I kept making the same mistake, but trying much harder!
Throughout 2003 I gradually transformed the business to add more profitable business lines (web design, computer sales and maintenance) and reached a point where I could, just, scrape a living. But it just wasn't right. I still earnt less than what I would working for somebody else, and I was sick and tired of the continuous struggle for the sake of a barely working business model.
So I scrapped the whole lot and started again. I took a few months off to dedicate myself to transforming the business and have been thrilled with the success.
My new business is both a transformation of the old business and a completely new being. To mark the change I chose a new name and corporate identity, "Azul". Azul is Spanish for blue. The deep blue of reason and calm. My favourite color and a symbol of the regeneration of my life and the business, and a renewed energy and purpose.
Azul is also an acronym. "A to z" is a reminder that I know all I need to know and can learn what I don't. That success is an ordered, reasoned progression through the alphabet of life with structure and purpose. U and L are a reminder of my unique life, a life that is embodied in the purpose and being of my new company.
Azul's vision is to bring technology to people to improve their lives.
My planning process has been influenced by a number of experiences.
Firstly, the wonderful book, "The E-Myth Revisted" by Michael Gerber. Now is not the occasion to review it in detail but what it impressed upon me was the need for entrepreneurs to develop operations and systems that will allow them to work "on the business" and not "in the business", and to ultimately create a turnkey business that can be sold, franchised, or owned under management as a money-making machine, independent of the driving energy of its founding entrepreneur.
I have also been influenced enormously by my friend Alex who, as well as introducing me to the above book, stressed the need to take time out, and the importance of having a rational business plan that sets clear goals to measure progress against.
Mark emphasised the need for having clearly defined product or service offers to present to customers so that we do not waste time and energy creating unique solutions for each customer. His idea was that the key is to provide "a" uniquely specific solution for them, not the "only" specific solution. My recognition of what that would mean to me in terms of reduced work load, the ability to carefully cost service offerings and to allow timely delivery of solutions to customers was revelational!
These people were able to help me not just because they had had years of experience, but also because they could see, touch and smell my business and see the problems and opportunities I faced. Their "community" was invaluable.
A hundred small recognitions such as these throughout 2004 renewed my energy and lit the spark for what is now becoming an extraordinarily successful new business venture.
I hope that we can recreate just such a feeling of energy and passion here at SoloEntrepreneurship and I welcome your honest suggestions and comments!