I am unlikely entrepreneur. I was always more interested in books, ideas, travel, history, food, conversation and languages. Nevertheless a person has to make a living. When I started my first real job at the age of twenty one I found it so boring I wondered how I could possible continue working for the rest of my life.
I was lucky that I had been accepted into the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. A government job is in many ways less demanding than a private sector job. They probably won’t fire you, at least not for a while. In some ways it is more frustrating since it is not always clear that what you are doing is of any use outside the bureaucracy. I hung on there for seven years before moving to the private sector.
The private sector is different. Unlike the government service, the private sector does not require you to demonstrate that you are working by staying late, for example. You just have to get the job done. You are no longer looking for some ideal solution, or writing reports full of POLICY recommendations. The grand theories are of no interest. You just have to act. No longer do you put things off, you do things right away. At least that was my experience. What a change.
Not everybody in business is a genius. Most, in fact, are not that effective. One of the early lessons is that there are lots of people regularly screwing things up. I worked at a major lumber exporting consortium in the 1970s. Whenever one of my colleagues complained about one of our suppliers or customers screwing things up, our boss would say “ This would be a great job if we had no suppliers or customers!”. Another of his sayings was “It is a long road that has not turns”. So, I learned to expect the unexpected and just deal with it as best I could. No theories.
I formed my own company in 1987. I already had product knowledge, market knowledge and contacts. However, I succeeded largely because of people that I met AFTER I started my company. These were people who had skills and capabilities that complemented mine, both within my company and outside as customers and suppliers. I did not do it on my own. I was able to offer value to these people and they in turn offered me value. We all achieved a new level of success because we worked together.
The point is that to succeed in business you need to meet people and to give them something. If you have something to give, chances are you will get something back. So the ability to relate to others and create these value connections is key.
One other thing. I had a meeting the other evening and went to the wrong place at first. I had supper at a restaurant nearby. I had an excellent bowl of lentil soup, an outstanding lamb souvlaki and a glass of wine. It was all very inexpensive. One of the best Greek meals I have had in
. If I had not gone to the wrong place, I would never have found this restaurant.
Remember the law of unintended consequences. Remember, you never now what will lead to what. The main thing is to get out and do something.