Sunday, 11 October 2009

How not to get divorced – lessons from serial entrepreneurs

I was at a dinner at Downing College (Cambridge) where our after dinner speaker was Jody Chatterjee who has had a rich career in many different roles. His honesty about the roller coaster ride of an entrepreneur was engaging! Jody spoke at the end of a long day of thinking about entrepreneurship in large organisations that was being run for Haniel by Ashridge Management College. Haniel is a family owned 35,000 employee organisation from Germany, with a diversity of businesses.
The others contributors were Claudio Marinelli from Nokia, Dan Sandhu from ACIS and Rob Stewart from Stevenage Packaging.
Each painted a rich picture for us to think about.
They were pretty unanimous on the fact that entrepreneurs work with a passion to make things better or to make better things – that solve problems.
Entrepreneurial people are driven by seeking freedom and autonomy to make decisions. This is a dominant theme from the conversations. If entrepreneurial people involved did not have this freedom to act and to act quickly they would wilt.
Entrepreneurs are impatient to get things done; making them hard to live and work with, but the passion to make things better comes with the impatience to get it done. The impatience also comes over as being somewhat “crazy”. So they are seen as disruptive influences within the organisation!
Very low tolerance for internal politics – in the end is it possible to be an entrepreneurial employee in a large organisation to succeed without “political skills”?
On a very personal level – everyone acknowledged the role played by their family in supporting them. The short hand was framed in the evening as “find out how not to get divorced”. The point being – what is the purpose of entrepreneurial success if in the end it breaks up the things that in the long term are what matter – family?
In the past – in my consulting role when I have been mentoring people with their ambitions to start and to grow their businesses – the key question that has stopped people in their tracks about what they want to do – has been to ask – Do you have a “contract” with your family? Do they know you will put the house on the line, the level of risk you want to take, that you will behave in a totally obsessive ways for months, not sleep much, get irritable if things are not going the way you want, feel highs and lows of emotions and you will hardly be around either mentally, physically or emotionally? The family needs to understand this in order to be able to truly support you!
Entrepreneurs I have met who have managed to be realistic about the work load and the risks and been able to get the support of the family – whether this is their partner or their parents or siblings have been truly amazing because they have a kind of freedom that others who are trying to balance their entrepreneurial ambitions with family obligations simply do not have.
It is unlikely you will find the answers in books and videos, just talk openly to a friend with wisdom.

1 comment:

Josef Kebrle said...

I was there and something rare hapenned... paradigms were shifted :-). Thanks again for that valuable opportunity.

I add another quptation from that day ...
good plan + wrong team = forget it
wrong plan + great team = U have a chance...