Thursday, November 10, 2011
I was a little uneasy writing this story. As a small business owner, I have a very strong feeling as to the key reason for entrepreneurial success. However, I have been reading pages and pages without seeing any validation. I did not find studying the key reasons businesses succeed or fail very useful - if you can think of any reason(s) at all, you will almost certainly find it somewhere in any one of numerous lists of key factors in failure or success. None will come as a surprise - right location, management, adequate capital, cost control, knowledge, luck, persistence, vision, customer service, growth plan, marketing, key vision, etc. With such an enormous number of factors, managing their interplay becomes an impossible task for any human being. How will anyone learn all of the key ingredients and the balancing act necessary to succeed?
Then I finally found exactly the single word I was looking for in an article on David Geffen in a Stanford School of Business newsletter:
David Geffen Says Good Instincts Play Better for Him Than Good Plans
A self-made billionaire, Geffen told Graduate School of Business students that he relies instead on his instincts, his keen eye for talent, honesty, and a knack for surrounding himself with smart people.
"I wish I could give you a better answer. I didn't have a clue about managing business. I never went to business school. I was just bumbling through a lot of my life," said Geffen. "I was like the guy behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz."
The operative word I was looking for was INSTINCTS. Successful business owners have business instincts - an innate sense of what people want or need and how to address those needs. Of course, as a business grows, many of those key factors in the litany of ingredients of success do come into play, but the best strategy is finding talented individuals and delegating.
In my experience meeting business entrepreneurs, they just seem to be different. You can sense it and see evidence of it even at a very early age. This instinct seems to be the most common thread among success stories. Most of the great successes I have met have little or no business schooling. Many have been high school graduates or college dropouts.
Of course, luck is a factor, but opportunity abounds. The entrepreneur not only recognizes opportunity but also seizes that opportunity and capitalizes on it as well. An estimated 80% of restaurants fail in New York City within five years. If learning the key factors of success was the secret, we would not see such an enormous fatality rate.
Every day in New York City, I see restaurants bulging with customers in lines spilling into the streets. A few doors away, I will often see another neighboring restaurant, even with with identical cuisine, virtually empty. In post game analysis, it is easy to pontificate, analyze, speculate, and theorize as to why some fail and others succeed. Reams have been written. However, reading the Tipping Point or Freakonomics is not going to help the business owner identify the myriad of factors to success and properly deploy and manage them. All of those factors are part of the equation. But to me, the most important is Instincts…
Photo Note: This is the further incarnation of the food cart I wrote about on August 3, 2007. The cart is now the Tribeca Taco Truck. The truck is owned by Percy, but on this occasion, his daughter Alycia (seen in the photo) informed me that he was purchasing a second, larger truck - one will remain stationed at the original location (Broadway between Prince and Spring Streets) while the other roams. Tenacity is also a key ingredient to success, and Percy has stuck with his endeavor for some years. He now has long lunch lines every day. Get there early and tell him I sent you. Percy and crew are wonderful and will treat you like family.
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