Often, when everything is stacked up against you, it is the indomitable spirit which sees you through the toughest of times. In entrepreneurial terms, spirit might allude to attributes like creativity, innovation, risk taking, fore sightedness and interpersonal skills. A sharp tactician sees the opportunity, knows himself/herself and what he/she is dealing with, and seizes the advantage. In the words of Sun Tzu, a 6th century BC Chinese military general:
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized. In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.
Throughout our modern industrial history, we have had business leaders who have created, invented and innovated and built thriving business empires out of relative obscurity, becoming shining beacons of inspiration for budding entrepreneurs. Whether it is Henry Ford improvising with the product oriented approach to manufacturing, by introducing the revolutionary Assembly Line, or it is the eccentric but iconic American aviation tycoon Howard Hughes Jr. partnering with Lockheed to build the innovative Constellation, in secrecy. Moving in when they saw an opportunity was the hallmark of these innovators.
“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by”
History is replete with instances of ingenuity and creativity, demonstrated by entrepreneurs from varied fields. So when Hugh Hefner built an empire out of lurid male fantasies in the form of Playboy magazine, in 1953, it was remarkable. In 1963, Hefner even went to jail once for publishing obscene literature, but continued even after that, largely undeterred. He saw opportunity where no one else could, a Blue Ocean strategy in modern management terms. Dangerous territory nevertheless.
“When one treats people with benevolence, justice, and righteousness, and reposes confidence in them, the army will be united in mind and all will be happy to serve their leaders”
Jack Welch in his book “Winning, reiterates the importance of Human Resources in the success of an organization. He brilliantly ran General Electric for 20 years, as the CEO of the much admired conglomerate and one of his beliefs was that Human Resources are an invaluable asset of the organization. He was one of the rare business leaders who believed that the HR head of an organization is almost as important as the CFO, if not more. He was a master of strategy, championing the GE model, of being Number 1 or 2 in every industry or business, or exiting it. He embodied the entrepreneurial spirit by being a great manager at work, and by inspiring awe among his colleagues and subordinates alike.
“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight”
When it comes to dare devilry and chutzpah, in business, very few people can probably match Sir Richard Branson. He, who was a severe dyslexic during his childhood and had trouble reading off the board, he who went from high-school drop-out to billionaire entrepreneur, became an epitome of resilience and aplomb, over the years. He started off as the founder of the “Student” magazine at age 16, going on to become the leader of The Virgin Group, comprising of almost 400 companies. He had fantastic foresight to get into, and get out of the records business at the right time, and had the gall to take on the might of British Airways and their shenanigans, when he tried to take off with Virgin Airlines. Embarking on life-threatening balloon trips across the Atlantic is just one of the ways he promotes Virgin.
Sam Walton created value for the American proletariat when he decided to bring out Walmart, epitomizing resourcefulness and pioneering many concepts that were key to his success. He knew what the burgeoning category of the American middle class wanted, and thrived on the opportunity. He had a knack for sensing the pulse of his customers, offered them a fantastic variety of goods to shop, and later revolutionized the supply chain at Walmart.
And who can discount Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, coming out with the best of innovation and design, making life easier for us, today. Or Jack Ma in recent times, with Alibaba, which is now valued at close to $167 billion, overtaking Amazon as the highest valued online retailer. Closer home, Flipkart is not doing too bad either in its young life.
As long as we are willing to dream big, and as long as we are courageous enough to risk it all and take the plunge, the indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit would stay alive. As Donald Trump would say, “If you are thinking, you might as well think big”. And if we are really passionate about those dreams, in the process of realizing them, we would definitely create something to help the world evolve.
The Art of War -Sun Tzu, Losing My Virginity, The Walmart Way