Hugh MacLeod’s Thoughts on Being an Entrepreneur

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Startups

Hugh MacLeod posted “Random Thoughts on Being an Entrepreneur” earlier this week. I’ve picked the best five and added some of my own comments

4. Once you become an entrepreneur, you find the company of non-entrepreneurs a lot harder to be around. You’ve seen things they haven’t; the wavelengths alter, it’s that simple.

There are different perspectives in the world. There are craftsmen and brokers, salesmen and engineers, inventors and caretakers, just to name a few. It took me a long time to realize that I had an entrepreneurial frame of reference and that many folks around me didn’t. I think Hugh’s correct in that entrepreneurs can see possibilities that many other folks don’t, but the same is true of artist, engineers, and architects as well. I think entrepreneurs focus their imagination on business possibilities, where an artist may work in metal or an engineer in silicon.

6. Word of mouth is the best advertising medium of all. The best word of mouth comes from disrupting markets.

Creating value, exceptional or at least novel value, is another good way.

14. Smart, young, artistic people are always asking me which is a better career path, “Creativity” or “Money”. I always answer that it doesn’t matter. What matters is “Effective” and/or “Ineffective.”

I think what the more pernicious aspect to this is putting your creative life on hold to make money. As Robert Service observed “There are no pockets in a shroud.”

18. People remember the quality long after they’ve forgotten the price. Unless you try to rip them off.

In general, it’s best to assume that everything you do will be made public. If you are contemplating something that wouldn’t withstand that kind of scrutiny, try and find a more creative solution.

23. Running a startup is full of extreme ups and downs. Which is why so many successful and happy entrepreneurs I know lead such normal, stable, unglamorous, “boring”, family-centered lives. Somehow they need the latter in order to balance out the former. Extra-curricular drama looks great in the tabloids, but that’s all it’s ultimately good for.

I think this is probably the most important one. Steely Dan’s “Any World (That I’m Welcome To)“ opened with ”If I had my way, I would move to another lifetime.” But this is a teenager’s fantasy of getting away from home. Marriage and child rearing are not easy, much harder in many ways than doing a startup. But creating a decent workplace that provides a good living for your employees and value for your customers is easier when you are situated in a long term relationship and a family.

Update July 21, 2009: I just realized that I have done two distinct blog posts using this same blog post by Hugh MacLeod as a point of departure. See also “Hugh MacLeod’s Thoughts on Being an Entrepreneur 2” They make for interesting reading back to back.

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