Faith and the entrepreneur

By Margaret Treadwell

Entrepreneurs practice the art of turning ideas into a marketable product or service, then assuming the risk and management of the resulting business enterprise.

At this point in our lengthening Great Recession, many entrepreneurs are born out of necessity. This column focuses on the thinking and action that has brought one particular entrepreneur, “Gabe,” to a better place during this recession.

In retrospect, Gabe sees that he began his business career when he graduated from college. He worked hard to become known as an honest, forthright, organized professional. He advanced to responsible jobs in television production and media entertainment at excellent companies, both of which eventually downsized, cutting out his successful broadcast design and animation departments. In the second situation, while employed but pending layoff, he sought full time work until he decided to use his sizable energy and commitment to launch his own design company.

Gabe says, “I focused on three main topics that are the backbone of my business philosophy: the mechanics of starting a successful design business; a business strategy of collaboration rather than competition, which means that I’m always striving to be an active participant in the artistic and production community; and the ‘steps to avoid’ pitfalls in an effort to answer the question, Why do some companies succeed while others fail?”

First Gabe created a lengthy list of questions along a timeline. He identified his business opportunity – the value, practicality and uniqueness of product/services provided – and the necessary financial, legal and people resources. He acknowledged the competition. He broke his questions into smaller “doable do’s” to avoid feeling overwhelmed and eventually realized the questions sorted themselves out without being roadblocks to success. Friends who wished him well contributed their services of web and logo ideas, and previous bosses and peers offered sage advice. He selected a venue for his launch and threw a fantastic party that drew colleagues and other supporters from near and far.

He says, “Above all, if you lose your job remain an active member of your industry’s community and/or professional associations, become a volunteer in your field, take or teach a class, gain a certificate, learn a new piece of software – all networking experiences where you can share your passion for what you do.”

Staying connected to combinations of dynamic, always changing people became the backbone of his business and a motivator for persistence and stamina despite the natural setbacks that always accompany growth. Now he seeks out opportunities to mentor. One secret: “When you ask someone how they are, really mean it and listen well.”

Once the mechanics of establishing his business were accomplished, Gabe’s joy has been managing his business as he gains clarity about what kind of company he wants and what type of leader he is. He believes his ability to change focus, shift gears, push the business in the direction of the skid (what his clients need) is key. Able to rent studio space after his first year profits, Gabe’s dream is to continue creating established pipelines of work as he functions as an offsite art department for clients.

“My business strategy answers the question: How are we all going to win?” he says. “I’ve created my mission statement to reflect my collaborative leadership… a broadcast design and animation studio for creative people on a mission to amplify and unify the design community.” He believes this collaboration will be key to his company’s success.

And what do faith and family have to do with entrepreneurship? Gabe says, “I gained valuable insights when I stopped blaming my tumultuous childhood and took responsibility for my own destiny. … I support reason and tolerance in our communities and embrace a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I respect my wife’s religious background; we were married and had our children baptized in her church.”

His wife, an entrepreneur in her own right, stands back to let him do his thing without becoming too anxious over his progress or setbacks; he does the same for her. They share parenting and housekeeping responsibilities and try to foster each other’s personal and professional growth.

“Optimism is the recognition that the odds are in your favor; hope is the faith that things will work out whatever the odds. Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. Hopeful people are actively engaged in defying the odds or changing the odds.” – David Orr, Hope is an Imperative

Margaret M. “Peggy” Treadwell, LICSW, is a family, individual and couples therapist and teacher in private practice.

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