I always say there are two kinds of people in the world: There are the entrepreneurs, and then there is everyone else.
Entrepreneurs are a breed unto themselves and have all sorts of traits, both good and bad alike. Before I get to those, let’s consider the differences between entrepreneurs and the non-entrepreneurs out there.
Whereas entrepreneurs tend to be initiative-seeking risk-takers, non-entrepreneurs are generally more grounded. They listen, don’t need to lead and take directions well. Entrepreneurs? Not so much. Entrepreneurs tend to be iconoclasts. Non-entrepreneurs like the stability of a job and are not turned on by the thought of chucking it all to create something from nothing, a business out of thin air. But, that is the juice that gets an entrepreneur up in the morning.
Entrepreneurs have two other salient traits that set them apart from the crowd.
The first is just how darned hardworking they are. It takes a lot of, not only chutzpah, but energy and drive to start, run and grow a small business. If you own a business, you know this to be true, and if you know someone who owns a business, you know this to be true as well.
Small-business owners wear many hats. They are often the president, vice president of marketing and maybe even the shipping-and-receiving clerk all rolled into one. Indeed, according to the recent New York Life Small Business Insurance Gap survey (full disclosure: I do some work with the company) it would take three employees to replace the work done by the entrepreneur, the small-business owner.
This sort of fact is one reason why I also always say that entrepreneurs are much like a pebble you might throw into a pond — they create ripples. Who they are, what they create and what they do ripples positively into the world around them.
The first ripple is an entrepreneurial ripple. The entrepreneur creates a business. Then comes the second ripple, the team ripple; the business creates jobs, the entrepreneur hires a crew. Then comes the third ripple, the economic ripple — those employees make and spend money, the business makes and spends money, and they all pay taxes. The final ripple is inspirational — the entrepreneur and the business often become a beacon to others, showing that they might be able to do it too and create their own ripple effect.
In his great the book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell looked at phenomena like the entrepreneurial ripple effect and dubbed people like this “connectors.” Connectors are people who are the hub of activity, who know a lot of people and link them.
If you think about a small business, this makes sense. The owner is at the center of activity — literally doing the work of three people — and is the glue holding it all together. He or she is responsible for hiring the staff, marketing and growing the business, making payroll and all the rest. Because the lives of not only his or her staff, but their families as well, depend on the owner/entrepreneur/connector, this ripple alone is real and significant.
And that is why I found one of the other main findings in the New York Life survey so disturbing. According to the survey, there is a gap between what the entrepreneur is insured for and how much would be needed to keep the business afloat if something unexpected happened to the owner. (And it is interesting to note that this gap is self-reported; that is, it is the business owners themselves who reported how big this gap is.)
How much of a gap? How does $1.4 million grab you? And that is the scary part. If something unexpected happens to the entrepreneur, all of the resulting valuable ripple effects are at risk.
But, that is exactly what the survey found. Think about all of those people who depend on the creative, hardworking, driven small-business owner. Think about all of the lives he affects, about the ripples she creates. The vast majority of small-business owners want to do right by their staff and their customers; the last thing they would ever want is for their hard work to go down the drain, and the livelihood of their employees with it, because they didn’t have the foresight to get something as simple as enough insurance.
And these entrepreneurs also know that doing the right thing for their staff pays dividends in other ways. Happy employees means happy customers, and according to SCORE, happy customers are loyal customers.
The good news is that entrepreneurs love to think ahead — to plot and plan and devise strategies that enable them to create these positive effects. That’s what they do. In fact, whether it is something as simple as buying enough insurance, or inspiring the team to do great things, or caring for customers, an entrepreneur usually will find a way to create a lasting impression.