Creed of the Entrepreneur

Avinash’s blog today prompted me to dig in my files to look for an article which I read some time ago. ‘To be or not to be an entrepreneur’ is a question not often asked in Mauritius. Successful models are not known enough and yet there are many around. Just to name a few, Dewa dal pourri , Sirop Dowlut, Steward lazzat, Mine Appolo, FDG garments, Esko biscuits, are all models of entrepreneurship. To prosper seems to be not well seen in Mauritius, as much as to go bankrupt is disgraceful. We may well be too conservative and risks adverse. How do we move the Mauritians to be more entrepreneurial? What new mind set has to be instilled in the upcoming youth? A faint heart never won fair lady. For too long, financial success in Mauritius had meant having a secured job, preferably in Government service where the risk of bankruptcy is not possible; losing one’s employ is remote and salary is not paid according to output. For too long, tenure and seniority are more important than productivity.

To a large extent, although I was always employed in my life career I had considered myself to be an entrepreneur. I was paid to produce increased value for the shareholders and to grow the assets entrusted to the organisation. During the later part of my work life, over 25 percent of my earning was based on productivity.

Allen & Lindahl discuss the creed of the entrepreneur in an article they wrote in 1989:

Creed of the Entrepreneur

Certain principles and values guide the actions of people who start and sustain successful enterprises.

Over the past two years, we have conducted a series of interviews with successful entrepreneurs from a wide variety of highly profitable and trend-setting enterprises. This research has revealed the unique patterns of thinking and planning, the distinctive mindset, of these individuals.

The unique mindset of the entrepreneur includes sixteen clearly-defined attitudes, perceptions and principles. To convey how this mindset works, we have formulated sixteen first-person statements—components of an on-going, internal dialogue. These statements of mission guide the entrepreneur’s action agenda. They form the mental template that enables him or her to rise from the trenches and realize the highest objectives.

1. “I know from experience that a chronic lack of money is an unacceptable way of life for me.” Without exception, these entrepreneurs came from humble beginnings; they have known poverty and deprivation in personal and sometimes painful ways. Without being bitter about this aspect of their lives, they are, nevertheless, willing to relinquish poverty as a schoolmaster, forever. Their experience has indelibly impressed on their minds the certainty that, for them, affluence is better. The likelihood of achieving financial objectives increases dramatically when the entrepreneur makes an irrevocable mental pact that he will never again experience hardship conditions, whatever it costs in time or effort to remedy the situation.

2. “I am solely responsible for my own success—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Each entrepreneur bore heavy responsibility for family and financial matters from youth, and each emerged from this experience with a sense of self-reliance, independence, and self-sufficiency—attributes that propel them forward in powerful ways. They cherish freedom of choice; they insist on controlling their own destiny and being their own boss.

3. “I know who I am, and I know that I’ll succeed both because of who I am and in spite of it.” These people know themselves intimately and honestly—both the strengths and the weaknesses. Each is aware of those qualities that give him or her a competitive “edge.” And each knows where he or she must compensate for the deficits—compensate through practical learning and experience, positive attitudes, faith in self, and sheer enthusiasm. They don’t always know how they will succeed, but they are positive that they will succeed in the long run.

4. “I rely on the guidance and example of mentors wiser than I am and gladly return the favor, wherever I can, to others who look to me for help.” These entrepreneurs listened carefully to those who had been down the path before and emulated those who achieved aspects of goals that they were striving to achieve. This attitude reflects openness, a willingness to learn, and an eagerness to accelerate the process of fulfilling dreams by standing on the shoulders of more experienced role models. Then, as the individual entrepreneur expands successfully on their experience and knowledge, he serves as mentor for others, thus multiplying the positive model in the lives of many people.

5. “I can create value by identifying critical needs that are waiting to be fulfilled in the marketplace and communicating with power my ability to fulfill them.” The story of entrepreneurial achievers invariably reflects the mental quality of the contrarian detective: the ability to see clearly what everyone else has overlooked, to conceive of a strategy different from what everyone else is doing, to find a market niche that begs for a product or service critically needed but somehow missing from the existing array of market options. Where the entrepreneur identifies such needs, he instantly creates value and the potential for great personal wealth. But he must then communicate with power and persuasiveness his ability to deliver the product or service that fills the need. He knows that a great product needs effective marketing. He knows instinctively that powerful marketing of a shallow product is as worthless as limp marketing of a product that fills a genuine need. He creates a winning combination: a market niche, a quality product and an effective marketing program.

6. “My central goal is not money, but service.” Successful entrepreneurs tend to direct their energy not to money per se, but rather to the delivery of quality service. It’s not that their motivation is purely philanthropic: they simply understand that money inevitably follows the delivery of needed services. The mindset says: “Do whatever you love to do, do it consummately well, and so long as it fills a critical need for people, you will be greatly rewarded.”

7. “I welcome hard work as an opportunity and an essential key to success.” These individuals look at work as a privilege, even a joy. They know how to work, and work very hard—over long periods of time when necessary. They carry an image of the full cycle of enterprise clearly in their minds constantly: work brings about the delivery of goods and services, which in turn creates rewards. They know that people who want to achieve uncommon things must act in uncommon ways, being willing to work harder and smarter, doing things that others are unwilling to do. This commitment and determination brings about its own rewards.

8. “I am willing to risk everything on the basis of my own performance.” These people seldom embrace risk of a blind and reckless nature; however, they are willing to put everything on the line based on what they know they can do. Often the only things they have to invest are their personal resourcefulness and their talents. But they are convinced that these qualities make them equal to any task. They are willing to assume high risk when they are in charge, because they feel they can come up with a safe way to land.

9. “I regard failures and reversals as the inevitable triggers of my creativity.” These peak performers have chalked up some of the most compelling chronicles of failure and undesirable outcomes imaginable—all on the way to success. What most people would consider crushing and defeating blows, they regard as important stepping stones on an upward path. Because of this unique way of thinking about failures, they extract important learnings from them. They learn how to make changes necessary to avoid such problems in the future. This attitude engenders flexibility and adaptability in the way they deal with everyday challenges and obstacles.

10. “I thrive on networking.” An important part of the mindset is the conviction that relationships are fundamental to personal achievement. While at first glance it may appear paradoxical that individuals who rise and fall on the basis of their own self-sufficiency and independence build bridges to others, a closer look shows that peak achievers express their individuality in ways that plant seeds for future harvests by carefully and strategically cementing relationships with peers and colleagues, and then cultivating and fostering these ties with care, year in and year out.

The stories of our entrepreneurs are variations on the theme of successful networking, which sometimes creates the “big break,” sometimes produces the winning partnership, but always accelerates the process of getting where you want to go.

11. “I must find ways to leverage myself if I am to move mountains.” The entrepreneurs in our sampling are masters of leverage. Their minds focus constantly on ways to multiply, magnify, and proliferate their ideas and efforts in ways that go beyond individual strengths and resources. They concentrate on products and services that have continuity, that go on forever after an initial push, acquiring a life of their own, either because they are consumable or indispensable or both. They then leverage their time and resources by enlisting the aid of others to finance, build, and operate companies under their leadership. They organize teams of co-workers who become extensions of their own minds, eyes and hands. They know that their chances of “moving mountains” are infinitely greater through teamwork and leverage.

12. “I believe in the concept of the pilot program.” Successful entrepreneurs manage growth incrementally. Prototypes and pilot programs must necessarily precede mass-production. Building must be done systematically. Breakthroughs result from small beginnings. Drive and ambition are typically balanced with sensible tolerance for the testing and perfecting phases of growth.

13. “If I can control the bottom line, I can control my destiny and the realization of my dreams.” The entrepreneur couples creative energy and vision with a careful watch of the bottom line. He is willing to carry out the “due diligence” process, to sift through the detail to discover what is happening. He seeks reliable, objective feedback. He carefully monitors how things are going in order to make mid-course corrections with dispatch and cool effectiveness.

14. “It’s not ‘me up here and them down there’ but rather ‘we are all in this together.'” The entrepreneur is refreshingly on scene every step of the way. He manages from the trenches. His mind is immune to creating vertical barriers; he genuinely wants to mix with his people, sense their needs, help them succeed, maintain constant contact with the customers, see first-hand how well they are being served, and know exactly what has to happen to make things even better. He is not condescending in his mind or manner; rather, he naturally thinks of himself on a level with the rest, which is why he gains the loyalty and trust of others.

15. “I live with the thought of ‘What else?’ or ‘What next?'” Successful entrepreneurs typically go from one level of success to another as they move toward ultimate goals they never seem to reach. The trip, in fact, is often the goal. The process of getting places is more important than staying in any one spot for any length of time. The question is ever present: “What else can I do?” “What other connections, projects, campaigns, enterprises can I get involved with?” They are never satisfied with the status quo; there is always another mountain to conquer.

That is why the entrepreneur builds an exit-mentality into every project he undertakes. He can’t be married forever to his current enterprise. He thinks in cycles and transitions. He understands well how value can be enhanced and wealth multiplied by selling all or part of what he has built when the timing is right. Then he goes on to the next triumph.

16. “I look upon my work as simply a way to serve higher ideals.” Perhaps most surprising in the dog-eat-dog world of business is that all of our entrepreneurs, without exception, looked upon their work largely as a means to higher ends. When we looked into their minds and hearts to see what they value most highly, we found that it is not equity and net-worth, but rather how their success contributes to the upholding of deeply seated values—serving the needs of family and loved ones, cultivating integrity and honor, rendering charitable service, staying healthy and fit, enjoying the beauties of nature and, of course, being at peace with oneself.

They learn, sometimes from sad experience, that while it may be possible to launch a successful career or business without these values being uppermost, enduring satisfaction comes only to those whose achievements serve higher purposes in life than success alone. The ultimate reward of success is the freedom it brings to serve these higher ideals.

These sixteen principles, then, constitute the unique pattern of thought that makes successful entrepreneurs tick, that makes them what they are. This mindset empowers the individual to do the things that get results. Taken together, these principles form the internal mission statement of the entrepreneur. They are his mental constitution, his method of structuring and channelling his creativity, of realizing his dreams.


#1 Avinash Meetoo on 09.21.08 at 8:53 am

Thanks Joseph for this excellent list of principles and values that an entrepreneur should have in order to succeed.

#2 Olivier on 09.23.08 at 8:23 pm

Check out these videos from Stanford’s entrepreneur’s corner:

#3 Olivier on 09.23.08 at 11:51 pm

Why do you think is there an aversion to failure in Mauritius? I always felt there was when I lived there. Why is bankruptcy a failure? Why is the status-quo the norm, if it isn’t revered?

To most people, even in developed economies, the status-quo, synonymous with stability is celebrated. But for disruption, or rather, innovation, it is a killer. At least, in other cultures, failure is not such a disgrace.

#4 joseph on 09.24.08 at 2:36 pm

There is a very popular term used particularly in legal and police spheres: H C = Habitual Convict. If you are an HC you are branded for life. Your family is branded for life. Is this effet of reputation more lasting in a small community? In larger community is it possible that your reputation is drown in the mass? I believe that in some states in the US a brankrupt person can restart a new life with a clean sheet a year after a court sanction. In Mauritius a certificate of morality issued by the judiciary will record all the court convictions one had in one’s life time.

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