As the economy starts to come back to life, don’t be misled by statistics on small business failure. Although the number of small businesses impacted by the current crises will be staggering, there is a slight-of-hand trick that may fool people when it comes to entrepreneurs’ contributions to rebuilding the economy. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you the serial entrepreneur!
Don’t Just Watch the Businesses: Watch the Entrepreneurs
A serial entrepreneur is someone who starts multiple businesses over their careers. To understand the serial entrepreneur’s economic contribution we need to consider not each business started by them, but by their cumulative body of entrepreneurial work.
For example, over my lifetime, I have been a part of about a dozen and a half startups, including solo startups, partnerships, and family businesses. Of all of the startups I have participated in over my career, only two are officially still operating: my consulting practice and our educational content family business, Entrepreneurial Mind LLC. Were all the rest failures? Absolutely not! We sold some the ventures, and others just ran their course. Probably two or three of them could truly be called failures. They all created jobs, built wealth, and contributed to economic growth.
To understand my long-term economic contribution as a serial entrepreneur, you have to look at all that I have done over the past four-plus decades. You can’t just look at the outcome of one single deal, no matter what its outcome, good or bad.
A Current Tale
Two of my alums, Corey and George, are current examples of serial entrepreneurs at work amid the pandemic and accompanying economic collapse.
Corey’s current business lost most of its accounts during the first week of the economic shut down.
George had been doing gig work between startups. However, his employer furloughed George from his current gig.
Rather than define what they are experiencing as failure, they put their heads together and asked one simple question: What pain being created from the current crises could they provide a solution for?
Newly Created Pain
Organizers of most meetings, conferences, and other gatherings cancelled them due to the coronavirus. Corey and George’s hypothesis is that as we come out of the current crises, there may be a more lasting impact on such events. Sending people to meetings and conferences is expensive. If companies find that there are viable virtual alternatives to physical travel, there may be some level of permanent shift away business travel for meetings and conferences.
Most of the current alternatives in the market that offer virtual meetings focus on educational content delivery and training. While this is an important part of going to conferences and meetings, most people say the biggest benefit they receive is from the informal interactions in the hallway or over drinks with other attendees at the end of the day. Current offerings do not really offer this as a part of their virtual meeting platform.
Corey and George are feverishly working on solving this shortcoming.
Follow the Ball
Just as in the carnival “cups and ball trick,” we need to pay careful attention to see where the serial entrepreneur ends up next.
This is the essence of a serial entrepreneur. To a serial entrepreneur, entrepreneurship is a process, not an event. Even though the last business may no longer have enough demand to keep operating, the entrepreneur never stops. For the serial entrepreneur, their career is a journey from opportunity to opportunity.