Esteemed Reader of Our Magazine:
The first Chronogram business mixer at the Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg in February was attended by about 80 local business people. The gathering had an effervescent feeling as people talked and shared ideas. Not just ideas but business cards were exchanged abundantly. I had illuminating conversations with many people, but one that stands out is a brief chat with Kale Kaposhilin of Evolving Media Network, creators of the new Chronogram website. He said, “The chief requirement for being in business is courage.”
I agreed with Kale that courage is necessary to start and run a company—to bet one’s time, money, and energy on an idea; to go forth where there is nothing but one’s own intelligence to give direction; to take responsibility for the livelihoods of oneself and others; to go boldly—even when hazard is rife.
Of course, courage is not the only quality that’s needed to start a business. There is also tenacity—for when the novelty wears out and imminent danger is averted, the entrepreneur must remain in her seat. Or when money becomes tight and all seems lost, when the difficulty of the endeavor seems insurmountable, and the desire to quit overwhelming, she must prevail.
And not just tenacity, but flexibility. The needs of a small business are constantly changing. Business environments shift. New opportunities arise. These junctures must be perceived and new actions taken, if the concern is to succeed. In the true market-driven world (which does not include the corporate welfare state inhabited by many of the Fortune 1,000) survival of the fittest is the order. Says Systematics founder J.G. Bennett: “Companies that fail to adapt themselves to the basic laws of nature—albeit unconsciously—come to grief.”
And not just flexibility, but authenticity. There is a point that the entrepreneur sees that the company he runs is no longer the company he began. He feels that he is confined by the company, rather than leading it. He feels constrained. And this may be all right—perhaps he simply needs to let go of an old idea and adapt to the new form that has taken on a life of its own. But he must look within his heart and ask himself what role he truly wants to inhabit, and whether that role truly reflects his heart’s desire.
Which leads us to creativity. As the canvas is for the painter, and the piano for the musician, business is the medium of the entrepreneur. At her best, she is the keeper of the vision, the conductor of personnel, the coach of craftspeople. At her best she is the source of inspiration that ensures a collective striving for an impossible perfection, which striving makes the final product shine with something magical, and causes stakeholders to marvel at the result.
And how about responsibility? This is not just the ability to respond, but the willingness to shoulder the load of the task; to be willing to boldly take a chance for the good of the organization; to be willing to be resented or disliked for decisions; to persevere when all the signs point to doom, or conversely, to change the course even when much preparation has been made to go in a particular direction.
And finally, commitment. Commitment to serve. Commitment to uphold the values of the company—be they socially responsible values like environmental stewardship, fair wages for employees, or the creation of an uplifting work environment. Commitment to broadcast a positive and illuminating message through products and even every interaction with vendors, employees, and customers, so that that positive influence emanates like waves from the company into the world.
These are just a few of the qualities that it takes to guide a business to true success. Certainly there are more.
Our much-maligned capitalist system presents a great opportunity—especially to small businesspeople with values, if not a conscience. It affords an effective arena for all participants to develop latent qualities, manifest abundantly, and serve others in a meaningful way.
At Chronogram’s first business mixer it was clear that the local businesspeople of the Hudson Valley are hungry to connect with one another—celebrating our interdependence—and be mutually supportive in our respective endeavors. It was clear that we are in it together.
The next Chronogram Business Blast mixer will take place in April. Subscribe to the Business Blast monthly e-mail newsletter at www.chronogram.com.