“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
~ Warren Buffet
I attended a dinner many years ago that one of my advisors hosted. I sat next to a guy who had founded a well-regarded co-working space in Santa Monica. He was asking about my background before Bloomers, and I told him that I was a co-founder of Maui Toys as well as a partner at X-Large Clothing Company. I told him that my co-founder who stayed at Maui had just sold the company. He asked how I felt about that. Besides the fact that it was my ex-husband and I was happy for him and for my children who would only benefit from it, I told him that I thought he deserved it. He had worked very hard for twenty-five years after I left the company.
The guy told me that the most troublesome trait he noticed with the young entrepreneurs that came through his co-working space was their unrealistic expectations in regards to how long it would take to succeed. It seemed all the young startup founders came in thinking it would take a couple of years, and then they would sell out to Facebook for 100 million. Cool. Like Steve McQueen. The Great Escape.
Of course those are the exceptions and not the rules. The rules are, it takes a long time, a lot of work and a lot of sacrifice and that’s just the way it is. Starting a business is not for the faint of heart.
I am a founding member of a startup founders group and I’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs walk in and out the doors over several years. It has gotten to the point where I can tell if someone is going to make it after about three meetings. I won’t go into all my observations here (that’s another post), but number one is: do they show up? If you want to be successful, you have to show up. I mean that literally and figuratively. You have to show up on a consistent, regular basis. Even if you are tired and can’t seem to find your customers, and you are not booking sales, you are getting rejected and you know you probably have to pivot but you are exhausted. You keep going – putting one foot in front of the other, executing the marketing plan, calling on customers, pivoting if necessary – you just keep at it. Like Napoleon Hill said, “Keep on keeping on.” I've always loved that.
I do admire those of us who put it all on the line every day and keep going. It’s inspiring. I am now traveling around the country on my “10,001 Book Tour,” and you know what? I LOVE this. I could die and go to heaven doing this. When I’m not stressed out and scared, I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. I have faith that what I’m doing is going to make a difference to myself, my family and the world.
My new friend and I, we decided that entrepreneurship is most definitely a long game and the rewards are enormous whether you sell, create a lasting legacy, hand it down to your children, or heck, change the world with it. If you don’t have the desire and wherewithal to embark on this journey, then don’t bother. Find a career you don’t hate.
In closing, I think we could all take a page (no pun intended) from trees. They are one of the most patient and strongest living things on earth. It takes them years and years to grow. They just hang out, bend with the wind when needed, and keep going, keep growing. Even when circumstances hand them a lousy patch of soil, they dig their roots deeper and keep going. They persevere in the face of extreme weather, snow, wind and rain. They get attacked by bugs and other foes. They stay put. They don’t complain. They know it takes a long time, but eventually they will be tall and majestic, their leaves will be broad, their branches reaching in all directions, they will throw off shade, they will drop many seeds. They will process carbon dioxide and emit oxygen that people can breathe. They will provide a home for birds and other animals. They will change the world a little bit. They will make the world better.
We entrepreneurs will make the world better. We just have to keep going.
As part of my legacy journey that I wrote about a couple weeks ago, I put together an organizational chart that was actually Dennis’ brother, A.J.’s idea. He told me that the way I am going to grow Bloomers Island on a shoestring budget is to convince all the people that work with me to buy into my dream, my mission, and the success of the Bloomers Island brand.
I’ve since become a wee bit obsessed with my Org Chart that I call my Bloomers Island Tree of Life. And since it is a Tree of Life, I decided to put it on a tree. And since I decided to put it on a tree, I thought I might as well make that tree the Mr. Banyan tree from Bloomers Island. It looks beautiful, as well as informative. (Some of the names have been blocked here.)
I never really had an organization chart, because I didn’t think I had enough employees. A.J., suggested I put together all the people I needed to help me move my dream forward … my dream of selling 10,001 Bloomers Island books. I immediately took to that idea. I expanded my chart to include selling all of the Bloomer’s products here and overseas. These people and companies are licensees, subcontractors, vendors, agents, friends, family, various and sundry contacts, and friends of friends.
I loved A.J.’s suggestion. It was brilliant and exactly the direction I needed at that time. We were in New York and meeting with my new publisher, Random House Children’s Books. We had many marketing initiatives going on, and as usual, I was losing track of what I was doing because I was trying to do too much. This Org Chart sent me and my books and products in the appropriate direction.
Part of the immediate and obvious value of setting up my org chart was that it showed me how thin I was spread and how I needed a more hierarchal structure. Even though I had made the call to prioritize selling 10,001 books, there was still so much legwork required to accomplish that. You know, just saying you want to sell 10,001 books doesn’t mean it will magically happen.
The next noticeable value of the org chart was to see how many people and companies had signed on to Bloomers. I was immediately touched by the level of support I was getting. Whole chapters in business books have been written about how to ignore the naysayers and push forward on your dream. I had the opposite. I had supporters and not naysayers. But that imposed even more pressure on me to prove them right. To show them that their support was not misplaced on me.
The most important thing though, is that I saw exactly what I needed to do and accomplish to continue to bring my dream to fruition. It became my roadmap in my legacy statement that I wrote about in my last blog post. It started with the question I had to ask everyone on that chart, everyone I met with, everyone whose help I needed, to sit down in front of them and with my shoulders back and a smile on my face ask those special people:
What can I do to make you look good?
On Wikipedia, they credit Daniel McCallum for creating the first organization chart of American business around 1854. An org chart is really a graphic example that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Some of the organization charts I found were beautiful. My favorites were the 1930 League of Nations and the Tabulating Machine Co., (precursor to IBM) from 1917 (above). I studied that one. Thomas Watson was the President of the company at that time. Putting together my Org Chart illuminated the importance of each part of my company, helped emphasize my priorities, acted as a checklist on everything I needed to do, and so much more. Yes, it is a simple concept, but with many layers of complex details. Thank you Mr. Watson. Thank you A.J.
Do you have an Organization Chart? What will you call it?