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Entrepreneurs are made, not born

PROFESSOR Lloyd Shefsky could be the "most wanted" person in the business world as he holds the secret of how to become a successful entrepreneur and he teaches the subject at Harvard and Wharton.

At the age of 65, the gentleman is not a theorist as you might think. He's a lifelong entrepreneur himself, having created a range of businesses including one that invented the business-to-business e-commerce model which was later acquired by Oracle Corp.

The one-and-a-half-hour talk with Shefsky convinced me that entrepreneurs can be made if one has the passion and love for what one does. The motive of making money is far from enough to make a successful entrepreneur.

"Dreamers and successful entrepreneurs are one and the same," said Shefsky. "Those people who don't fear failure, who tolerate ambiguity, who can be passionate about things, especially business dream, and if they make themselves fit that mold, then they will be entrepreneurs."

Shefsky has been passionate about creating new businesses all his life, and even today, he's still busy starting new ventures in "avant-garde" areas like nanotech, bio-tech and medical devices.

As most of his ventures were "successful," it triggered his passion to help people develop their own businesses by sharing his wisdom and the result of his long-time research.

Shefsky's book "Entrepreneurs Are Made, Not Born," published in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic and Hungarian, was initially rejected by 15 publishers.

During a lecture at Beijing University, a lady said Shefsky made entrepreneurship sound too easy because three of her friends failed in their businesses running a hamburger outlet, a fried chicken restaurant and a coffee shop.

"Your friends went up against McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks and you wonder why they failed," said the professor. "In many cases people don't even want to bother competing in these areas and surrender the market to the three giants because they are good at what they do."

Then he cited the example of a lady who used her wisdom to win a huge fortune.

Ms Okawra, a lady Shefsky met in Japan 40 years ago, wanted to corner the market in cheese. At that time there was no history of cheese eating in Japan, so her dream was deemed foolish by many. But she cornered the market. Nobody cared.

She then made a trip to the United States to meet Pizza Hut management and another major pizza company there. She told Pizza Hut she wanted to be the chain's exclusive franchisee in Japan.

But Pizza Hut told her they were not ready to tap the Japanese market yet.

When they were ready to expand there they would probably talk to some people they know there who have experience in running restaurants.

And she said, "Well, that's fine, you can do that if you want, but of course, whoever you do that with, they're probably going to want cheese for their pizza, and I own the market on cheese."

And of course she got the franchises for all of Japan, the professor related.

"The lesson can best be explained through a quote from famous ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky," said the professor. "He said, 'Never skate to where the puck is, always skate to where the puck is going to be and that's how you win the game."'

He added, "The three people who failed skated to where the puck already was and it already was huge and successful, so they didn't have a chance."

Another secret of being a successful entrepreneur, and the best way, is to associate yourself with people better than you in the fields you want to start your business in, Shefsky said.

"I partnered with extraordinary people when I started my own law firm at the age of 29 so that I can be successful during that period," he said.

"My second business which I formed was an information technology company which invented the B2B mode. I convinced one brilliant IT developer and one marketing guy, who didn't know each other, to join me," he added.

An entrepreneur doesn't have to be an inventor if he wants to do anything in the scientific or technology area as he only needs to use his passion and business logic to convince such talented people to help him, he said.

Persistence is the other thing that would make for a successful entrepreneur.

"I've never met an entrepreneur who failed, only their business failed," he said. "Many of them do it better the next time. It's persistence, not stubbornness that makes a successful entrepreneur."

And an entrepreneur cannot fear failure, he said.

"There are two meanings to the word 'fear' in English. The first is being afraid. If you're afraid, it's going to stymie you. You're not going to go forward. If on the other hand, fear means awe or respect, like a fear of God, that's the kind of fear that makes you respect and appreciate what you're dealing with and you're going to do better," he said.

Entrepreneurs peculiarly like failure because if they fail, the failure is their education, and they come back and they do it better the second time or the third time or whatever, because the passion is still there, the professor said.


 

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