Are you “just the right amount of crazy” to start a new business? Do you know that entrepreneurship is like “jumping out of a plane and building the parachute on the way down?” Are you prepared to put enough capital? To put in that same amount in again? And then again? Are you prepared to function without a powerful organizational infrastructure standing around you? Can you tolerate the astonishing speed of the swings between a manic soaring sense of opportunity and optimism, and the panicky middle-of-the-night sweats with your mind racing? Sure, no problem.
And, despite all those worries, it’s worth it. It’s worth going through it all so that you can “Build the Ladder” rather than continue to climb a corporate ladder built by others. It’s worth it all to be able to combine vision with execution, strategy with tactics, and managerial skill with operational excellence. This is the view from a group of successful entrepreneurs, each of whom had a great deal of big corporate experience.
In this month’s edition of the “Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance & Banking” (JSFB), we honor the entrepreneurs. We celebrate the creative, inspired, dauntless, innovative thought-leaders … especially those who have managed to instill in their organizations a sense of purpose. In surveying the landscape of these leaders, we also highlight the extent to which they are conscious of the impact they have on the world around them. It is the start-ups among the universe of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that are creating the vast majority of new jobs in an economy. And it’s often the start-ups that have figured out innovations that can then be scaled to meet the needs of a changing world.
It is this sheer force of will to address an unmet need that is the genesis of economic growth and prosperity. Entrepreneurs recognize the security they may have given up in leaving big companies. But they highlight an extraordinarily deep sense of accomplishment too. They welcome the unparalleled sense of responsibility for their own fate and that of their employees. And, they experience greater empathy and respect for those founders around them. At the same time, they have less empathy for those people and institutions that waste time and energy. They have less tolerance for those executives in larger institutions who have the resources and platforms to implement constructive change and progress, but do not. They have even less comfort with the status quo than they did in their former lives.
So in this month’s JSFB, we applaud the awesome innovators who are building the ladder and devising solutions to problems ranging from urban transportation nightmares (think Waze and Uber) to absurdly expensive broadband services (think Aero) to eyewear that’s stylish yet doesn’t break the bank (think Warby Parker). We also applaud the executives inside major corporations who have figured out how to create a culture of innovation.
We argue that it is also those companies which can embrace disruptive innovation and not be paralyzed by fears of cannibalization that will truly find sustainable, competitive advantage.
These companies embrace the economist Joseph Schumpeter’s notion of “creative destruction” and somehow manage to embrace change and innovation for the long-term good of capitalism … notwithstanding the sometimes painful journey. These leaders have the entrepreneurial spirit to which we can all aspire.