Appreciation and a culture of HONOR for Entrepreneurs

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I just came home from a conference by Paul Manwaring called A Culture of Honor. As he spoke about how carelessly people criticize each other on TV and in daily life – and how uplifting it is to receive words of affirmation – I was struck by how little appreciation most entrepreneurs get from… well, anybody.

The evening news is no celebration of business people, that’s for sure.

The government ain’t doing much to make your job easier.

So… why would you risk everything, endure multiple bankruptcies, work 17 hours a day for weeks and months at a time, to be the first to be taxed and the last to get paid in a game that offers no guarantee of success whatsoever?

It takes a very special kind of person.

It takes a person who is driven from the inside by passion and vision and a bit of eccentricity. It requires you to be so dissatisfied with the status quo that you feel like you can endure anything so long as it’s not the present mediocrity.

You’re one of those people who just can’t stand following the car ahead of you on the expressway to some cubicle for the rest of your life.

Or maybe you have this idea for a product or a way of doing something and you’re convicted to your very soul that the world needs to see things *your* way for once.

In any case, I doubt it’s because you’re just some greedy, money-grubbing over-achiever who needs to take a chill pill. No, that popular depiction is deeply misleading.

I just want to say… Wherever you are in your journey, I’m proud of you, I HONOR you, and I cheer you on in your effort. Any honest business is a noble and honorable thing.

I’ll never forget my 2nd trip to Africa. I’m somewhere southwest of Nairobi Kenya, visiting George Karanga and his wife Jane, two very special people who run a foster program for AIDS orphans.

I’m meeting a woman whose husband is dying of AIDS, he’s down to 66 pounds… all kinds of kids who’ve lost both parents to HIV and now live with aunts, uncles or grandparents… people who are deathly sick for lack of $1.00 for a bus ticket to go to a medical clinic…a woman who’s 8 years a paraplegic, living under a tin roof in a dark mud hut, her sole entertainment her radio, her cat, and her kind neighbors who look after her.
Not a cheery scene.

But the epiphany occurs when I meet a fellow named Paul Mungai, who runs a cobbler shop. Paul, ironically, is

Paul Mungai, the crippled owner of a cobbler shop in Kenya

Paul Mungai, the crippled owner of a cobbler shop in Kenya

crippled, but he knows how to make and fix shoes. And he knows how to run a business.

He started with just $50.00 of seed money and now has, by Kenyan standards, a sound business. He’s feeding his family, he’s paying his rent, his kids have uniforms to wear to school, and everyone in his care has enough to live on.

"So many options for growing my business, but what should I do NOW?" Tell me your most pressing business problems and I'll show you your BEST next step.

There’s a gleam in his eye. We exchange a few words and share our mutual understanding: There is one and only one path out of poverty. The one and only path out of poverty is entrepreneurship and business success.

It ain’t government. It’s not social programs. It’s not charity. It’s not even jobs or technology. It’s entrepreneurship.

The message was loud and clear: What you and I do may be daring, crazy, irrational and largely misunderstood. Condescending do-gooders may tell you you’re greedy or too successful. Your brother-in-law may think you’ve got your head stuffed in a cloud.

The government may think it has the right to confiscate your profits and give them to “education” or other well-intentioned social programs. You might cater to some strange market, doing something that most people consider frivolous.

But the fact remains: What you and I do is profoundly important. You and I pave the road that leads from poverty to success. We create the ingenuity and jobs and wealth that makes good medical care possible.

We create the world that has enough to eat, the world where even welfare kids in housing projects get three square meals a day.

So don’t ever apologize to anyone for doing what you do. If it wasn’t for you, me and the rest of us entrepreneurs, “they” would still be sleeping on dirt floors.

That conversation with Paul in Kenya sparkled with the mutual awareness of what I just described to you.

And as George took me to see other recipients of Micro-Enterprise seed funding – a lady selling sardines and tomatoes on a nailed-together stand on the side of the road, several women selling fruits and vegetables in the local markets, I thought of the entrepreneurs I meet in the US, Canada and Australia.

I thought of those rah-rah Amway rallies I was going to years ago, and the easily-exploited naiveté that’s so characteristic of “the Biz Op” market as it’s sometimes called.

And like it or not, it’s that raw enthusiasm and independent spirit that drives the prosperity of the West.

Where that drive, imagination and ingenuity are lacking, people starve – literally.

So yes, some business people are too greedy. Some entrepreneurs don’t care about their fellow man. Some people do make their money by dishonest means. But remember, the character quotient is no better on the poor side of the fence.

So if you’re prospering by means of an honest enterprise – or if you’re struggling to put one together – then you are a hero. The bards and minstrels may not sing songs about you, and your handsome face may never appear on The Apprentice, but what you do every day when you get out of bed is a worthwhile and indeed necessary thing.

Don’t ever forget it. What you do matters. A lot. It’s worth celebrating and it’s HONORABLE.

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

10 Comments on “Appreciation and a culture of HONOR for Entrepreneurs”

  1. Hey Perry-
    I am a huge fan and a lurker on your lists for a few months, but I wanted to say that this post of yours arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time. I am struggling to get my first ecommerce sites up and running, with the monthly bills of a large family dangling over my head, and feeling frustrated and lonely. And you just kinda whooshed in with a real pick-me-up. As I snail-mailed you – my goal is hitting a 4 man sometime this year. Thanks for all your contributions.


  2. Nick,

    The underlying assumption behind this new legislation is that capping salaries makes people honest.

    I think that assumption should be questioned.

    This just dooms the banking industry to living under a ceiling of mediocrity.

  3. Great article here detailing why the entrepreneur and the beaurocracy aren’t good bedfellows:

    NY Times article on how Goldman Sachs having the cash to return all TARP funds and get itself out from under the thumb of Uncle Sam and his newly fashionable pay caps and bonus taxes is not a good thing???

    Also, a great reminder of the dangers or taking someone else’s money from Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich – “Is this America, when you can do what your government asks you to do and then retroactively you also have additional conditions put on?”

    Hey, we know you don’t need this money but we want you to take it because it’s going to make the other guys who need it look bad. So, just take it.

    Oh by the way, now you can’t pay anybody more than $500K/year and any bonuses you give them will be taxed at 90%.

    “It’s just impossible to run our business in this environment,” said one senior Goldman executive who insisted on not being quoted by name for fear of crossing the Treasury Department.

    Republicans, Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals – it’s not the issue for me. With all of this, I’m really trying to keep my ideologies and affiliations strictly to the “entrepreneurial party”.

    If Perry keeps this up he’s going to become our defacto party chair.

  4. Perry,

    Another one of your best efforts… I think that the future of the world depends on small business and that entrepreneurs are the smallest unit of business there is.

    You efforts are greatly appreciated Perry…

  5. Hi Perry,

    Thanks so much for the awesome post!

    I chose to become an entrepreneur, not to gain praise or recognition, but to pursue work I’m passionate about and also try to help people improve their lives along the way. However, getting a little external validation once in a while is really nice, especially for those of us who are solo entrepreneurs.

    Unfortunately, in my own entrepreneurial journey, I’ve experienced more ridicule of one form or another, than accolades or acknowledgment. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve gotten remarks such as these:

    –“Maybe you should consider getting a real job again.”
    –“Boy, you’ve got it great! No boss. No responsibilities.”
    –“You must be ‘loaded’ if you don’t need to work at a job anymore.”
    –“You’re so lucky to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want to.”
    –“It must be wonderful to be able to take time off whenever you choose.”
    –“I bet it’s nice not to have to get up early every morning.”
    –And my favorite one: “Unlike those of us who work at a regular job, you’re on vacation all the time!”

    Even though such comments are more naïve than malicious, they still hurt. They hurt because my reality is so profoundly different. I’m left feeling misunderstood, disparaged and isolated. Unfortunately such remarks seem to be common experiences for many solo entrepreneurs, especially those of us with home based businesses.

    So I just wanted to express my appreciation for your wonderful post today. It made me feel validated, proud and inspired. In fact, I printed it out and will refer to it from now on any time I need a morale booster!

    Thanks again!

    Nadia Koligman

  6. Hi Perry,
    That’s an interesting topic to mention.

    Talking about the attitude that people have to business reminded me of something. My small-businessman associate was contacted by a charity. The person suggested that, by making a donation, his business could ‘give something back’ to the community.

    My friend, not an uncharitable person, resented the implication and said to me ‘I wasn’t aware that I was taking anything away.’

    Well, nobody has ever accused me of being too successful.

    It seems to me that (putting it basically, without any exciting hype) the people who decide to make their own business have made one simple decision: they said to themselves ‘I’ll take matters into my own hands and prosper (or not) according to my own efforts.’

    I try not to be judgemental about people but when I meet people who run their own businesses there is a part of me that automatically gives them a bit of extra respect.
    Also, they automatically get a bit of sympathy from me because I know some of the trials they probably endured along the way.

  7. Perry:

    That was awesome! Not to mention thoughtful for passing it along. I think I can share this with my sales team at the dealership. Even though they’re commissioned salesmen selling New Fords (another venue with enough of their own problems without coming under attack by our Socialist Administration), I think most of the message applies to them as well.

    Mark Stanton
    IT & E-Commerce Mgr.
    Interstate Ford, Inc.

  8. Great post!

    Entrepreneurs of all types definitely deserve a hard-won pat on the back.

    There is nothing as fulfilling (and absolutely terrifying at times) as working for yourself and being the master of your domain.

    Thanks for your inspiration Perry and for taking the time to recognize your entrepreneurial peers.

    You deserve to be recognized as well. You’re doing the world an incredible service by operating your ventures and finding a way to share your time and insights with us on top of it all.

    Keep up the great work!


  9. Hi Perry,

    I received your really well written post in my email this morning. I rarely, if ever, email people at lists I subscribe to, but I’m compelled to say to you, awesome post and thanks. You are one of the genuine givers out there and I hope you receive more than your fair share of greatness in return.



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