Much has been said lately about how entrepreneurship is one of the strengths of our economy. I agree.
In every community, small and large, entrepreneurs are creating new products and services. The process of doing this is dirty, hard work.
The public sees the resulting success or failure much later, after the entrepreneur has adjusted and allowed market forces to refine and correct his original ideas. Some fail. For those who succeed, it is easy to look at such success and say, "Well, that was obvious." No, it wasn't.
While there is no question that removing incentives will hinder entrepreneurial activity, most entrepreneurs cannot help themselves. They simply must do it—it is in their DNA. Most will never say this, but money is not their prime motivator.
It is bigger than that. I think it is a simple thrill to see a problem—which is where all entrepreneurs start—and then go about fixing it with a solution, however small or large. It's like scoring a touchdown or getting an A after you have worked or studied extra hard.
But I digress.
Not everyone can create a new company, product, or service. But you can still help. Here's how:
1. If you see a brand-new product or service, give it a chance. Don't simply go with the proven and tired old solution. Give the new company the chance to present its products.
2. Overlook the superficial. New products are messy, and often they need work. You can be a positive force for such change: Help entrepreneurs by simply letting them know clearly what you would need to buy.
3. Celebrate such activity if it is in your industry or community. If the prime motivator is not money, it may be the social benefits that accrue. It's far better to have a community or industry that is constantly hunting for ways to do things better than to have one that is protective and insular.
4. Ask to help. There is a start-up support group here in my city. Ostensibly, it is a place where entrepreneurs gather, exchange ideas, present their companies, raise money, etc. You might have something similar in your community. Ours has degenerated into a giant sales mixer, where accountants and consultants mill around smartly in starched shirts and sell entrepreneurs on their services. That's OK, but what would be really cool is if some of you with in-depth experience would simply offer to help out, without regard for how much you might get paid in return. We need advice and help, but success-based advice is truly what we value.
5. Buy. Wherever and whenever possible, just buy. Don't misread this; we don't want charity (are you kidding me?). But when we have a compelling business case for our new "thing," just give it a try. The least you can do is respectfully tell us what it is we would need to do or change to win your business.
G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at WhatWouldDadSay.com or at JobDig.com.