Being and Entrepreneurship

“Organizations tend to evolve in ways that are inherently resistant to entrepreneurship. Yet Entrepreneurship is instrumental for ensuring the long-term sustainability of any enterprise.” (Properties of balance: A pendulum effect in corporate entrepreneurship, Michael H. Morris, Jurie van Vuuren, Jeffrey R. Cornwall, Retha Scheepers)

Whether you call it corporate entrepreneurship or individual creativity, it is difficult to drive behavior that challenges the status quo, questions existing procedures, or increases personal risk.

“More fundamentally, fostering corporate entrepreneurship becomes problematic if company executives do not know what they are trying to achieve.” (Morris, et al)

Finding balance in large organizations is difficult at best. The larger the group the further removed any single individual is from the source of cash flow, from the feel of customers, from the pulse of technological change. (You know, the smell of the sawdust, the feel of the earth type stuff.) The meaningfulness of any individual change can then be questioned. The rewards of putting one’s neck on the line more elusive.

Research on risk taking tends to show we are much more willing to seek out risk to avoid a small loss than a get a small gain. (Post on this at Blogging Innovation by Steven Shapiro)

Morris summarizes an architecture of balance for an organization that wants to encourage entrepreneurial creativity. It covers conflicting dimensions that must co-exist along the lines of strategy, culture, structure, control, and HRM. In the end it seems encouraging entrepreneurship can be a lot like the ying and yang of corporate structuring, or the spaces between being and nothingness.

It made me wonder, where the heck is economic recovery going to come from if large organizations find it so difficult to change direction.

Then I became distracted, by pig farming.

Walter at Sugar Mountain Farm has taken on a vertical integration project that flies in the face of some preconceived notions about scale and the general momentum of the ag industry (at least from what little I know about it).

I can’t remember when I started following Walter’s blog. But I’m a regular visitor as he describes life on a family pig farm where they are in the business of “certified naturally grown, humanely raised, pastured pigs raised on pasture, hay, whey and other good foods in the mountains of Vermont.”

On Sunday he announced:

“We are building an on-farm slaughterhouse and butcher shop located on our farm so that we can get our pork to customers’ fork.”

First – Gotta love the motto.

More to the point – Building an on-site nano-slaughterhouse goes against the long term trend of ever increasing scale in the agriculture industry. From reading Walter’s post I also get the impression it could go against the pre-conceived notions of some of his customers and readers as well.

But if you want to get inside the head of an entrepreneurial thinker, read the post.

His expansion has good cash fundamentals. (Ground floor entry for any new idea)

But it also provides leadership in areas as diverse as animal care, bio-security, supply chain management, quality control, and improved product.

And his resourcefulness in executing the plan is a perfect example of cardboard creativity at work. A business ecosystem that includes customers pre-ordering to lock in supply (providing funding), extended payment terms from builders, and his family’s own sweat and tears.

The post is long, but in my mind worth the read. Better than many business plans I’ve read over the years.

In the age amazing success stories like Google, Twitter, Apple, Microsoft, H-P, Intel and other high tech franchises, it’s easy to think that the payoff for being an entrepreneur is vast riches.

And, yes, some do hit the lottery.

But for most, being an entrepreneur is as more about a lifestyle and making a decent living than striking it rich.

Of course, we can dream.

I’ll leave the final word to Walter:

“This, of course, does not include any charge for our labor but this is a farm and farmers don’t get salaries or hourly wages – we get the satisfaction of working outdoors in the beautiful country weather. Preferably before the snow hits the concrete.” (Sugar Mountain Farm Blog)

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8 Responses to Being and Entrepreneurship

  1. kay plantes says:

    Is share your concern about large companies and entrepreneurship. So many merely acquire competitors and use cost savings (and lost lives) to meet earnings expectations. Of late (see my recent blog post) I have become fascinated by for-profit companies that also advance social causes in big ways so that for-profit and non-profit start to blur. Look at rackspace – wanting to expand, they chose a building in a run-down area and are using their location to help transform a low income public school and the lives of kids in that school. The more business leaders can see past the divide of for-profit and non-profit, they will find ways to do well by doing good.
    .-= kay plantes´s last blog ..Non-profit for profit merger =-.

  2. Hi Kay, Great points in your comment and your post. I didn’t know about the rackspace initiative but what a good idea. It has the added benefit of keeping everyone focused on the value of a buck. (Something sorely lacking in more heady start up days of yore).

  3. J.D. Meier says:

    … get our pork to customer’s fork … perfect.

    I remember the first time I read something by Seth where he pointed out you need to know whether you’re an Entrepreneur or Freelancer. The freelancer is happy to master their craft, and get paid for their time, while the Entrepreneur is about being a part of something bigger than themselves and making ideas happen.

    I think the surprise of being an Entrepreneur is that it’s less luck and more skills, network, and perspiration.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..What 16 Movies Can Teach Us About Life and Leadership =-.

  4. Fred, I find it intriguing that people are willing to take a risk to avoid loss, but are not as willing to take that risk to make a gain. I could be numbered amongst those who were willing to take that risk. I quit my job and because I had a bigger vision of what I could accomplish with my gifts, I pursued a doctorate so I could gain the credentials to do what I wanted to do. This was all part of being an entrepreneur. For me the risk was huge and not small and required so much more than I thought I was able to do. Very few people are willing to take the risks to do the kind of work they’d truly enjoy.
    .-= Robyn McMaster´s last blog ..Memorize More – Outsource Less =-.

    • Hi Robyn, I thought the study was interesting as well. It is a real reminder that decisions around taking on risk can be very personal decisions. Your story shows that as well. The percentage of folks willing to step away from an existing job for something that doesn’t exist yet is very low. But as you say, if you don’t step out and take those risks you may never test your limits and find out your true potential.

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi Fred,

    Sorry it’s been awhile since I have commented here.

    Not having had the chance to read Walter’s post yet, I am not in a great position to make informed comment, but I love how simply he puts his ideas.

    He would have a great marketing slogan – “Our pork straight to your fork,” or something like that.

    With regard to Robyn’s comment, I can certainly see why many folks are reluctant to leave what they see as a secure paycheck in order to step out and start their own entrepreneurial enterprise. In short, it all boils down to comfort zones. Taking the entrepreneurial track means stepping out from the known and familiar and stepping into out of our comfort zones and into the unknown.

    Not having ever made this step myself (but having thought about it), I can certainly understand the general tendency to avoid taking the plunge.
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Should jumps racing be banned? =-.

    • Hi Andrew, I’d say taking off and working in a foreign land for a few years counts as a big step out of a comfort zone in my book. 🙂 But you are right, different stimuli drive people to make change. For some it’s about money, for others it is control, and others it may simply be a search for happiness. The less valuable change looks to a person the less likely they are to make it.