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The Patient Entrepreneur

October 15, 2012

“The most critical aspect of commitment is that it can not be manufactured quickly. It must be carefully cultivated and cared for, just as a tree can only come from the careful nurturing of a seed.” (John Jantsch, The Commitment Engine p. 1)

When I think of entrepreneurs I rarely think of them as patient. That is partly for biographical reasons! I’m not prone to patience. Action? Yes. Moving quickly without all the facts. Yep! Starting something or innovating with little forethought. Guilty.

I’m part of a coaching program that encourages the use of the Kolbe profile. It is a test that measures how people prefer to act. It’s well worth your time to check it out but without going into all the details my profile is what they call a “Quick Start.”

“Hi, my name is Kevin and I act before I think.” And yet…

There’s no shortcut to an Oak tree. Growing Oaks takes time. It can’t be rushed.

There’s no shortcut to shared commitment. Growing commitment takes time. It can’t be rushed.

But the good news is it can be cultivated. So while our part in growing commitment is dependent on many factors we can’t control the few that are in our control are very important. We plant seeds: idea seeds. We share vision, painting pictures of a preferred and shared future. We invite co-workers to join the team and investors to buy in. And then we wait. We wait to see what the response is. We water it by sharing it over and over. We protect it by clarifying the vision and the invitation. We make sure that it passes from person to person without getting skewed like a game of telephone.

And we do the work. We experiment and create demonstration plots. We verify and adjust on the fly. We patiently tweak and try again. We fail as fast as possible so we can learn where the weak points are and that reveals where we need to make adjustments. And simultaneously we celebrate even the smallest successes and patiently point out where things are working.

I’m right in the middle of this process now as my shop Center City Collision is trying to dramatically reduce the amount of time cars spend in our shop. I am convinced that half the jobs can be done on a 24 Hour clock. I’m talking about it. We’re experimenting on small jobs. We’re succeeding. And we’re failing. And the failures are just as important at this stage so we can keep keep tweaking it. Finding clears that dry faster. Making sure all the parts are at the shop before we get started. We’re creating the recipe and taste testing as we go. Commitment is grown as we succeed. Learning spikes when we don’t.

But again, this takes time.

I’m reminded of Wendell Berry’s poem Like the Snow. I’ll let my favorite poet/farmer have the final word:

“Suppose we did our work

like the snow, quietly, quietly.

leaving nothing out.”

What shortcuts are tempting you right now?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Collin Rowland permalink
    October 17, 2012 2:27 pm

    Thanks Kevin! This was perfect timing for me in reading this!

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