The houses of the three little pigs were the same size, only made differently. When tested, only the brick house, with its solid construction, survived. It was not by chance or accident. The little pig who made his house out of straw was not really thinking about the house, but about doing whatever with what he saw first so he could quickly go play around. The second little pig, the one with the sticks house, had a stronger desire to imitate the one who was playing than to have a solid house, so he finished anyway he could and went to play, too. The last one was the only one who really knew why he wanted a house, and with that in mind he set about building it. He was the only one who understood that a worthwhile house needs to be planned, well grounded, and that it would take time to build.
Knowing how to be an entrepreneur has a lot in common with that story. The straw house represents a mom-and-pop; that of sticks to a larger mom-and-pop; and the brick house, an enterprise. With a clear vision and eagerness to resolve his situation, that third little pig is an example of what it means to be an entrepreneur. An enterprise, regardless of its size, differs from a mom-and-pop thanks to certain fundamental principles, which are a reflection of the attitude of the person who is carrying them out.
Those fundamental principles can be summarized as follows:
Ideas and solutions are not the same. Ideas, like opinions, everyone has them; but what really moves our world are solutions. Ideas, even those on paper, only work when they become actions as part of a plan.
Think big. Business success comes from tackling large issues through simple solutions. Once a solution is obtained, large or small companies establish processes and methodologies as part of their solutions, allowing them to replicate those successes and grow.
Friends and business are not always compatible. It is important to know how to ask for professional help, not just for help. It is also important not to be afraid to pay for these services, within the limitations of each one. When hiring professional services, one can demand satisfactory results or complain for the lack of them. “You receive according to what you pay”, and there is no point in complaining about free and poor services.
Although it is always good to have capital and other resources, these do not guarantee that things will go well. It is possible to go from a mom-and-pop to an entrepreneur without even relocating. It is much more important to think differently and get going.
Ideas are superfluous. Forget about having an idea and think that that’s enough. The truth is that it is useless to sit under a tree or on a bench at the park and wait for the million-dollar idea to arrive. Instead, it is better to observe more. Listen more. Ask yourself: How do things work? What are others complaining about? What would happen if there was a way to resolve those complaints before they happen? The solutions are there, in the problems.
Clear strategies to implement solutions. It is necessary to understand well the solution that one wants to implement. The “how to” and “how much to charge” will come by themselves. For example, a minimarket does not sell groceries, it sells convenience by charging for groceries that people go to find at a nearby location. Store networks like Oxxo or 7-11 understand that, and it is this that makes them different from the mom-and-pop neighborhood store. Both offer proximity and groceries. However, the Oxxo’s and 7-11s have methods and processes for everything, allowing them an efficient inventory analysis, they have a method for the placing of items within the store, they know the profit margin on each item and the average sale per customer depending on the neighborhood, and much more. All that information is part of their strategy for implementing solutions.
Surround yourself with experienced people. Another great difference between mom-and-pops and an enterprise is sophistication, and that comes through the support of other experts. A good soccer player is not the one who runs faster or kicks the ball harder. He is the one who knows how to be part of the play, learns how and when to participate, and has good coaches. The objective of the game is not to show off individually, but to score more team goals than the opponents. An enterprise attracts entrepreneurs to launch its strategy. In turn, an entrepreneur surrounds herself with people from whom she can learn, seeks advice from other professionals, and understands that no one becomes successful alone.
Whoever settles, stays behind. It is imperative to remember that someone will always want to copy a good concept. An entrepreneur constantly seeks to improve his or her processes and methods. Seeks to be different despite selling the same. For this, you as an entrepreneur make technology your best friend. You will tell technology everything and allow it to help you by:
- telling it what solution you have to the problem you identified;
- telling it who you are selling that solution to and how you plan to charge for it;
- telling it about your processes, structures, and expenses;
- constantly asking who your client really is, why that client is coming to you, and what other solution you can offer; and
- asking it to help you to be always more efficient.
The brick house required planning, the use of different technologies such as bricks, cement, beams, roof, doors, tools, screws, and also nails. This little pig always kept in mind the solution he was really looking for: a refuge to shelter from the wolf. These are some of the lessons that this story offers to be an entrepreneur, big or small, and who also strives intelligently to improve.
Xavier “Xavi” Flores is a hotel and real estate finance executive, and is an advisor at SevenTrain Ventures, an investment and venture development firm focused on technology-driven startups and entrepreneurs. Xavi holds a Bachelor of Tourism Business Administration from the University of Houston, Texas, and an MBA from ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He is originally from Chetumal, Quintana Roo, and currently resides in New York.