Two Cheers for Entrepreneurs!

Entrepreneurs are great! But they’re also human, and that’s why Mike says they need help. The Beermat Cornerstone model is the answer.

The literature on entrepreneurs tends to sing their praises, which is understandable, as there’s a lot to praise. Energy, determination, imagination, more determination… But anyone who actually works with entrepreneurs will know that they have a bad side as well, and this bad side can prove fatal for the businesses they start.

Entrepreneurs can be dictatorial – fine when they know what they’re doing, but less fine when they start meddling in specialist areas where they are essentially amateurs. Sales, for example. Everybody thinks they can do sales, because they’ve probably ‘done a bit of selling’ in the past. Just like everybody thinks they could write a novel. This is a dangerous illusion.

Entrepreneurs can lack focus. It’s why they had such a brilliant idea in the first place – only today they’ve had three more brilliant ideas (they had six the other day). There need to be professionals around who will keep the business on track, in pursuit of its original vision.

We believe you need four such professionals, to cover the four ‘bases’ of sales, finance, technical innovation and delivery. We call these ‘cornerstones’, and like them even more than we like entrepreneurs. Cornerstones are not dull corporate men or women: they have the entrepreneur’s sense of adventure and mission. But at the same time they have rock-solid professional expertise, which they use to ground the entrepreneur and keep the business on mission.

Cornerstones should be empowered by giving them a full stake in the business. Ideally, an equal, five-way split between the entrepreneur and the four cornerstones. Entrepreneurs who say ‘it was my idea’ should remember that ideas are actually quite easy to have: the difficulty is in transforming them into working, profitable businesses. And, of course, that 100 per cent of a great idea that went wrong is worth nothing.

How do you find cornerstones? The best way is through personal acquaintance, either directly or by recommendation from someone you really trust. You are sharing a dangerous, risky adventure with these individuals: they must be people you respect, both on a professional and personal level. Imagine you’re teaming up to climb Mount Everest with them.

And once you have taken your cornerstones on – listen to them. Give them real authority and power: don’t make the mistake of ‘getting a dog and barking yourself’. Business is a team game.


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