Secrets to Being a Great Entrepreneur
Story by David Maclean, as told by L. Wang
He puts his drink down on the coffee table and smiles. In the room, there’s a basketball net, a drawing board, blocks of Lego and large posters of NHL teams and players on the wall.
“Welcome to the Genesis Room,” he says.
Meet David Maclean, founder, president and creative director of Maclean Group Marketing and Maclean Sports Marketing. With 20 years of marketing experience under his belt, it was a privilege to sit down with him in the Genesis Room—where new ideas are created and birthed—and ask him, What makes a great leader and entrepreneur?
MTO: So David, what’s one of the greatest traits of an entrepreneur?
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checked by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Courage. Anything of significance demands courage. Every entrepreneur knows it takes courage to succeed in being an entrepreneur. Courage isn’t something that was taught in school; it’s is an issue of the heart. It is important to dig deep inside and find out what keeps you from having courage.
I was completely depressed about 10 years ago when I was unemployed and had two young boys and a wife to provide for. I had no idea what I was going to do. My whole world seemed to have fallen apart. But I had to make something out of myself.
Sitting alone at my desk, I knew I had to come up with something. I remembered playing with small parachutes as a kid, where there was a small plastic figurine tied to a plastic parachute sheet. The figurine would fall and the parachute would come down with it.
That’s it! That’s the idea! I took this idea and presented a marketing strategy to a phone company. At a sports game, t-shirts with the team logo would be dropped from high above, and attached to each t-shirt is a parachute with the phone company’s logo. The parachute would sail down and everyone would see the phone company’s logo, large and clear.
I presented this idea to the phone company and they bought it right away. Needless to say, it took courage.
Courage is not knowing what’s going to happen, but still believing. I didn’t know what was going to happen and I didn’t know how I was going to earn a living. I didn’t even know if the company would like the idea. But I went for it.
“Courage is being scared to death – but saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne
Sometimes hiring your first employee takes a lot of courage. It’s tough to trust someone and pay someone. You might even ask yourself: Am I paying them enough that they’ll do a good job? Can I trust them to get the job done? It takes courage to trust your company in someone else’s hands.
Courage is not letting fear stop you. It’s pressing through fear. Without fear, an entrepreneur is not pushing his or her limits past the comfort zone; and an entrepreneur’s true comfort zone is outside his or her comfort zone.
MTO: What are some other characteristics that make a great entrepreneur?
David Maclean: Compassion and empathy, perseverance, and work life balance are key in succeeding as an entrepreneur.
1. Compassion and empathy
Great leaders know it’s not all about them, it’s about the team. Keep in mind that charisma is a great quality to have, but it can also be your handicap. Your charisma can make it easy for you to make everything about you—and this could be your greatest downfall.
Business is about people. We usually think people serve as resources to get more time and more money. But that’s not true. Time and money are resources to serve people, not the other way around.
When it comes to customers, vendors and staff, it’s not about working them to get money.
My goal is to help my staff achieve the goals they have in the corporation. It’s about understanding what’s going on in their work and lives. It’s important to ask them, “Are you feeling stressed?” You want your staff to like being part of the company. They should want to succeed in the company and enjoy their role in the company. It’s not just about money, it’s about people.
The key to perseverance is to show up and keep going. There are so many things you’ll miss out on because you gave up too soon. Know that there will be days when we say, “I’ve had enough!”
Sometimes what makes you want to give up can be a heart issue. It’s important to ask yourself why you’re giving up. What is going on in your heart? What’s keeping you from getting through the situation? Is it because your pride is on the line? Did your feelings get hurt? Can communication help the situation?
Remember, bad things happen and issues will come up. It’s inevitable. But we must keep going. Perseverance makes us stronger in the end.
3. Work life balance
We hear it again and again: balance is essential. But how do you balance, practically speaking?
The key to having balance is taking care of your heart. What renews you? Take time out to do those things, whatever they are. If you don’t, the company will burn you out. You need time outside the company to restore, renew and rejuvenate. Your heart and spirit will thank you.
People tend to forget to take care of their heart, physically, emotionally and spiritually. If you don’t take care of your heart, who will? It’s the essence of who you are and it will make you a greater leader and entrepreneur.