In my work as a business mentor, two seemingly contradictory themes repeat themselves.
I often come across the 30+ person, who has a solid university degree but just cannot build their own business. In parallel, there are plenty of people, who have never attended an academy of higher learning, yet end up with a lot of cash in the bank accounts.
Two famous examples of what I mean? We all know that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame was a genius and ended up at Harvard. In comparison, the late Steve Jobs dropped out of university after a semester, but later gave a talk at Stanford on how he succeedd by “learning to join the dots of life”.
In Israel, there is a well-known chain of coffee bars called “Cafe Cafe”. It’s 50 year old owner, Ronen Nimni, was looking after 4 car parks in Tel Aviv by the time he was 18 years old. Within a decade, he was a well-known figure as the owner of several dance clubs. But then his business imploded.
When the banks “called in Nimni for a chat”, he simply worked til the late hours in the one restaurant he still possessed, even sweeping the floors himself. Another 14 years on, he has converted that “one” into around 120 additional branches, has brought several other chains, is looking at exporting one of his eatery concepts and is…..
Well, it gets breathless to continue listing the achievements of Ronen, who left school and home at 16. He had the great luck, skill and fortune to recognise his true abilities at an early age: he can make decisions quickly and choose the correct people to help him.
Ronen is no isolated case. Yesterday, I met with an owner of a small retail chain. He too could not sit down to write an essay if you paid him.
In the opposite “corner”, I was speaking recently to a lady, also from Tel Aviv. She has a fine middle class upbringing, including a strong bachelor’s degree. However, her business ain’t working out. It is difficult to discuss the cash flow, because it is fairly stagnant.
When I asked her, who she could call to start off a new set of clientelle, she had no answer. An hour later of some pushing and mentoring from me, she had booked four meetings. As the session progressed, she protested that business was hard, difficult. Nobody had warned her.
The point is that going to university can help, help a great deal. It will encourage you to ask questions, challenge assumptions, teach you principles in your field. However, and this is the dark secret, many people still need help to go beyond that.
Some take that help by allowing themselves to be employed by others, learning from their experiences, and then setting up for themselves. Others, like my female customer, just assume that it will flow. They fail to think what they can really provide and how to do it.
And that simple statement – what you can do, realising your core values, and how in detail to supply the service – needs to be brought out of each and every one of us. It is not simple to understand and can be very trying to implement.