Entrepreneur YOU!

Discovering the right timing for your entrepreneurial enterprise.

Posted in E Essentials by Robert Lindsay Thompson on January 19, 2011

There is a time and a season for every purpose.

As an entrepreneur, I’ve always felt that my vision is 99% accurate. I “see” something in my minds eye that needs to be created or done but has yet to be evidenced. I get a picture of it. The picture or vision of it becomes more distinct as I travel towards it. Brick by brick, I construct the enterprise, product, marketing piece, creative project, personal adventure that I have envisioned. I am and have been a man of vision. My life (personal and vocational) has been all about seeing and creating things that have never existed before… and helping others do the same.

However, my sense of “timing” has never been as acute. In fact, sometimes, it has really sucked. In the late 80’s /early 90’s I was able to achieve what few were able to do, which was to lose a lot of money in the southern California real estate market. I seemed to have an uncanny sense of buying at the top of the market, and selling at the low point. During the raging China Bull market of the 90’s, I was able to lose a small fortune chasing newly minted China “B” shares, offshore managed China funds and other “leveraged” financial products focused on it and other, small emerging markets.

True, I’ve been a pioneer. I once built what became the largest independent motion-picture studio complex in a bedroom community 30 miles from Hollywood. It become the first of literally hundreds of entertainment related companies that now proliferate the region. The first years were arduous and painful. I had an idea that was “before it’s time”. I didn’t “catch a wave”, I created a wave. I’m sure that many of the companies that have ridden that wave since have profited much more than I ever did.

In my last business, I put together complex data depicting international trade and traders in a way that had never been done before. The software that I, and my small team innovated, over years of constant development, far exceeded that of any competitor – despite them having 10,000 times the money and 100 times the staff. However, being first and best doesn’t necessarily translate into commercial success and retained wealth.

In the last case, a very prestigious venture capital group, had agreed to bring $20 million in capital and another $20 million in sales /joint ventures. The plan was to go public within 3-5 years. A deal was drafted in the fall of 2008. Literally days before we signed the final documents, along comes the global meltdown that devastated world financial markets as well as our plans. 18 months later, in the wake of vastly diminished sales and bleak economic conditions, the company was sold for a fraction of it’s 2008 valuation. Timing.

So, what’s the lesson learned? For me it is: Without “vision” you will never create anything. However, without “timing”, you won’t make much money.

The question becomes; how does someone know the proper time or season to launch a business, to strike out on their own?
To expand their business, to even when to lay people off? As the Kenny Rogers song states, “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run?”

Obviously, I don’t have THE answer for every entrepreneur that will fit every business case. Notwithstanding, i think it is important to at least consider the times and seasons… that contextualize your business, of your product /service, of your market… as well as the changing times and seasons that influence your personal life and heart… before making significant (potentially life /business changing) decisions.

As one author puts it, “no one knows the times or seasons; time and chance happen to all.” On the other hand, it is good to check the weather forecast, before launching your boat.

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