I can be a lousy businessman. That’s hard to admit as a coach. I often imagine that one of the many reasons people come to me for coaching is they feel I can help them unlock the secret of building a successful business. (I can, of course, but only when I wave my magic wand.)
Lousy because I often make business decisions out of want, desire, wishes, feelings, and other heart-driven motivations. (Read my exhortation about Saying No not merely as a prescription to others but as a reminder to self.)
Still though, sometimes an idea gets fixed and I have to act. (Note to clients: Don’t worry, my attachment to the idea is loosely held.) Such is the case with the notion of figuring out Europe.
A few months ago I visited Slovenia and fell in love. The city, the people, the spirit of local entrepreneurs grabbed my heart hard and fast. Then I received a poignant email which, with the entrepreneur’s permission, I turned into a blog post called Born Somewhere Else. And an idea began to grow.
Weeks later, the incomparable Ann Mehl and I (with thoughtful and caring support from our friends at General Assembly) pulled off the second iteration of our workshop: Disappearing into the Fire: Surviving the Startup Life. Selling out quickly, we realized we were onto something. But we didn’t realize how significant an idea it was until I’d heard from the generous Kevin Dykes, challenging me, essentially to bring the workshop to his adopted home of Berlin.
Ljubljana, Berlin…cities with nascent but vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems. Hmmm. This started to sound interesting. And so we talked. And wrote. And talked some more. Kevin connected us to others and the idea looked like a real possibility. Let’s take the show on the road. And so we are.
Ann and I will be leading the workshop with support from Kevin, Stefan Wolpers of the Entrepreneurs Club of Berlin and the local whizzes at General Assembly. To maximize the trip, I’ll also be leading a breakfast discussion about the challenges and opportunities facing entrepreneurs over there looking to raise money from investors over here.
I’ll also visit some clients and spend some time with their companies.
Sounds good, right? So what’s the lousy-business guy thing? Ever since I received his email, I’ve not been able to shake the question about what differences exist between US-based entrepreneurs those based in places like Berlin, Ljubljana, Estonia, or Tibet; what are the differences and what are the similarities. From the work I’ve done with clients outside the US, I know that the fear and the emotional roller coaster are common. But from other conversations I’ve learned, for example, that the acceptance of failure is a large cultural difference…which leads to all sorts of mind-bending for a first time entrepreneur. So following the advice of my dearest friend and former high school English teacher, I’m going to “teach the questions I want answers to.”
The lousy part is we may not make money on this. But, I know, I’ll walk away with an incomparable experience. And, ya know, that’s worth all the effort.