People use a lot of extreme images to describe entrepreneurs. The descriptors tend to fall in the veins of “lonely visionary pursuing a dream,” or “tireless warrior.” I’ve made those analogies myself on this blog, such as when I compared founders to Olympic athletes. Since entrepreneurs can be anybody, all these images bear truth. But one meme that does not get enough attention–and would attract a broader range of fantastic entrepreneurs–is the notion of simply seeing something that needs improving and doing it.
Anyone can relate to this. It’s what you do when you pick a piece of trash up off the ground, or wash your car, or speak cheerfully to a glum stranger for the sole purpose of improving their mood. Writ large, these impulses to make something better can translate into being an activist or an entrepreneur.
So I introduce the idea of the entrepreneur as a humble hard-working gardener.
When we moved our company from the suburbs to the city, we occupied a building that had your typical nasty urban strip of weeds in front of the building. I saw that waste of space and immediately knew we had to put in a garden. Why? Well, “why not?” would be my core reason. I’m the kind of person who always optimizes and advances a situation. I cannot help it. Even when I rent a house for vacation I spend a little up-front time making it efficient and/or better set up for the purposes of my stay. Of course I would improve the landscape of a building where my team spends most of its waking hours.
But there was a business reason too: I knew it would help attract the kind of employees who care about their environment. I knew it would endear us to our new neighbors in our largely residential neighborhood and add a level of security to our premises. I knew it would make our landlord happy and improve our potential future rental negotiations and maybe even save us some money.
And all those things have proven to be true. That’s why I put in a garden.
Seeing possibilities, making something from nothing, and getting your hands dirty is exactly what an entrepreneur does.