Thanksgiving is upon us. As a small business owner, think about the traits that make you successful…can you trace them back to the spirit of the Pilgrims whom we commemorate with gluttony once per year? What was it that set these pioneers apart and made them successful? Alan Hall, a columnist for Forbes, wrote a blog post about 9 behaviors our forefathers embodied that he thinks are significant to remember:
- Take Risks: The Pilgrims took a huge risk: they left their homes, got on a ship with few belongings, and set sail for the New World with little idea as to what would happen to them when they got there – if they got there at all. While we might never take a chance as big as that one, every new business comes with significant risk. Did you quit a full-time job?Risk. Bootstrap your business with credit cards maxed to the limit? Risk. Hire family members to cut costs? Huge risk. Bet the bank on a previous successful entrepreneur with potential in hopes of leveraging his/her expertise, no matter the costs? More risk.
- Sacrifice: was a key characteristic of the early Pilgrims–homes, relationships with extended family members, money they would have earned in their jobs back home, or in worst cases, their own lives or those of their children. They believed in what they were doing and prayed that they’d be successful. But as William Bradford, the second governor of Plymouth Colony, once said: “All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
- Set Goals: someone had to make plans and set goals for success. Writing down the goals – and referring to them often – is critical to reaching them.
- Be Flexible: As the Pilgrims quickly learned, though, they had to be flexible. Their intended destination was (the) Hudson River. As we all know, rough seas and storms moved them far off course near the shores of Cape Cod… If you’re steadfast in your goals (yet flexible in how you reach them), you can overcome most any challenge.
- Be Persistent: Those that made it through the first winter were diligent..strong..(and) didn’t give up..You might feel like your struggling business can’t survive another day, but unless there’s really no hope, come back tomorrow and try again.
- Work Hard: Unfortunately, after the leaders organized a collective farm, without free enterprise, many of the men were unmotivated to work. The crops suffered.. (but) the leaders decided that the land could be divided and each family grow its own corn..Within two years they had a surplus and began trading it with Native Americans and other small settlements for furs to export to England in exchange for supplies. Corn became currency as entire families worked on their own patch of soil.. (E)ntrepreneurs!
- Form Partnerships: The Pilgrims learned to partner with each other and with the Native Americans to survive.. (P)artner up with an expert.
- Be Teachable: If the Pilgrims hadn’t been willing and humble enough to accept help from the natives, they would never have learned to live off the new land. As entrepreneurs, we need to be willing to ask for help and be teachable enough to learn and apply the new direction.
- Be Thankful: After arriving at Plymouth Rock, Governor Bradford wrote in his journal, “Being thus arrived at a good harbor, and brought safely to land, they fell on their knees and blessed the God of heaven who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean and delivered them from all the perils and miseries thereof.”
What a great list! Take the time between now and Monday to thank those who have made your choice of entrepreneurship possible. Be reminded of these character traits of the Pilgrims and use them to develop into the entrepreneur you’d like to become.