Leadership…is Entrepreneurship a learned skill?

I was talking with one of mentors on the phone yesterday, I always get a week full of go-go juice after one of our chats. I was sharing with him something my class at Clemson had done that was very interesting. Their task was to find local examples of Hybrid Entrepreneurs in the area, and write a case study. To my surprise, they choose Serrus Capital Partners. They wrote a short case study and presented it to the rest of the class. It was fun seeing my students talk about one of my mentors.

As I was explaining this to Leighton, you could tell that not only was he humbled…but was having a hard time being put in the spot light. You see, a good leader likes to focus on their team and remove the focus from themselves. Leighton has built many companies, had many successes and many challenges…but at the end of the day, he gets up and keeps on swinging the bat. Why…because he is not afraid of “failure” or “challenges.” He looks at it as just another part of the process to achieve what he has set out to do. That is why he has continued to be successful to this day.

I am still trying to think through whether entrepreneurship is a learned skill, an ethic built into us, a language, or a passion. But Leighton said something yesterday that made me think just a bit…we as entrepreneurs succeed because we are surrounded by people who love us. At first, I thought that was just a simple feel good statement…but I sat back and thought about it for a bit. It makes perfect sense.

Entrepreneurs’ success is dependent upon the people around us and their support. Now, we will have plenty of people around us that find it in their best interest for us to “fail.” But the one’s who really love us…support us; they listen to our successes, they listen to our failures, and they encourage us to just swing that bat again.

On Wednesday, I was visiting my Grandfather who is 80. He is in the hospital again and is getting weaker by the day. My pop is another one of my mentors. He is an entrepreneur himself. He did not want to sit and talk about him, but wanted to hear about me? He wanted to know about business, who I had met, had I signed any new contracts, was I happy, and what scared me. This frail man who spent his whole life enjoying the successes of the “American Dream” of an “Entrepreneurial Experience,” was more interested in hearing from me. I still had so much to learn from him. In some way I think he wanted to feel like he was out an about chasing another deal and hanging out with his customers.

My grandfather believed in the customer.  He was not a serial entrepreneur, he was a real estate man. He did not spend all of his time focusing on the properties, he spent his time getting to know his customers. He listened and he responded. He put the customer first. In his time away from the customer, he spent walking through tons on properties, memorizing each one. He was jealous of my iPad.

Leadership and Entrepreneurship is an undefined space. What I mean, each person has their own opinions. But that is what makes it so great, how we come to learn to become leaders and entrepreneurs…it is all about the people that love us!

By the way, both Leighton and my grandfather are real-estate men…interesting.

Here is a quote from my daily motivational that I thought I would share from Nancy Eichstadt of LMI. It is funny how this little motivational found it’s way into my In-Box this morning. Enjoy…


Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can.
The cards you’re dealt in life are less important
than the way you play them.
Every day you face a new deck and new cards.

Carve out a niche for yourself in your imagined future.
Begin immediately to think and feel yourself as successful.
To achieve your goal in life, you need to project your end result.

Focus on your future, not your past.
Prepare for your future, don’t live in the past.
Relish your good memories and use any bad ones as lessons in life.

Think of the elation, the satisfaction,
the joy you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your objective.
Carry these ecstatic feelings with you every day
and they will bring your desired goals into view.

Success is waiting for you.

Thankful for my mentor, my business mentor…my Pop!

This is me on graduation in 1997 from Clemson. From left to right, my mom – Linda, my Nana – Judy, me, my sister – Jennifer, and my Pop – Joe. My Pop the business man…the only thing that is not seen in this picture is my Pop’s cell phone, which he had close to him all the time. I remember he had the first mobile phone in his car in the 1980’s and it was a rotary phone…he was an innovative business man. He was the first realtor in Anderson to have a mobile phone. He and I have lots in common. We love technology and gadgets.

Today…on this Thanksgiving, I went up and sat for about an hour with my Pop. This is my grandfather…my mother’s father. He is in a rehabilitation home after a few trips to the hospital. I am the oldest grandchild and my mother is the oldest of her siblings. In a way, I am like a son to him.

As a business man, it is good to find someone whom you can call a mentor. One that you can sit down, share honest thoughts, and receive honest feedback. But when the talk is over, that positive feedback makes you want to get up and keep on moving ahead.  My Pop was a self-employed business man..for most of his adult life. He grew-up in Spartanburg, son to a police officer who died when my Pop was a teenager. It was my Pop and his mother (my Granny) trudging through life for years. He went into the Marines and afterwards met my Mimi, my grandmother. She died when I was only four years old. He became a medical sales guy…then stepped away to tackle the world of real estate. My grandfather sold real estate here in the Anderson, SC area most of his adult life. He has probably sold the same house numerous times. His photographic memory of each house combined with his relationship building skills made him successful leader in this Anderson community.

Now during the later years of his life, I think he is beginning to reflect and share his wisdom. He has seen recessions, he has seen the real estate market flourish. He has had to balance an entrepreneur’s life with the life of a family that encompassed  four children and tons of grandchildren. My oldest memories of Pop is going on a house showing with him, sitting in the car, then watching him guide the people (his clients)  through the contractual process. He loved what he did. I am sure he loved selling real estate because the of the financial benefit of a sale, but most of all he loved dealing with people. He loved building relationships. He loved hearing stories from his clients, connection with people from different backgrounds, sharing relationships which led to sharing business. Relationships led to strong economic development in his opinion.

Each time I get to sit with Pop, we share stories. He loves to hear my stories of a new client, a new person I met, new ideas, and my vision for my business of tomorrow. He also wants to hear the struggles, the fear, the disappointments, and the challenges. He wants to keep it real, because business is not always about the pluses…it is about weathering the storms and finding positives in the challenges. He has had to endure the downswings, so he sees the value in sharing both sides…but finding ways to understand and move forward to a brighter tomorrow.

My Pop loves to be called my mentor. He is…in so many ways. I seek his wisdom, his advice, his thoughts, his laughs, his positive thinking…but most of all his approval. I want to do it right in his eyes.

Mentors are necessary in this world of business. Mentors bring perspective, bring wisdom, en-still positive thinking, and prepare us to move thoughtfully for a brighter tomorrow. Mentors are awesome…but they are even better when they are your grandfather! One who has found success in his passion…not just selling real estate but building wonderful relationships.

On this Thanksgiving 2010, I am thankful for my mentor…my Pop.