Wednesday mornings at the Creators’ Foundry are my favorites. The Kauffman Foundation 1 Million Cups program is always dynamic and lively.
I don’t know which I enjoy more, the energetic six-minute presentations of the entrepreneurs or the 20 minutes of thoughtful, caring commentary from the audience. Last week one comment from an audience member really stuck with me: “Every ‘no’ you receive is one step away from your goal.”
What struck me was not so much whether I agreed with the comment, but how I immediately knew that the world is made up of only two kinds of people.
In the first group, there are those who agree with the statement, “Every ‘no’ you receive is one step away from your goal.” These people work hard to avoid the “no’s” while hopefully increasing the probability of each “yes.”
In the second group, there are people who understand that to get to “yes” one has to go through a great deal of “no’s.” For these people, every “no” is one step closer to a “yes.”
I am definitely in the latter group, and I submit that every entrepreneur better be as well. I might go so far as to say that where one falls in their reaction to the statement — agreeing or disagreeing — might even serve as a litmus test to answer the question, “Is entrepreneurship for me?”
Entrepreneurship is not for the thin skinned. Entrepreneurs commit to a repetitive, rejection-filled process necessary for converting supporters to their way of thinking, to selling a new product and to developing innovative solutions.
My mind floods with the rejections I have amassed in my life, both as an entrepreneur and in my work at The Creative Coast.
Fortunately for me, and for Savannah’s growing entrepreneurial community, The Creative Coast’s applications to such high profile organizations as the Kauffman Foundation, Aspen Institute, MBAxAmerica, Baltic-American Freedom Foundation, Hungarian-American Enterprise Scholarship Fund and city of Savannah Cultural Affairs Department are meeting with favorable responses.
However, most people don’t realize that for every “yes” there was a long line of “no’s” paving the way.
Just as every successful entrepreneur must embrace a barrage of “no’s,” I too embrace “no’s” daily in my work at The Creative Coast.
Let me throw a few typical questions to you: “Have you bought your Geekend ticket?” “Would you like to present at One Million Cups?” “Can you please write a guest blog?” “Are you a financial supporter of The Creative Coast?” “Can I interview you for a podcast?”
My guess is that you have the ability to say “yes” to every one of my questions, yet according to my tally chart, I’m batting less than .1 on such questions.
Lucky for me, and entrepreneurs, we are not playing baseball where there’s a limit to how many times we can step up to the plate or even how many swings batters are permitted on each turn. We see that “every ‘no’ received” is one step closer to a “yes” and round and round the bat goes.
The really funny thing is that from the “stands” of the events I just mentioned, the ideas and presentations of Savannah’s local entrepreneurs often look like home runs. Last year’s Geekend, the spark plug for tomorrow’s economy, was even described as a “grand slam.”
So the real winners are not just those willing to endure the “no’s” to get to “yes.” The real champions are those willing to say “yes.”
Bea Wray is the executive director of The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. Wray can be reached at 912-447-8457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.