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5 entrepreneurship lessons from Wilbur and Orville Wright

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I recently traveled to Brazil which required a total of 48 hours in airports and on airplanes, so I bought David McCullough’s recent book The Wright Brothers and loaded it on my kindle. I thought I needed an old-fashioned story closer to my generational understanding. I had just designed curriculum for a West Coast university on Kingdom entrepreneurship and all the case studies I used were of high tech companies – Google, Groupon, Adroll, and ICPBio. I wanted to relax a bit.

I found it amazing to read details of the life of these two brothers, sons of a Brethren minister with values and insights easily comparable to modern Kingdom inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs. Five principles are worth highlighting.

1. They valued and demonstrated diligent, persistent, hard work.

John T. Daniels was one of the few who watched that first controlled flight in December 1903. Daniels, who took the famed photo of the event, reported, “It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense. They put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea.” McCullough states of Wilbur, “…he was driven by a will of iron which drove him in his work.”

It took four years before that day at Kitty Hawk – years of failed inventions, delays, accidents, disappointments, constant study, and ridicule, just to fly a few feet on a sandy beach.

The Dayton newspaper reported the success to be because of “…their grit, their persistence, because of their loyalty to conviction, and because of their indefatigable industry…”
The same can be said today in a world so different from 1903. Entrepreneurs still need the qualities of persistence, diligence, hard work and conviction.

2. They believed in study, research, learning and taking their time.

The parents of Wilbur and Orville encouraged curiosity and made sure there were plenty of books around so the boys learned to value learning. They read incessantly the works of Leonardo da Vinci, George Cayley, Octave Chanute, Otto Lilienthal and Samuel Langley, trying to determine the value of what other pioneers had learned and to improve on former discoveries. It was amazing how they studied the flight of birds for years.

The brothers took their time with experiment after experiment resulting in chaos, accidents or defeat, as they labored on - reminding me of Edison’s oft-quoted statement, “I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” When they could not find a gasoline engine which met their specifications, they built their own and then carved their own wooden propellers.

After Flyer I at Kitty Hawk, it took another two years to develop Flyer III which flew 852 feet and was the first useable airplane – powered, sustainable and controllable. McCullough quotes a local source in reference to Wilbur, “…the devotion of this preacher’s son to his calling was very like that of a gifted man dedicating his life to a religious mission.”

3. They used their own money and believed in being frugal.

While the brothers used their experience and profits from the bicycle business, and lived simply, the Smithsonian and Samuel P. Langley was spending $50,000 of government funds in an unsuccessful attempt to develop powered aircraft. In contrast the Wright brothers accomplished the flight of Flyer I on Dec 17, 1903 at a cost of one thousand dollars.

Entrepreneurs often are better off using a bootstrap method which means using their own resources. According to a Wells Fargo/Gallup study1 most new ventures today are started with less than $10,000.

This perspective is not only valid from an entrepreneurial perspective but from a Kingdom viewpoint. Alan Barnhart explains how he and his family learned to live simply so excess profits could be used for Kingdom purposes. How he developed safeguards is an interesting and useful argument. His 17-minute talk is well worth the time:Alan Barnhart - God Owns Our Business.

4. The brothers were humble and character driven.

After a few initial successful inventions, older brother Wilbur learned the value of teamwork and the equal partnership with his brother Orville. Though he remained the leader of the two, he began to write with a “we”. He included Orville in letters from France while preparing to demonstrate to the French how the airplane worked; he valued the opinion of Orville and others.

For years, and even after the first flight, nobody really seemed to care. There was little public interest in their efforts; with the first to show such was the French when military officers came to Dayton to see what was going on. The US public and the US government showed little interest, for more than five years after Kitty Hawk. While disappointing, the brothers labored on to improve on the airplane, all the while living simply and humbly.

After a demonstration at Le Mans, France in August 1908 they became celebrities. People would ask them how to succeed in life and Wilbur once responded, “Pick a good mother and father and grow up in Ohio.” Their lives were dominated by modesty, virtue and selfless efforts. They maintained childhood values such as remembering the Sabbath, keeping reporters and officials often waiting for Monday while the brothers refused to work on Sunday.

5. They changed with the times.

They did not stop with the French demonstrations in 1908 and the fame and fortune which ensued at that time. They continued to improve upon their inventions, to start an aviation company and to lean hard into the legal and financial world of patents, contracts, lawsuits and corporate growth. They continued to set new records for height and duration and provided demonstrations for high government officials in the USA and Europe, flying before the kings of Britain, Spain and Italy.

They established the Wright Company in 1909 and developed a training school and a test flight program near Dayton. Many of the students of Orville became famous Americans such as Hap Arnold and Eddie Stinson. While Wilbur died in 1912 at a young age of 45, Orville lived until 1948 and was an ambassador for aviation his entire life, serving on many boards and government agencies. He also restored the Wright Flyer I, which today is on display in the Smithsonian.

Inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs in the 21st century look very different from Wilbur and Orville but some principles remain such as hard work, life-long learning, frugality, character and keeping up with the changing times.

1. Siriwardane, V, (September 20, 2010). “How to Build a Bootstrapping Culture.” Inc., www.inc.com/guides/2010/09.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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12 daily habits of an exceptional leader

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Everyone wins when a leader gets better" - Bill Hybels

Have you every read a blog or an article and you say, "I wish I had written that!" Well, this is one for me. I immediately thought I would pass it on, even in a world where it seems everyone has something to say about leadership. Travis Bradberry truly writes worthwhile stuff and this is no exception and with amazing quotes.

Even though we have all read good stuff on leadership, some things we need to be reminded of, because certainly a Kingdom business needs the best of leaders.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

12 Daily Habits of an Exceptional Leader

Dr. Travis Bradberry
TalentSmart, President and ‘Emotional Intelligence 2.0,’ Coauthor
05/14/2017 07:44 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2017

One of the most popular Dilbert comic strips in the cartoon’s history begins with Dilbert’s boss relaying senior leadership’s explanation for the company’s low profits. In response to his boss, Dilbert asks incredulously, “So they’re saying that profits went up because of great leadership and down because of a weak economy?” To which Dilbert’s boss replies, “These meetings will go faster if you stop putting things in context.”

Great leadership is indeed a difficult thing to pin down and understand. You know a great leader when you’re working for one, but even they can have a hard time explaining the specifics of what they do that makes their leadership so effective.

Great leaders change us for the better. They see more in us than we see in ourselves, and they help us learn to see it too. They dream big and show us all the great things we can accomplish.

Great leadership is dynamic; it melds a variety of unique skills into an integrated whole. Great leadership is also founded in good habits. What follows are the essential habits that exceptional leaders rely on every day. Give them a try and see where they take your leadership skills.

1. Effective Communication

“The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.” —Joseph Priestley

Communication is the real work of leadership. It’s a fundamental element of how leaders accomplish their goals each and every day. You simply can’t become a great leader until you are a great communicator.

Great communicators inspire people. They listen. They create a connection with their followers that is real, emotional, and personal, regardless of any physical distance between them. Great communicators forge this connection through an understanding of people and an ability to speak directly to their needs.

2. Courage

“Courage is the first virtue that makes all other virtues possible.” —Aristotle

People will wait to see if a leader is courageous before they’re willing to follow his or her lead. People need courage in their leaders. They need someone who can make difficult decisions and watch over the good of the group. They need a leader who will stay the course when things get tough. People are far more likely to show courage themselves when their leaders do the same.

For the courageous leader adversity is a welcome test. Like a blacksmith’s molding of a red-hot iron, adversity is a trial by fire that refines leaders and sharpens their game. Adversity emboldens courageous leaders and leaves them more committed to their strategic direction.

Leaders who lack courage simply toe the company line. They follow the safest path—the path of least resistance—because they’d rather cover their backside than lead.

3. Adherence to the Golden Rule +1

“The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” —Jon Wolfgang von Goethe

The Golden Rule – treat others as you want to be treated – assumes that all people are the same. It assumes that, if you treat your followers the way you would want a leader to treat you, they’ll be happy. It ignores that people are motivated by vastly different things. One person loves public recognition, while another loathes being the center of attention.

Great leaders don’t treat people how they themselves want to be treated. Instead, they take the Golden Rule a step further and treat each person as he or she would like to be treated. Great leaders learn what makes people tick, recognize their needs in the moment, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.

4. Self-Awareness

“It is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himself.” —Latin Proverb

Contrary to what Dilbert might have us believe, leaders’ gaps in self-awareness are rarely due to deceitful, Machiavellian motives, or severe character deficits. In most cases, leaders—like everyone else—view themselves in a more favorable light than other people do.

Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence, a skill that 90% of top performing leaders possess in abundance. Great leaders’ high self-awareness means they have a clear and accurate image not just of their leadership style, but also of their own strengths and weaknesses. They know where they shine and where they’re weak, and they have effective strategies for leaning into their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses.

5. Passion

“If you just work on stuff that you like and are passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.” —Mark Zuckerberg

Passion and enthusiasm are contagious. So are boredom and apathy. No one wants to work for a boss that’s unexcited about his or her job, or even one who’s just going through the motions. Great leaders are passionate about what they do, and they strive to share that passion with everyone around them.

6. Humility

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” —C.S. Lewis

Great leaders are humble. They don’t allow their position of authority to make them feel that they are better than anyone else. As such, they don’t hesitate to jump in and do the dirty work when needed, and they won’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves.

7. Generosity

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” —John Maxwell

Great leaders are generous. They share credit and offer enthusiastic praise. They’re as committed to their followers’ success as they are to their own. They want to inspire all of their employees to achieve their personal best – not just because it will make the team more successful, but because they care about each person as an individual.

8. Infectiousness

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

Great leaders know that having a clear vision isn’t enough. You have to make that vision come alive so that your followers can see it just as clearly as you do. Great leaders do that by telling stories and painting verbal pictures so that everyone can understand not just where they’re going, but what it will look and feel like when they get there. This inspires others to internalize the vision and make it their own.

9. Authenticity

“Just be who you are and speak from your guts and heart – it’s all a man has.” —Hubert Humphrey

Authenticity refers to being honest in all things – not just what you say and do, but who you are. When you’re authentic, your words and actions align with who you claim to be. Your followers shouldn’t be compelled to spend time trying to figure out if you have ulterior motives. Any time they spend doing so erodes their confidence in you and in their ability to execute.

Leaders who are authentic are transparent and forthcoming. They aren’t perfect, but they earn people’s respect by walking their talk.

10. Approachability

“Management is like holding a dove in your hand. Squeeze too hard and you kill it, not hard enough and it flies away.” —Tommy Lasorda

Great leaders make it clear that they welcome challenges, criticism, and viewpoints other than their own. They know that an environment where people are afraid to speak up, offer insight, and ask good questions is destined for failure. By ensuring that they are approachable, great leaders facilitate the flow of great ideas throughout the organization.

11. Accountability

“The ancient Romans had a tradition: Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: He stood under the arch.” —Michael Armstrong

Great leaders have their followers’ backs. They don’t try to shift blame, and they don’t avoid shame when they fail. They’re never afraid to say, “The buck stops here,” and they earn people’s trust by backing them up.

12. A Sense Of Purpose

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case.” —Ken Kesey

Whereas vision is a clear idea of where you’re going, a sense of purpose refers to an understanding of why you’re going there. People like to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Great leaders give people that feeling.

Bringing It All Together

Becoming a great leader doesn’t mean that you have to incorporate all of these traits at once. Focus on one or two at a time; each incremental improvement will make you more effective. It’s okay if you “act” some of these qualities at first. The more you practice, the more instinctive it will become, and the more you’ll internalize your new leadership style.

Want to learn more from me? Check out my book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

A tale of two poultry farms

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trivia Question:

What do these countries have in common: Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, South Sudan and East Timor?

All are new countries since 2000!

And the newest of them is South Sudan which is also the poorest. Imagine this landlocked country with 12.2 million people (and 60 major ethnic groups), newly independent in 2011, as arguably the poorest in the world and...
  • …was too broke last year to celebrate its 5th year of independence.
  • …has only 130 miles of paved roads and 154 miles of railroad.
  • …the GDP is $1700 per annual capita (#213 in the world).
  • …has a subsistence economy with 78% of the population in low productive or unpaid agriculture.
  • …40% of the entire population is urgently in need of food.
  • …with the highest maternal mortality in the world.
  • …with only 27% over the age of 15 able to read or write.
  • …38% of the population must walk 30 minutes one way or more for drinking water while 80% have no access to toilet facilities.
  • ...a civil war displaced over 2 million people between 2013 and 2015.
Where would you start?
Countries like this start at the bottom of the ladder – agriculture. People cannot develop when they are starving. So along comes an evangelical church in South Sudan with a vision to meet human need in the name of Jesus with Bright Hope Animal Farms of South Sudan.

The goal is to produce high quality eggs and whole chickens as a source of protein; to generate a revenue stream thus reducing dependence on Western aid; create jobs and allow pastors a source of income so they can continue to be a spiritual ray of light in a very dark place.

This is Business as Mission (and the Quadruple Bottom Line of disciple-making, job creation, profitability and stewardship of resources). This is the kind of business that IBEC consultants love to help.

What will it take?
Challenges like this need capital, expertise and prototypes. They need IBEC coaches to provide financial projections, a capitalization plan and management consulting. Bright Hope Animal Farms is off and running with its first building. They await funding for 2000 layers and 1000 broilers. The need: $93,000.

And a prototype has been developed and is operating in Kenya, Place of the Wind Poultry Farm. They began operation in April 2015 and now two years later they are finally breaking even. Initial losses are typical of startup operations so IBEC consultants who have developed a case statement, business plan and financial projections are pleased with progress. The business is very close to meeting objectives.

Startup needs
It is an amazing feat in North America to be nearing financial profitability and bottom line objectives by the third year. It takes capital; it takes vision and takes the right people. It takes good modeling and a great business plan; and it takes good expertise and counsel.

IBEC considers it a privilege to participate as consultants with these projects. You too can help by praying, helping with funds which are still needed, or offering to coach this or another project like this.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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Bill Gates' advice to graduates: 3 fields and 3 important things

Sunday, June 04, 2017

It is graduation time in America – first college and then high school. In an age where it is all too common to tell grads that they can do whatever they set out to do, and other “sweet nothings”, Bill Gates recently tweeted some no-nonsense advice to new graduates (May, 15 on his Twitter page: twitter.com/BillGates).

I find his thoughts useful and uplifting but at the same time I think it is important to add to them elements of what constitutes a life lived for God, serving him and others, bringing to our businesses the opportunity to help all our stakeholders to see how one can follow Jesus. Bill Gates refers to “making a difference in other people’s lives” and he has done that through job creation and through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, there is one other component which truly brings transformation – a new life in Christ!

Excerpts from @BillGates, May 15,2015:

New college graduates often ask me for career advice. I was lucky to be in my early 20s when the digital revolution was just getting under way, and Paul Allen and I had the chance to help shape it. (Which explains my lack of a college degree—I left school because we were afraid the revolution would happen without us.) If I were starting out today and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, I would consider three fields.

One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change. The third is the biosciences, which are ripe with opportunities to help people live longer, healthier lives.

But some things in life are true no matter what career you choose. I wish I had understood these things better when I left school. For one thing, intelligence is not quite as important as I thought it was, and it takes many different forms. In the early days of Microsoft, I believed that if you could write great code, you could also manage people well or run a marketing team or take on any other task. I was wrong about that. I had to learn to recognize and appreciate people’s different talents. The sooner you can do this, if you don’t already, the richer your life will be.

Another thing I wish I had understood much earlier is what true inequity looks like. I did not see it up close until my late 30s, when Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. We were shocked by what we saw. When we came back, we began learning more. It blew our minds that millions of children there were dying from diseases that no one in rich countries even worried about. We thought it was the most unjust thing in the world. We realized we couldn’t wait to get involved—we had to start giving back right away.

You know much more than I did when I was your age. Technology lets you see problems in ways my friends and I never could, and it empowers you to help in ways we never could. You can start fighting inequity sooner, whether it is in your own community or in a country halfway around the world.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to surround yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best self. Melinda does that for me, and I am a better person for it. Like our good friend Warren Buffett, I measure my happiness by whether people close to me are happy and love me, and by the difference I make in other people’s lives.

Larry Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures

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IBEC Ventures -- Consultants for BAM/Business as Mission