Entrepreneurs Met Along the Way: Are They a Reproducible Breed?

It’s a strange thing, it was just the other day, while listening to NPR that it struck me, after more than three decades of experience in the industry, working directly for or around several fascinating entrepreneurs, it was now necessary to convey the observations and experiences to others. . Considering I came from a family of entrepreneurs, none of whom ever worked a day in their life for an employer, being an entrepreneur has been in my blood since childhood. This article is not about me, however, but about four entrepreneurs I met along the way. Each left their mark and made a difference. Each has a different story and set of accomplishments, but it’s interesting to see the common thread.

Entrepreneur One, a brilliant and gifted engineer, technologist and visionary, an insightful and powerful individual who built the second largest computer manufacturer on the planet (at the time) – Ken Olsen – Digital Equipment Corporation. This impressive individual practiced what he preached. His credo was to trust and rely on people and he proclaimed that they would ultimately do the right thing! Mr. Olsen created a company that was undoubtedly a technological innovator, leader and industry phenomenon, which at its peak was a $13 billion entity. The company was acquired by Hewlett Packard, primarily for its service capabilities and breadth of customer base worldwide. Mr. Olsen resigned from DEC before the acquisition and handed the reins to a financial executive.

Entrepreneur Two: A literal genius and one who mastered the application of technology to identify and classify potentially life-threatening arrhythmias (abnormal heart conditions). A natural leader, mentor and coach who put people in a special category and demonstrated his passion for the business by saying, “What motivates me is that we are saving lives and changing the quality of medicine.” Dr. Charles Feldman not only created and built CardioData, a leading provider of medical diagnostic systems for the cardiology market, he also made numerous contributions to the industry in the educational and medical fields. A driven, relentless and tireless leader, Dr. Feldman, or Charlie as he preferred, always allowed his people to innovate freely, without penalty, whatever the outcome. CardioData was acquired by a company that is now a division of GE Medical.

Entrepreneurial Three: One of the most ambitious and compelling individuals, this infectious leader had the magic touch to draw and bring others into his vision. His original dream was to be the “captain of the ship” and build a technology-based company from its inception to a $100 million state. After decades of brilliant moves, he fulfilled the vision, which translated into an undisputed leading technology company that exceeded $360 million. This individual had a unique formula for stimulating Team engagement and, unusually, believed in “sharing the wealth” with those who made it happen. Jay Bertelli – CEO and Founder – Mercury Computer Systems embodies all the qualities one would expect to read in a Harvard Business Review. Mr. Bertelli recently retired from Mercury and passed the baton to a new CEO to propel the company into its next phase of growth. In the meantime, given Jay’s appetite, he continues to advise small and mid-sized technology companies on the challenges of “making the journey to ultimate success.”

Entrepreneur Four: Definitely one of the most entrepreneurial people I’ve ever worked with. A self-made entrepreneur who spawned and managed approximately six companies simultaneously. All leaders in their field. And he still had time to make key contributions to industry groups and associations, publish groundbreaking books, consult privately with some of the biggest retailers, and teach merchandising at Harvard Business School. Despite industry sentiment (at the time), he bucked the standards by introducing the concept of opening for sale in the retail industry which changed the principles of merchandising. Sidney Stoegel – CEO and serial founder put his final stamp on Merchandata, which became a strategic partner and valued advisor to leading retail companies who relied on his brilliance, ingenuity and extensive experience to lead the way. Spending 30 minutes with Sidney talking business was worth more than attending a year’s worth of seminars from popular speakers on the circuit. Sidney was a giver, comfortably and willingly offering others the benefit of his years of hard-earned experience.

Without repeating the obvious, after reading the profile of these entrepreneurs it is clear that they are remarkable individuals. Everyone has a different story and if we dig deeper, we would discover what makes them tick, which is a function of their unique background, history, family influence, experiences, psyche and other factors. You can also choose common factors, among them. A recurring theme is his emphasis on the “people quotient” and the hunger to give willingly. This article is a tribute to these remarkable entrepreneurs, not a hero worship.

Are entrepreneurs a reproducible breed? I’m not sure, but regardless of where they come from, what they’re made of, or what drives them to success, it’s clear that today’s business world offers these unique individuals easier access and entry than anywhere else moment Given this tough market economy we’ve endured, it’s reassuring that entrepreneurs continue to create new businesses, new employment opportunities, and a never-ending source of wealth.

Copyright 2009

Performance Marketing Group

Edmond M. Hennessy

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