The answer to the question in the headline of this post is ‘one’. Just one.
I must confess I love Sir Richard Branson. He is confident, brave, successful, daring, rich, inspiring and resilient. Which is why he is the sort of entrepreneur we see portrayed most often in the media today.
Which is fine but for the fact that he (and his type) are held up to the rest of us as the shining example of what a real business hero should be. Stereotypes like him are downright dangerous to our mental health when it comes to owning a small business.
Why shouldn’t all small business owners aspire to have Branson-like qualities?
Because he’s the exception, not the norm.
The business world is like the fashion industry – we can admire Jennifer Hawkins as she struts her stuff on the catwalk, but we also know that our bodies will never likely be a mirror of hers. Which means, (for the most part!), we’re able to practise a sense of detachment towards the experience. We need the same sensibilities when it comes to owning a small business.
When I ask my media friends why we don’t see more “real” small business stories being told the answer is inevitably related to inspiration. Many of us secretly hope that someday our small business will give us the same success that Richard and his cohort enjoy.
Herein lies the danger.
Success and enjoyment owning a small business can come from much more diverse experiences than we are fed via your typical entrepreneurial stereotype. Sometimes simply having the cash flow to cover expenses can be a joyous experience!
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The most successful path to business success is the practice of authenticity. It’s the ability to remember that for most of us, business can be tough at times. It can be long hours, tight budgets, and the occasional insurmountable problem thrown in for good measure. That’s normal in small business. (Actually, it’s normal in business, full stop.) Yes, it can also be invigorating, liberating and rewarding. It’s a matter of balance and honesty. The problem comes when the message about success is skewed to favour only one side – the glamorous traits we see repeated in business success stories.
It’s okay to fail sometimes. This is a shared human experience.
It’s okay to seek out help if you need it. We all have vulnerable experiences.
It’s okay to not feel the Branson-inside. We’ve all been there, and that’s a normal part of business life.
The beauty of having only one Richard Branson in the world is you can choose when to be inspired by him (after all, he has achieved some spectacular things), and when to detach from his example if it’s simply not fitting your current experience. Both options reflect the true meaning of business ownership – to be your own person, run your own ship and celebrate success under your own definition.
The business world needs more of your authentic self. That’s more than enough.
Do you ever catch yourself feeling like you’re not living up the standards the media sets for ‘entrepreneurship’?