How To Start & Grow Your Business

Employ Craziness to Your Advantage

Kathleen Begley
Jan 19th, 2015
  • 4 min read
  • Hummy's
    Highlights

    1The biggest names in business were once labeled crazy. 2If your ideas are always accepted, they're stale. 3Embrace "standing apart from the crowd".
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Entrepreneurs

Sales-Viking warrior with helmet Photo Credit: outsiderzone Bigstock.com

I am crazy.

And, despite occasional concerns from family and friends, I refuse to change.

I’m so used to my off-kilter mindset that I have a sign in my home office that says, “Crazy Just Might Work.”

I bought the little wooden plaque last year in the Hallmark store in West Goshen Shopping Center, and it has become one of my most valuable possessions – you know, the kind of stuff that, if your house were on fire, you would grab before running to safety.

By crazy, I mean seeing the world through kaleidoscopic glasses and coming up with creative ideas unlike others in the business mainstream.

For several decades, I have believed that thinking to a different drummer is essential for small business success.

And now I have new support for my theory.

It’s in the form of a just published book called “Crazy Is a Compliment: The Power of Zigging When Everyone Else Zags.”

Written by Linda Rottenberg, CEO of Endeavor consulting, the hardback is a call to action for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“If you try something new, you should expect to be called nuts,” Rottenberg writes.

Amen.

As a self-employed person who has taught entrepreneurship to graduate school students, I have long been aware of the crazy factor dating back in business history for more than a century.

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, for instance, repeatedly was called out for his crazy idea to sell low-priced goods in vast quantities.

Estee Lauder, founder of a cosmetics juggernaut bearing her name, was thought to be crazy when she gave away free samples of her products.

Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, currently is being lambasted for his crazy vision of commercial space flights.

And the list goes on. And on. And on.

“So you are an aspiring entrepreneur with some big ideas that could easily change the world,” writes Waylae Gregoire at www.nextshark.com. “I’m willing to bet your parents and friends have called you a dreamer, eccentric, or just plain crazy. Are they right? Probably. But that just means you are on the right track to making your vision of the future a reality.”

If you suspect you, too, may be crazy — but have been hiding your creative light under a fluorescent lamp – here are some ways to change your behavior to flourish as a free spirit, especially if you want to leave the corporate world and do your own thing:

Accept your craziness

That’s definitely job one. “Almost all entrepreneurs at one time or another have been accused of being out of their minds,” author Rottenberg writes. It’s OK. Really. Craziness is an essential for innovation and progress.

Model in black dress with pearls

Expect negativity

If everyone immediately saw the value of your ideas, they would be too bland and you would not be crazy. When in doubt, consider this entrepreneurial success story: In Taiwan, a savvy businessman is making a financial killing with an island-wide chain of restaurants called Modern Toilets. Patrons sit on an actual toilet seat and bathtubs-turned-into-tables. I dare say the guy’s parents probably came close to heart attacks when they first heard their son was going for broke with this concept. Holy crap! Pardon the expression, but it seems so fitting here.

Focus on the big picture

Instead of worrying about the inevitable growing pains of a business, concentrate on your long-range vision. “Entrepreneurs may seem crazy to people on the outside looking in, but if they’re crazy, they’re crazy like foxes,” writes Ray Smilor at www.entrepreneurship.org. “Out of their surprising antics come unique and strong cultures that serve to inspire and motivate employees and customers.”

Find other wackos

It’s lonely being crazy. To combat the aloneness, identify other entrepreneurial fruitcakes on the Internet or at entrepreneurial networking events. Become mutual support systems. For years, I have felt most comfortable with other men and women who have taken the small-business plunge.

Develop common sense

I know. I know. I know. Common sense and craziness sound like a big contradiction. And they are. But you need to handle such dichotomy. “An overly optimistic attitude can lead to a fantasy approach to business,” writes Donald Kuratko in a textbook called “Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, Practice.” “A self-deceptive state may arise in which entrepreneurs ignore trends, facts, and reports and delude themselves into thinking everything will turn out fine. This type of behavior can lead to an inability to handle the reality of the business world.”

Show sensitivity

In discussing entrepreneurial craziness, be sure to distinguish it from real mental illness. Individuals with biological conditions such as schizophrenia need personal compassion and caring, not professional advice.

Hang tough

Don’t give up before your miracle happens. A big reason that many entrepreneurs throw in the towel before they’ve had a chance to succeed is that they feel wildly uncomfortable standing apart from the crowd. Get over it. You’re special. And, as difficult as I sometimes still find this to believe, so am I.

This article was written by Kathleen Begley and published on Daily Local News, West Chester County, Pennsylvania’s daily newspaper.

Kathleen Begley of East Goshen owns Write Company Plus, which helps clients make more money through effective communication. Interacting, presenting, writing and using social media are considered the main road to business success.

Begley, who has a doctorate, gives communications seminars and writes for various publications. She produces this column packed with news-you-can-use tips every Sunday in the Daily Local News. She responds to all reader feedback. You can reach her at KBegley@writecompanyplus.com and read earlier columns at www.dailylocal.com.