Today we celebrate George Washington’s birthday. And while fifth-grade history taught us that he was a great military man and our first President, we know less about his life as an entrepreneur. Technology may have made the game different, but we can still learn a lot from the man about entrepreneurship.
1. Find a need and fill it. Over the years, Washington ran a fishing operation, a flour mill and a whiskey distillery. He found tremendous success with these ventures, simply because there was a need for them. Rather than taking the easy path (he knew nothing about whiskey), he took the path most likely to lead to success.
Lesson learned: Look for markets that aren’t oversaturated, or find a new angle to address an existing need.
2. Know when to fold them. After realizing that his tobacco crop was too highly taxed to turn a good profit, he cut it out in favor of wheat. He recognized that continuing to raise a crop with low margin wasn’t worth his time, so he stopped raising tobacco.
Lesson learned: It can be hard to let a product or business go after you’ve invested in it, but if the negatives of keeping it outweigh the positives, move past your emotional attachment to it.
3. Take others’ advice. Aside from being President, Washington is best known for his whiskey distillery. He was advised by his plantation manager to start a distillery, despite him knowing nothing about the industry. Turned out it was a pretty good idea.
Lesson learned: Don’t assume you know everything. Surround yourself with people who can offer useful advice to you about your company.
4. Don’t be afraid to learn. What Washington didn’t know about distilling whiskey, he learned, creating his legacy as a distiller. He could have stuck to what he knew best, but by branching out, he not only realized high profit margins, but also established himself in an industry quickly.
Lesson learned: Continually challenge yourself to pick up new skills, or branch out into new areas.
5. Don’t be defined by one thing. Founding Father. Military genius. Entrepreneur. George Washington was all of those things and more. By being well-balanced in his life, he refused to be cornered into one title.
Lesson learned: Entrepreneurship is a life journey. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into being known for just one thing.
Photo credit: Stock.xchng user swansom77.