Entrepreneurs, a Leap of Faith, and What Does it Really Mean to "Create a Job"

Posted on my office bulletin board is a page torn from a copy of Memphis magazine showing one of their covers from 1978.  It is titled “The Federal Express Flop”.  I keep it here to remind me about determination and how great ideas need a committed champion.   Anyone traveling to the Memphis airport on a Sunday can see a huge fleet of Federal Express airplanes, an amazing sight.  This “flop” has turned into a great success and it truly has revolutionized shipping.

Memphis is the home of Federal Express, and a number of other compaines.  In 1989-90, a group of entrepreneurs working in conjunction with a local museum, The Pink Palace, created The Society of Entrepreneurs to honor great local entrepreneurs and tout the benefits of starting a business in Memphis.   Its’ members include prominate figures in healthcare, chemical, real estate, business consulting, finance, construction and other industries.

Many people do not appreciate or more importantly understand entrepreneurs.  Entreprenuers are not likely to make the best of employees because of their desire to try their own ideas.  They take huge financial risks, borrowing money from family, friends a bank or even a venture capitalist.  Many entrepreneurs rise from humble beginnings.  The trials, tribulation and insights of some of these entrepreneurs are shared on the website www.societyofentrepreneurs.com.  

Although successful entrepreneurs do make a lot of money, it typically doesn’t last more than a few generations.    Future success and innovation depends on developing future entrepreneurs.  I would expect that there are many people who think we have enough rich people, or that the rich have enough, but if we take that position, we risk cutting of the lifeblood of our economy and competitiveness.  By failing to recognize the hard work, risks and rewards that face small businessowners their success is taken for granted and somehow deemed “unfair”.   Not everyone is cut out to be an enterprenuer.  I am not, but my family has benefited from some of the Society of Entrepreneur’s members by providing us jobs.   Instead of spreading the wealth of these successful, unique people we should be encouraging others to follow their dreams. 

Every politician today is saying we need to create more jobs.  Well it really isn’t that difficult to create a job. I could hire someone to butter my toast for me every morning.  Is that the kind of job that we need?  We need jobs that genuinely create value.  Jobs that grow the economy.  Entrepreneurs don’t just create jobs.  They define the job.  Without their risk and their idea, there is no job.  Has anyone at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations considered what it takes to “create a job” that has meaningful value?  They say they are well educated, but what is the benefit of that education if it leads them to a cold park with nothing but a sleeping bag and a tip jar?

Fred Smith, the founder of Federal Express is perhaps the most well known member of the Society of Entrepreneurs.  The magazine cover in my office underscores the challenges facing visionarys to get buy in on their ideas.  One member described the journey as a taking a “leap of faith.” More than 30 years since that magazine cover came out Federal Express has touched people around the globe, and has made America a stronger country and Memphis a better place to live.