Should you use a role model to develop your business? Maybe you should: the top business magazines say, ‘be yourself, be authentic, share your story’ Or maybe you shouldn’t. For entrepreneurs, using a role model creates a dilemma. Does it mean you’ve sold out? Do you lose street cred? Can you really copy someone else and be true to yourself?
Identifying Role Models That Suit Your Business
Let’s take a step back and look at what having a role model really means.
- Using a role model helps clarify your business vision.
- It provides a frame of reference.
- As you build your business, you can use your model as a sounding board.
- It’s not a way to avoid who you really are but to
- Strengthen your business while you and your business develop.
Most business leaders use mentors for inspiration. Why do you think a young Bill Gates spent some much time with Warren Buffet? Sometimes it’s more than being rich.
In his autobiography, Gates highlighted three key points about choosing a role model:
- Make sure they share your core values
- Can help assess difficult business decisions and
- Take you (and your ego) out of the decision-making process
For example, you could also use this technique to explore how others would approach the situation you’re in.
- What would Richard Branson do in this situation?
- How did Gates get little MicroSoft (before it rebranded as Microsoft) to beat IBM?
- How did Jay Z get past his critics and naysayers?
5 Role Models: How They Overcame Obstacles, Criticism and Discrimination
Let’s look at five role models and see where and how they’ve overcome these obstacles.
# 1 JayZ
‘He’s just a rap star’, I hear you say. Is he? Well, how did he make $500 from his fashion empire? Things to note about JayZ. The fashion industry didn’t want him to succeed. The music industry didn’t want him to succeed. Even some of his own fans didn’t want him to succeed. Why?
People who shake up an industry destroy the status quo. The incumbents prefer to keep things as they are. And who wants ‘outsiders’, anyway? Read it whichever way you will; JayZ broke down these barriers. He took the flak, but it was worth it. Who knows what he plans to do next? Is he worried?
#2 Walt Disney
Today Disney is about theme parks and playing catch-up with Pixar. But it wasn’t always like that. In the 1940s, Disney was to the film industry, what Steve Jobs is to gadgets today.
He totally changed how way movies were made. To this day, his techniques are used in art houses all over the world. Most don’t even know they came from Disney!
For example, he created a zoo on the studio lot so the artists could improve their drawings. The results were classics like The Jungle Book, Bambi, and Cinderella.
Will anyone watch The Incredibles in 100 years? Hardly. But, they’ll still watch Snow White.
If your business involves design, art, creativity, or innovation, read his biography. He’s not the caricature you might think he is.
#3 Pete Cashmore
Mashable.com makes $50,000 per day. Every day. Pete Cashmore setup his site not in Silicon Valley or New York, but in cold, rainy Scotland. How un-cool is that? Cashmore’s success is due to timing, networking and leveraging Social Media. And as he writes about Social Media, he should know.
Mashable.com is not the prettiest site in the world. It looks a bit ‘thrown together’—but that’s part of the appeal. CNET, by contrast, is pixel perfect. But it’s also sterile, bland, and soulless.
Where do you want to hangout?
#4 Kobe Bryant
From Beijing to Bangkok, Kobe Bryant is one of the most popular sports stars, bigger than Beckham, Messi and Phelps in China.
What are you really trying to say…
Black sports stars have a very hard time in Asia; racial intolerance is very high. Bryant has eroded these barriers by visiting mainland China many times (often several visits a year), speaking a few words in Chinese, and looking at though he really enjoys himself. And I think he does!
Michael Phelps, by contrast, endures his PR visits to China. You can tell he can’t wait to get on the next plane home.
Bryant has taken the long view. He’s reached out to the Chinese. When his career wanes, there will be many, many business opportunities for him Asia. He’s planted to seeds.
#5 Bill Gates
Gates started out in Seattle (not LA, Silicon Valley or New York). As a teenager he would get up at 4am, run over to the university, program for hours, and then head back to school. He kept falling asleep in class. His drive to succeed at a young age was remarkable.
By 18, he’d become an established authority in specialized software (early 70s) which opened many doors for him. Microsoft grew from these early efforts. Today, you may not think of him as an Entrepreneur, but read old IT Magazines and you’ll see how he broke down many barriers and was seen as a visionary.
Malcolm Gladwell estimates (ed – it was Dr Erikson but we’ll let that pass) that you need to put in 10,000 hours — and then some more – to become an expert in a field. The common denominator among these Entrepreneurs is that they make the commitment, established themselves as an authority, and then dominated their respective fields.
There are no shortcuts. In their own way, each of them overcame setbacks, criticism and other obstacles in their journey to succeed.
Maybe you don’t see it now, as they’ve come through the hardest parts. But if you read their stories, you can drawn from their experience, and use this as encouragement to develop your business. That’s what I think.
What do you think?
What have I missed? What other role models would you recommend?