I have been fortunate enough to be involved in numerous start-ups and in all cases, at the time
of the modest beginnings and the enormous dreams, there was constant doubt by the founders.
The disturbing story, however, is the doubt of ‘great certainty’ by ‘knowledgeable’ outsiders
who have absolutely no faith in the endeavor – no matter what that enterprise may be. It only
adds to the founders’ concerns at the start. In this paper, I hope to bolster founders’ confidence
of success as they make their way down the path of wishful intrepidity.
My own Examples of Modesty turning into Success
I list these, not to boast, but to advise the reader of where I have had my finger in the start-up
pie, and thus, where I am coming from:
- SPS software beginning with my wife and myself in the attic of our house, growing to an
the enterprise of 300 people with offices in 5 cities and 3 countries.
- Opera Lyra Ottawa with a core of 5 or 10 dedicated people, building up to become one of
Canada’s renown opera companies (and I was witness to it being recognized in New
Orleans, Washington and other U.S. cities).
- Ottawa Bach Choir from a sketch on a small piece of paper trying to persuade Lisette
Canton (its leader from inception till now) to go with me on this path, to an ensemble
today with world-wide recognition for its impeccably fine musical quality.
- A husband and wife team that I coached to form a medical company (fraught with their
doubts of course, during the journey) to now having two clinics and about to receive a very
prestigious level certification.
- CCCC, and while it, by design, has remained a boutique consultancy, its reputation is worldwide and its measurable results for clients, consistently impressive.
The Story of Today’s Newsletter
U.S. history beckons. Back in 1801, against the wishes of President George Washington
who wanted no army and no navy after independence was won 25 years earlier, officials of the
tiny U.S. nation realizing its incompetence at protecting its merchant vessels, wanted a single ship
with cannons, a frigate. Jefferson, a senior minister, argued for this unsuccessfully, but when he
succeeded Washington as President, Jefferson not only felt pressed to take action, he was able to
initiate that reaction. At the time, U.S. trading vessels were still being harassed in the
Mediterranean’s Barbary Coast to the point where U.S. sailors were captured, whipped and
tortured and turned into slaves, some in servitude for more than 10 years. Britain did not have this
problem because nobody messed with the big guy, nor did other European countries who paid
a protection fee – one that the tiny U.S. economy could not afford. From one ship, the U.S. navy
expanded to three, and then to six. After a five or six year span, the fledgling U.S. navy
successfully attacked the Tripoli pirate nation in an historic event using the first dozen U.S.
marines (and thousands of locals) – hence the refrain “From the halls of Moctezuma to the shores
of Tripoli.” Today those tiny enterprises (the U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy) are the largest of
their kind in the world.
How does this apply to you?
As one of founders of a new musical ensemble, I and my co-founders continually have to
buffet the storm of the naysayers and to respond to the inane question: “Why does Ottawa need
another choir?” (The answer is: for the same reason that we need another pop singer or rock
group.) Each setback of the singers only added fuel to the sagacity of these outsiders as clear
evidence as to why we should not proceed any further. But the singers know enough to press on.
More importantly, this paper is about you as you struggle to make your stamp on the world
and to do things ‘your way’ through that new or renewed endeavor you are working on. For
starters, you cannot possibly succeed if you do not begin. Therefore, you must begin. You cannot
succeed if you cave into popular ‘knowledge’ that “it will never work” or “why?” “why?” and
“why?” Follow your beliefs and if you fail, you will not have failed your own person and your
own character because you will be among the few that will have had the gumption to try. You will
have achieved respect for yourself. Press on, dear friend, press on with belief in your new
enterprise. You will succeed!!!