Thursday, 27 August 2009

Interview with Brian Mullaney

I've always thought of myself as an ideas man with something of an entrepreneurial mindset. However the more things I try which don't come to fruition only serve to weaken my motivation, undermine my resolve. That said, real entrepreneurs need failure.

In the States, a failed business is almost a prerequisite for future success. It's worn like a badge of honour, stripes earned in the hard battle of business. In the UK, people who start a business which fails are seen by some as fools, yet those who enjoy even a modicum of success are revered by the same people. Many of the wealthiest self-starters have been bust, dusted themselves down and succeeded at the next attempt, or third or fourth. The desire or need to succeed is the driving force and what sets them apart from those happy in employment and especially those unhappy in employment whilst wishing they had the gumption to break free.

The UK and especially the UK press, loves a failure; easier to mock having never tried than to try, fail and risk being mocked. It's pretty negative when you consider how many people think or believe they have a business in them. Americans get a bad wrap when it comes to their patriotism, jocks chanting 'U.S.A, U.S.A...' don't help, but the American Dream and all it stands for drives many regular Joes to become pretty special Joes. A lack of formal class system may help; every man is born equal. Of course all men are not born equal but the belief of a level playing field is a great motivator when the gun goes off.

It bothers me, having had a small business (which didn't necessarily fail insofar as I got a reasonable price for it) that didn't set the world alight, my motivation to do it all again is waning. I remember when setting up Studley's how pumped up I was that I was doing something I enjoyed and that I was in charge and that it was all my own work and what the future might hold. It ran for just under 18 months and I had the most stressful but fulfilling time. Not financially fulfilling I might add but I did get a lot of satisfaction. I sold because I lost my nerve and needed the money; a proper entrepreneur would have remortgaged and cracked on. Who knows where he'd have got - the guy I sold it to shut up shop 6 months after I assigned the lease and he was selling all the types of stuff my doubters were encouraging me to sell.

Anyway, I'm writing all this because of an interview I just read with Brian Mullaney, the founder of The Smile Train. The Smile Train posted the link on Twitter and, as he will be at the dinner we're invited to in October I thought it would be a good opportunity to find out about the man. To say he's been successful is an understatement. It seems like he's very persuasive and got a lot of very influential people on board. He started an ad agency, ran it for six years, made so much money he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Instead of buying the boat and joining the golf club he decided to start a charity. He runs it just like a business though, hiring and firing, paying proper rates for good people and ultimately he raises $100m a year and has just 42 staff. To date his organisation has fixed over 500,000 smiles which makes him not just an entrepreneurial businessman, but also something of a philanthropist and inspiration. I'm sure he pays himself well but why the hell not, I think he probably deserves it!

Success isn't defined by starting the next Web 2.0 hit or making a million dollar bonus in the city, it's about believing in what you're doing, acheiving your goals - whatever they are - and then acheiving some more and never giving up.

The full article is here.

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