Thursday, June 3, 2010

American Idol is like being an Entrepreneur: You win some, you lose some

Although not every entrepreneur was watching the finale of American Idol, I was. As the winner was being announced, I was tempted to throw my remote at the television. Not only did the entire two hours focus on the fact that Simon Cowell was leaving, but Lee DeWyze, an average-singing paint salesman, beat out Crystal Bowersox, and, to my regret, instantly became every teenager’s next obsession.

Every season, American Idol produces a winner. But unlike American Idol, not everybody can be a winner in a start-up business. Ideas will be shot down, proposals and plans may be frowned upon, and in some cases, innovations will be laughed at. Few make it out on top, but when they do, they tend to hit it big.

Such is the life of an entrepreneur.

There is not a step-by-step process to become a successful entrepreneur; however, by looking at past successes, we may come to find patterns that emerge. Here, we can classify entrepreneurs in terms of American Idol winners.

The Carrie Underwoods: The Not-So Overnight Sensation

Carrie Underwood, the most successful Idol with multi-platinum records and multiple Grammy awards, became a national phenomenon when she won American Idol. However, her success did not happen overnight. Underwood had been singing since childhood in church, musicals, and talent shows. Forced to break past many years of shyness, Underwood sang in Branson-style shows in college and finally tried out for American Idol. Although many start-up companies may seem to be overnight sensations like, most have years and years of work under their belts. According to Think Big Kansas City, entrepreneurs must generate ideas that are not only profitable, but ones that are also scalable, sustainable, defensible, and repeatable. These people must also be patient when waiting for results. This is the formula for a successful business.

The Chris Daughtrys: The People Who Never Give Up

Chris Daughtry finished fourth place in American Idol, a standing that seldom makes a performer famous. However, with hard work and determination, Chris Daughtry pursued his dream. He started up the band Daughtry and produced the fastest selling debut rock album in history. “Chris Daughtry” entrepreneurs may not succeed at first, but continue pushing towards their goals. The more they push, the more lessons they will learn along the way. This also reminds me of Chris Gardner, our keynote speaker at Think Big Kansas City’s 2010 Conference, who spoke on the challenges of rising to the top after failing many times. He is the perfect example of a “Chris Daughtry”

The Taylor Hicks: “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

There are ideas that have extreme potential; however, they may not make it in the business world. Taylor Hicks, American Idol’s Season 5 winner, may have had potential, and he may have worked hard and prepared, but he was not a success in the music industry. “Taylor Hicks” entrepreneurs may have great potential, but do not realize that it takes more than hard work and preparation to make it big. Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, tells readers about habits to avoid when making big leaps in the entrepreneurial world. These habits range from failing to give recognition to making excuses. It takes a lot more than preparation and hard work to become a success.

The Lee DeWyzes: Preparation Meets Opportunity

Finally, there are the “Lee DeWyzes” of start-up businesses; those who find luck at just the right time. Lee DeWyze may not have been the most talented on Season 10 of American Idol, but he had vocal preparation and the opportunity to perform for the entire nation. Oprah Winfrey once stated that “luck is preparation meeting opportunity”. For many entrepreneurs, the preparation they’ve put forth eventually meets with the opportunity to shine, and a successful idea is born.

Although American Idol may produce a winner every season, winners in start-up businesses are hard to find. Potential idols and potential entrepreneurs both dream big and pursue their innovations, however, it takes preparation, talent, determination, and many other characteristics to make it out on top.

And remember to also Think Big!

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