From Happiness to Panic: Entrepreneurs Set the Tone

One of the tools I use to teach is story telling.  It is not the kind of war stories that have become infamous among some of us who used to “do” and now “teach.”

Rather, when I am trying to bring some concept or lesson to life for my students I tend to either use experiential exercises or stories from my own or other entrepreneurs’ experiences.  I find that both approaches can be effective ways to make key points memorable.

One of my students’ favourite stories is one I tell about a time that I was very discouraged and down in the dumps.  I was tired of always being the person to keep everyone else “up.”  I decided that I deserved a good old-fashioned pout.  We were going throw a particularly rough patch in our growth and were once again feeling the stresses and strains of managing a high growth venture that was too often short on cash.

So when I got to work that morning I trudged across the parking lot.  When I got off the elevator on the fifth floor where our offices were, I grunted something inaudible to the receptionist.  I then proceeded to walk right through the various office spaces between the front door and my office — accounts payable, billing, marketing, and HR — without doing anything but hang my head low, ignoring everyone along the way.  Finally, I plopped myself in my chair ready to spend the morning feeling sorry for myself.

Right about then one of our longest term employees burst into my office.

“Don’t you ever walk in here again like that,” she stated sternly.  “We all know how tough things are right now.  The only thing that keeps us going, keeps us hopeful for the future, is watching you come in everyday with a smile and look of complete confidence.  If you give up, we will all give up.”

She was right.  I made sure to never show my fear or worries again.  Entrepreneurs need to be the emotional spark plugs for their team.

An article by Jeff Wuorio from Business on Main reinforces the importance of this role for the entrepreneur.

But a small-business owner’s enthusiasm for his entrepreneurial goal isn’t just a source of drive and energy. It also sets an example for partners and employees, building a sense of shared effort toward something of bona fide value. And this feeling can be utterly contagious.

“When employees see happy employers, the vibe carries over,” says Renee Chronister, owner of Parameter Security, a St. Louis online security firm. “The best way to kill morale is to be unhappy. Remember, you set the example and standard in the organisation that others follow.”

The author also explains how it cannot be only the entrepreneur’s job to create a happy climate.  We should strive to build a happy culture, which all begins with the people we hire.  He offers some great tips on hiring for a happy and positive workforce. 

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