Making Hope Happen

One Friday night in 1978 my mom stopped by our favorite restaurant, Joe's Drive-In, to pick up fried chicken and sides. As usual, the chicken was delicious. So we were all surprised when my brother, sister, and I got a gut-wrenching, dehydrating case of food poisoning. My dad called Sonny, the owner of the drive-in, to tell him about the bad food (which both Sonny and the health department said was a first). Sonny invited my dad over for an apology and a few beers. He told my dad that he was ready to sell Joe's and open up a new business. Dad saw this as a chance to be his own boss and leave oilfield construction. That's how we came to own a low-slung cinderblock building and a few recipes.

Most businesses in America are similar to Joe's. They are what economists call lifestyle businesses. These restaurants, retailers, and service companies are built to provide a sustainable living for a family or two and wage-work for maybe a dozen employees. Hope is vital to the day-to-day operations. Every month you have fixed expenses to cover. Anything left over is for your family. Every month you come up with new ways to make ends meet.

Whether they are honchoing small businesses likes drive-ins, food trucks, and pop-up stores, or bigger companies, first-time entrepreneurs and the heads of startups are the most hopeful of the enterprising bunch. They have a formula for success. Their bold goals are realized because their agency and pathways seem limitless even in the face of fear, adversity, and risk.

Goals: Many people are visited with a brilliant idea now and again, but high-hope people have a type of creativity that churns out big ideas. Their hopeful thinking spikes when they are asked to make the future better, when they grapple with today's problems, and when they realize that a big obstacle is challenging someone's progress. They also are gifted at sharing their big idea with other people, including partners, employees, investors, and consumers. They craft a right-risk vision that excites them, inspires others, and manages risk.

Agency: When the going gets tough, hopeful entrepreneurs get more energized. Their enthusiasm and confidence inspires others. Their fund of agency may seem bottomless because they are great recruiters of energy needed to get things done.

Pathways: People high in hope are adept at dealing with change. This is because they more readily experience the positive emotions that open their minds to ways they can move forward, solving problems along the way. They don't let risk run wild and create the fear that will stymie creativity. High-hope business leaders interpret obstacles as opportunities. So when they face tough problems, they come up with more and better solutions to problems.

First-time entrepreneurs have the deck stacked against them. Their hope is what improves the odds for success. If you are planning to launch your own business, make sure your pursuing a goal that excites and sustains you. That will inspire others and draw them to you and help you solve the daily problems and hassles that come with being the boss.

Adapted from "Making Hope Happen" published 3/5/13