“We want to play! We want to play!”

Caine’s Arcade has been making the viral rounds this weekend (thanks Steve). The touching tale echoes so many themes of embracing failure…

Caine’s whole enterprise itself seems at face value a complete failure. A ragtag collection of jury-rigged contraptions in worst part of town with no customers. No venture capitalist would ever touch it.

It touched a nerve with me as I am getting pretty fed up with meeting and reading about ‘MBA-preneurs’. People using an expensive Business School education to speak the special patois of business plan writing so that some VC will fund some elaborate and contrived scheme. Hockey stick projections and multi-stage financing do not entrepreneurship make. If you want to study authentic entrepreneurship, then ‘Caine’s Arcade’ is probably the best case study to start with.

‘Entrepreneurs’ remind me of ‘Salespeople’ and ‘Managers’ as a professional persona. Lots of pretenders try to get into the field because they think that is where the big money and prestige is. Forget the fact that the wannabe’s often neglect the hours of thankless work taping together old boxes, pursuing dead-end leads and attending to basic administration. What concerns me more is the heart. I am convinced that truly effective Salespeople need to have the ‘heart’ of a Salesperson. And I think the same goes for Entrepreneurs and Leaders/Managers. One can all be taught the vocabulary of sales and the technique of sales, but that does not make you a ‘Salesperson. Especially if you are in it just for the paycheck.

When I am interviewing people for a sales role, I will often ask ‘what is the first thing you sold?’ People who answer that after an extensive training course, they sold a product in some company they worked for out of university don’t impress me. People who say that they broke the record in their girl scout troop for cookie selling do. It starts that young (the first thing I was calendars door to door in my pre-adolescent youth).

For Leaders/Managers, I often ask them what they Lead/Manage outside of work. The ones who can’t come up with good examples and simply see Leadership/Management as a day job are wannabes who just wanna be the ‘Boss’ without any notion of leading and managing.

The same is true for Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs who say their first business was a failed dotcom that burnt through some angel funding disgrace the very term. They are not real entrepreneurs. Just someone looking for a foolish or cavalier investor to throw money at them.

If you want to invest in a real Entrepreneur, then donate to Caine’s scholarship fund.