What is it that makes an entrepreneur, a manager, or a leader? This basic question is one I keep asking myself as I write in my entrepreneur’s diary.
Currently, my question is: can you compare an entrepreneur to a hobby gardener who lovingly tends to his garden, or is he more like the owner of a model railway who continues adding to his model railroad every year?
The Owner of a Model Railway
He plans his entire railroad system methodically. First, he decides whether he is going to have a winter landscape or a summer landscape.
Then he designs his railroad tracks, determines in which epoch his trains are supposed to be and what towns he wants. He also decides what sort of arrangement will suit his basement best.
Checking the systems is as important as selecting the control and steering method.
Will he use a real aerial contact line or will he only imitate it? Or maybe he will not use electronic locomotives at all? Should there also be streets and model cars? What about a street car in the city and an incline for the hill? What kind of illumination to install?
Some people saw and join their own arrangement from wooden planks; others use a ready-made panorama as the basis of their railroad.
Many questions have to be answered before you even start. As soon as the plan is finished, you go to the model railroad shop (or log into the internet) and buy what you need. If you have no money, you go to the bank and get a loan.
And then you can spend a lifetime arranging and re-arranging things in your basement. You follow a “big picture”. Once in a while, you modify it.
The railroad system grows and takes shape. If you are lucky, the first trains will soon roll. All the time, the construction continues, the system is never complete. And when you die, it will almost always fall victim to wreckage.
The Hobby Gardener
The hobby gardener has a patch of land for cultivation. Some own it, some hold a lease.
On this land, he designs his garden. He creates paths and prepares the soil for patches. A small summerhouse is built and he buys spades, rakes and other tools.
As time goes by, he invests money in the construction of a conservatory. The runner beans get supports and the peas get a fence. He will manure the patches and see to it that the weed does not get the upper hand.
Whole heads of lettuce are bought on the market, or else he cultivates them in spring on his windowsill and puts them into their beds when the time has come for them.
He tries out which vegetables and fruits grow best in his garden. All the time, he continues reading about horticulture and meeting with other gardeners. Step by step, he improves the general conditions and increases his output.
The garden is never finished. It has a life of its own. When the gardener dies, nature takes its course and the garden degenerates back into wilderness. Except if new gardeners take over.
Once in a while, a gardening area is reallocated and it becomes a shopping centre. Then the gardener has to leave his kingdom.
As I see it, entrepreneurship is more like hobby gardening than model railroads. Maybe 66% hobby gardening and 33% model railroads.
I hope my metaphoric comparisons do not lead you astray. In the end, there is always the necessity for business. No matter what you do, you cannot survive without business.
My examples are only meant to give a clear image of issues. They are not meant as a basis for discussions – for which they would probably not be much use, anyway.
(Translated by EG)
You can find all the articles of my entrepreneur’s diary in the “Drehscheibe“.
For all friends of railways: here is a beautiful video with great music (Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull):