In June 2005, I spent a week with my three sisters, brother and brother-in-law in England’s gorgeous Cotwolds. We rented a charming house from the enterprising Berrisfords, who own several guest cottages on an old farmstead. They were just the first entrepreneurs we were to meet during our stay.
About three miles from the house we were renting, was the tiny hamlet of Awre which boasted a few houses, a large church and the Red Hart Inn. We decided to have dinner there on Father’s Day. A friendly woman named Marcia sat us at our table. Marcia explained that she was one of the owners and didn’t usually wait on tables, but had given the day off to some of her staff so they could be with their fathers. She then charmed us with a story about the pub’s resident ghost.
As we waited for our food, I noticed a sheet of paper on the table which listed the names of every person who worked in the business as well as all the local suppliers that provided meat, produce and ice cream to the business. It was more like a playbill than something you’d expect to see in a restaurant. I began to wonder why more eating establishments didn’t introduce their staff this way.
When our food arrived, it was obvious that the remote Red Hart had attracted a talented chef—and a pastry chef who made the best brownies we’d ever eaten.
Later in the week we returned for a second visit and and were disappointed when didn’t find the brownies on the menu. Marcia was sympathetic and explained that they liked to rotate their offerings. At the end of our meal, the shy young pastry chef appeared at our table and gave me a handwritten copy of his sensational brownie recipe.
As we learned, the Red Hart Inn wasn’t the only business that was happily operating in this rural area. We kept encountering small businessowners in all of the villages and small towns that we visited. Even touristy gift shops proudly advertised local products like fudge and ice cream. It was a vivid reminder that the entrepreneurial spirit can and does flourish anywhere and everywhere. And, obviously, they delighted in promoting their area small businesses.
I’ve learned a lot about the role of philosophy in business from the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop chain. Here’s some advice she shared about starting a business:
There are no rules or formulas for success. You just have to live it and do it. Knowing this gives us enormous freedom to experiment. Believe me, it’s a crazy, complicated journey. It’s trial and error. It’s quite literally, “Let’s try lots of this stuff and see how it works.”
My thinking was forged in the 1960s and in those days I would rather have slit my wrists than work in a corporation. So we had no organizational chart, no one-year, five-year plan. What we did have was management by our common values.
Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them. Money will grease the wheels, but becoming a millionaire is not the aim of a true entrepreneur. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know don’t give a damn about the accumulation of money. What gets their juices going is seeing how far an idea can go.
Geography has nothing to do with that.