WE WERE ON A PLANE RETURNING TO ATLANTA after closing an acquisition for a client in Texas. It was 1985 and I was a young partner in a business law firm sitting next to my boss in first class.
He was catching up on the day's news in the aisle seat and I was reviewing a draft of a manuscript I was working on for an entrepreneur's guide to the terms and deal points commonly negotiated in venture capital transactions.
When he finished his paper he looked over at what I was doing and snatched the manuscript. He wasn't much for conversation.
"What are you doing?" he said.
"Working on a book I hope to publish."
He took a sip from his drink and then flipped through the manuscript, tossing it back to me when he was finished. I expected a comment, maybe some encouragement, but instead he got out of his seat and headed to the toilet. Half way there, he stopped and turned around.
Looking me straight in the eye and with a voice that could be heard by everyone, he shook his head and proclaimed "that's the dumbest f*!#ing idea I ever heard of." And then he turned around and walked to the bathroom.
If I was wavering in my resolve to complete the manuscript or face the gauntlet of publisher submissions and rejections, this was now my great motivation. No way in the world was I going to give my boss the satisfaction of my failing in this endeavor. No matter how long a shot this was, somehow, someway it was going to succeed.
You know the rest of the story if you read my earlier posting called "I can't possibly know anything about venture capital." The book published as The Venture Magazine Complete Guide to Venture Capital in 1987 and sold out quickly. Since then, we have published four additional editions under the Growth Company Guide moniker.
The Guides, available through Amazon.com, have been in print now for nearly three decades. Entrepreneurs and angel investors have used the books, as have business schools and business accelerators. U.S. and European venture funds have used them to train associates and in help with planning. Even the Soviet Union purchased case quantities for their business training courses during Glasnost. If you are curious, here's what readers have had to say about the book.
So, what's the point of the story? And, what does my personal publication story have to do with entrepreneurs or growing businesses?
Two things, actually.
First, other people are going to routinely misunderstand or under appreciate your entrepreneurial efforts. My boss was an accomplished lawyer who had negotiated numerous deals. Even so, he could not see the value in what I was doing.
Second, it's only a dumb idea until you prove it isn't. Once you succeed, many of your greatest detractors will remember themselves as proponents. Many will wish they had the gumption and patience you had to strike out and make something new happen. Some will want to emulate you.
That's what happened to me. Just months after publication of the book was announced, the boss man stopped by my office to let me know he had secured a contract to write a treatise on corporate law. He was going to assign lawyers in the firm to write the chapters and I was going to organize the effort and ghost write his book.
Now that was the dumbest idea I ever heard of.
I was polite. I didn't express an opinion. I just said no. I was too busy following up on my own dumb idea to help him with his.
The venture moola blog comes to you from Atlanta, Georgia. Find it at readjanus.com. Copyright Clinton Richardson.
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Clinton Richardson, has been writing and photographing for decades. His acclaimed venture strategy series is now in its 5th edition. His Ancient Selfies is an International Book Awards Finalist and an eLit Award Gold Medal Winner. Many of his images can be seen online at TrekPic.com.