Advice to Entrepreneurs: Believe in Yourself...Own Your Idea

by Jack Nadel

After 60 years as an international entrepreneur, I am very grateful that I found my career path early and enjoyed every minute of it. There is a certain quality in the American lifestyle that encourages us to accept the free enterprise challenge. One must accept an adventurous life, and must have a cast iron stomach as well as a creative mind.

My experiences in the United States and around the world make me grateful for this land of opportunity. The success of the rugged American business person has helped to create the highest standard of living in the history of the world. While teaching business courses, I am always asked by students what is the best business to enter at this time.

My reply is always the same: “What is it that you really love to do, and by doing it well gives you great satisfaction?” Any chosen field has the opportunity for success. “Opportunity” is the operative word. When asked what skills I possessed from the beginning, I always state that I was and am an opportunist. The mantra that I have taught is, “Find the Need and Fill it”. We are rarely big enough or strong enough to create the need. We must recognize it and fill the d emand that is already there.

My very first deal, fresh out of the Army Air Corps following WWII, was in trade with China in 1946. There was a Chinese delegation looking for navy blue woolen material in large quantities. There had been no production of this kind of material since the beginning of WWII. My brother and I figured it out. The US government was selling surplus army olive drab which they no longer needed to supply a large army. We bought the material at surplus prices and we dyed it navy and then sold it to the Chinese. The mind of an entrepreneur can connect the dots. I was 23 years old, my brother 26, and we literally learned on-the-job.

I can truthfully say I never spent a boring day. We learned many things while doing business domestically and around the world. My biggest lesson was the realization that in the United States this kind of success and satisfaction is possible.

As we are currently in an economic downturn, I am sure that somewhere in the United States, a young Stephen Jobs or a Bill Gates or a Larry Page is tinkering in his or her garage and has a dream for a new product, a new process, or a new idea that will bring fame and fortune.

When a young would-be entrepreneur is starting out, he (or she) has not had the time to build his (or her) self-confidence. My advice is to adopt a positive attitude. When you have a new idea, you will find hundreds of people who will tell you why it cannot be done. Do not give power to invalidating people. Believe in yourself – and believe in your idea. Own it. Everything that you as a new entrepreneur explains should b e in positive terms. The learning process is to feel in your gut that you are right and that every obstacle is an opportunity.

That being said, the idea or the product should be thoroughly investigated. It stands to reason that someone else may have had this idea. Did he succeed or did he fail and how was it executed? There has to be an honest research mechanism that is working all the time. It is imperative that the idea stands by itself and that the entrepreneur never tries to con himself into believing something that is not true.

At the core of every success story is something called courage. Fred Smith, who created the idea for Federal Express, wrote it up as a term paper in college for which he received a C-. We all know that the idea of overnight delivery made FEDEX an American institution. Fear of failure is the single largest cause of actually failing. We have all had failures…it does not kill you. In fact you learn much more from your failures than your successes. Babe Ruth was reputed to be the greatest home run hitter of all time. What is not well known is that he also led the league in strikeouts…the moral being in order to hit a home run you have to take a lot of swings.

Jack Nadel is the chairman of Jack Nadel International, Inc., (JNI),, a marketing and promotional products agency that specializes in brand identity maintenance and reinforcement. Jack is also co-writer with his stepdaughter Hillary Weintraub of a blog called Communication Is Inspiration