Entrepreneurship Requires Gratitude

As entrepreneurs and innovators, we are blessed. We get the fun and satisfaction of bringing our ideas into reality and hopefully create the better world that we envision.

However, the crowd of people who support us is really what makes all of that possible — not our magic, amazing brilliance, skill or resilience.

Many of our best supporters are the quiet ones who pick us up when we fall face first. And of course, there are those supporters who push us hard, call out our nonsense, and make us better.

These are our coaches who will work with us as long as we go about cutting a new trail. If these folks are silent we have a big problem. That means they’ve given up.

Fortunately, for us, our entrepreneurial coaches don’t give up easily — they’re entrepreneurs!

When you think about it, we are successful because of the many people who have enabled our success. Before this year passes, take time to identify and thank the people who support or have supported you. Make a list and start with the quiet supporters. Next, expand the circle to those who are your advocates, then ultimately to those who have helped facilitate your progress.

I’ve found this graphic helpful:

Circles from largest to smallest: Facilitators, Advocates, Quiet Supporters, You

Who to Thank on Your Team

First, be nice to yourself. Appreciate your talents and hard work. Don’t constantly criticize yourself. You’ve gotten this far in life, after all, and that’s something to be proud of. Quickly move beyond you and really see how others have helped you succeed.

Your Quiet Supporters

Your closest supporters are typically spouses, partners, or best friends. They should be your VIPs. However, they usually end up being there before and after the red carpet and limelight. Thankfully they are there after your moment in the sun, when it seems as if you’ve been left behind in the wilderness.

Instead of a gourmet meal at a high-end restaurant they get breakfast night with you when nothing else is left in the fridge. Bacon egg bagels, tater tots, and salad mix can get many of us through the night.

Make an effort to be thankful to your quiet supporters in small ways. Simple efforts like taking time to check in with them, completing a least favorite household chore or even preparing a home cooked meal will go a long way. You will be on your way to the next milestone of greatness if you can make small thank yous part of your daily routine.

Greatness at its core starts with helping others and it is in the small things most of us overlook. Push yourself to be consistently thankful, every day, with your quiet supporters.

1.     Make time to check in with your closest, most loyal supporters.

2.     Identify your most loyal supporter’s least favorite task — then take care of it.

3.      Cook a meal for your closest supporter.

Your Advocates

Your advocates go to bat for you and help shoulder the high-pressure load to help you succeed. Share with them your progress, struggles, when you need help, and anticipated milestones that lie ahead. Take time to reflect on how they have helped clear the way. Thank them for their help. Take them to dinner or coffee once in a while.

One of my favorite ways to say thank you is to write a note. Your advocates enjoy seeing you grow and succeed and they thrive when you pay it forward for a fellow entrepreneur. Saying thank you to your advocates reinforces your membership and commitment to being part of the guild of entrepreneurs.

4.     Take one of your advocates to dinner or coffee and share your progress.

5.     Take time to handwrite a thank you note. In the digital age, a little handwritten note makes a big impact.

6.     When you have good news, write a quick, individual thank you note and share it with an advocate — even if it’s an email.

Your Facilitators

There are many people who make my day better by acting on my behalf to remove roadblocks, open doors and keep me out of the swamp of red tape and paper work. They may not be pushing against a lead antagonist; however, they are keeping me (and probably you) out of more trouble, quicksand, and lava pits than we know.

The best way I can thank my facilitators is to constantly let them know that their help is needed and appreciated, and that they are allowing me to thrive. I also like to provide consistent small thank yous, especially after the dust has settled after a major accomplishment.

7.     Say a genuine thank you every time you interact with them — in person and in email.

8.     Let them know they mattered and made a difference.

9.     Always be pleasant and easy to work with. Direct your frustration or venting elsewhere.

10.    Never assume these folks have to help you. They don’t!

I have a way to go with getting gratitude right — yet, it’s worth the effort. I believe that gratitude can be made into a habit like managing your daily to-do list or working out. The rewards of gratitude are much greater than we can imagine.

I hope you were able to thank someone during Global Entrepreneurship Week at Penn State. Make sure you pay it forward into the weeks after, even into the new year.

Thank you to all of you who have helped me and happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Mark Gagnon is the Harbaugh Entrepreneur and Innovation Faculty Scholar with the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program at the College of Agricultural Sciences. He teaches courses in agribusiness, entrepreneurial leadership, and entrepreneurial mindset; mentors student entrepreneurs; and leads the Make It Happen student outreach team.

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