“Only passions – great passions – can elevate the soul to great things.” –Denis Diderot
Jerry Osteryoung, professor emeritus of finance with the College of Business at Florida State University, is no stranger to this space and though his words are meant for the ears on entrepreneurs across a wide swath of businesses – from restaurants to computer services – they often offer particular resonance for truckers large and small.
His most recent missive concerning what he believes to be three critical, yet simple, keys to success for anyone in business is a case in point. In his view, after observing (and in many cases advising) over 3,000 entrepreneurs, three fundamental building blocks are required to succeed in business: passion, purpose and knowledge.
“Most folks have two of these down, but you really need all three if you are going to be successful,” he explained recently in one of his columns.
I think any trucker can relate to this, especially given the tough economic times this industry – and indeed the U.S. as a whole – continues to experience. Without a love (or at least a substantial “like”) for what you do day in and day out, without a reason for doing it, and without the hard-won nuts-and-bolts understanding of how to make money operating trucks for a living, you’ll just stall out on the side of that proverbial road of life.
“Passion is the burning force that keeps you going no matter what happens,” Osteryoung noted. “Many of the entrepreneurs we deal with have cash-flow crises, but they just do not quit. Somehow they find a way to make payroll or pay that bill. Instead of getting discouraged, they just make a commitment to never end up in that situation again.”
In his estimation, entrepreneurs who lack passion are almost guaranteed to fail. “I have seen many aspiring business owners start a company because they either got laid off or could not find a job,” Osteryoung pointed out. “This is a recipe for certain disaster, because not having another option does not provide the pure and unbridled passion that you must have to be successful.”
Yet passion alone is not sufficient, he cautions. “You must also have purpose to be successful, because purpose is the force that focuses your passion on a specific activity or industry,” Osteryoung said.
“Too often, people tell me they want to start a restaurant because they are good cooks. Being passionate about being a great cook is OK, but it is the combination of passion with purpose — serving clients and making money, for instance — that makes for success,” he stressed.
The third piece of the entrepreneur's formula is knowledge, of course. “I cannot overstate the importance of knowledge, because this is how you are able to avoid costly mistakes,” Osteryoung stressed.
There are three critical “knowledge areas” entrepreneurs must master, he explained.
“First, you must have a great understanding of marketing and feel comfortable promoting yourself and your business. After all, there is no better salesperson for your company than you,” Osteryoung said.
The second is finance. “You absolutely must be able to interpret your financial statements and have a clear understanding of the financial ramifications of your decisions,” he noted.
The third and final element is knowing how to manage people effectively. “All businesses need people, and being able to manage those people is a requisite to success,” Osteryoung pointed out. “Knowledge takes passion and purpose and transforms them into light like a laser beam for your business.”
And lord knows, in times like these, truckers will need all the light they can find to help dispel the darkness that threatens to cloud the freight market’s future.