The En­tre­pre­neur – Bill Hei­necke’s Rules for Suc­cess

As part of cel­e­brat­ing AMCHAM Thai­land’s 60th an­niver­sary we have been reprint­ing rel­e­vant ar­ti­cles from old T- AB Magazine is­sues. In this is­sue we present an ar­ti­cle from T- AB Vol­ume 1 pub­lished in 1985, where Bill Hei­necke re­veals his rules on how to

Thai-American Business (T-AB) Magazine - - Front Page - Writ­ten by: Wil­liam E. Hei­necke Reprinted from: T- AB Magazine Jan- Feb 1985

Iwould like to give you my 18 rules to be­com­ing a suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur and hope­fully a prof­itable one here in Thai­land. Let me first de­fine the word “en­tre­pre­neur.” Web­ster’s dic­tionary says that “an En­tre­pre­neur is one who or­ga­nizes, man­ages and as­sumes the risk of a busi­ness or en­ter­prise.”

The key words here are “RISK” and “BUSI­NESS”. The en­tre­pre­neur is a per­son who gauges the risk and re­ward of a busi­ness and works quickly to ini­ti­ate, or­ga­nize, and man­age a par­tic­u­lar op­por­tu­nity, idea or con­cept. He will of­ten risk more, work harder, and de­mand more for his ef­forts than any or­di­nary busi­ness­man.

Clearly en­trepreneur­ship is not an ex­act sci­ence and while many of you may think you can’t learn it at uni­ver­sity you will be sur­prised to note that over 200 uni­ver­si­ties in the United State do of­fer cour­ses in en­trepreneur­ship.


Do some­thing you en­joy. If you don’t en­joy your work you won’t in­vest the time and en­ergy to make it a suc­cess. I know of no suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs who con­sider their work bor­ing. For most it is a stim­u­lat­ing, chal­leng­ing game. It has to be be­cause most en­trepreneurs’ prin­ci­pal night- time and week­end hobby is catch­ing up on work they did not com­plete dur­ing the week. They of­ten en­gage in other ac­tiv­i­ties, like sports, but they are most likely to be com­bin­ing it with busi­ness.


If you have a spe­cial­ized ed­u­ca­tion, use it. Un­til re­cently many self- made en­trepreneurs took pride in their ab­bre­vi­ated ed­u­ca­tion and what they ac­com­plished through ex­pe­ri­ence. But the mod­ern money- maker faces a more com­plex world and needs a solid ed­u­ca­tion.

Don’t let any­one tell you a good en­tre­pre­neur doesn’t also rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of tech­ni­cal know- how. In my case, I re­al­ized I needed qual­i­fied, ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple, so I hired them. But a word of cau­tion – su­perb aca­demic per­for­mance, even at the most pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tions, is no guar­an­tee of suc­cess at the high­est lev­els of the cor­po­rate world. What­ever the en­ter­prise, you must ei­ther have the tech­ni­cal know- how or be able to hire it.


Find a vac­uum and fill it. If you are the first to of­fer the pub­lic some­thing it wants and can’t get any­where else, you stand a good chance of strik­ing it rich, es­pe­cially if you’ve got the field to your­self for a while be­fore the com­pe­ti­tion jumps in and steals some of your mar­ket share. The per­son who im­proves on goods or ser­vices al­ready avail­able, or has a “gim­mick,” can also strike it rich.

Where do these ideas come from? Ba­si­cally from three places. One is your job. Prob­a­bly most of the ideas come from your work since this is some­thing that you know well and you un­der­stand the mar­ket. The se­cond area is your hob­bies, some­thing else you know a lot about. The third source is what I call pedes­trian ob­ser­va­tion, which is a di­rect ob­ser­va­tion of a need in daily liv­ing. Let me give you a few ex­am­ples: the idea to form Din­ers Club hit Ralph Sch­nei­der when he went out to din­ner and found he had lost his wal­let; Leo Ger­sten­zang in­vented Q- tips when he saw his wife try­ing to wrap cot­ton wool on a tooth­pick to clean their baby daugh­ter’s ears; King C. Gil­lette got the idea for the safety ra­zor when he be­came an­noyed that his ra­zor was dull one morn­ing and thought of a prod­uct that peo­ple would use and throw away.


Re­search your idea care­fully. Be­fore you can get that great idea that will make you a mil­lion you must first stuff you brain, which is your own per­sonal com­puter, with all there is to know about a sub­ject. Prepa­ra­tion and the abil­ity to make con­nec­tions be­tween di­verse fac­tors are es­sen­tial to the de­vel­op­ment of a win­ning idea.


Ex­per­i­ment with new ap­proaches. Most en­trepreneurs are gen­er­ally fairly flex­i­ble peo­ple. They aren’t rigid in the way they look at things. They are al­ways open to new ideas. They an­tic­i­pate in­ces­sant change. The past will not come again. Nei­ther iso­la­tion nor in­su­la­tion from to­mor­row is pos­si­ble. The prob­lems of the times are the op­por­tu­ni­ties of the times, as the strings at­tached are al­ways mul­ti­ply­ing. Gov­ern­ments and new com­peti­tors, do­mes­tic and for­eign, will in­creas­ingly af­fect the con­duct of a given busi­ness. So will so­cial evo­lu­tion. De­spair is of lit­tle value. Vig­i­lance is. The good en­tre­pre­neur al­ways looks for new ways to do things and be­lieves if it works, it’s ob­so­lete. He is quick to ad­mit mis­takes.


Rec­og­nize the ‘ lucky break’ and use it to your ad­van­tage. Luck is be­ing at the right place at the right time. Per­haps the most com­mon trait among lucky peo­ple is that they make the most of all op­por­tu­ni­ties as they present them­selves, for good for­tune is not some­thing you should wait for but some­thing you must seize. As Napoleon once said, “Don’t send me bril­liant gen­er­als, send me lucky ones.”


Trust your in­tu­ition. In busi­ness, de­ci­sions based on shrewd in­tu­ition are of­ten su­pe­rior to those based on care­ful an­a­lyt­i­cal rea­son­ing. Defin­ing in­tu­ition isn’t so easy. En­trepreneurs call it a feel­ing in the bones or a gut feel­ing, gues­ti­mate, spec­u­la­tion, imag­i­na­tion or even cre­ativ­ity. The ul­ti­mate safe­guard is to avoid stub­born­ness and lis­ten with an open mind to what oth­ers say and to sub­ject all de­ci­sions, whether they are fruits of rea­son or in­tu­ition, to search­ing ex­am­i­na­tion.


Rec­og­nize a fail­ure early and go onto the next idea. I be­lieve it is char­ac­ter­is­tic of suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs that they can spot a dis­as­ter early. Don’t let pride or sen­ti­ment af­fect your de­ci­sions. When your idea fails, take it as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and quickly move on to the next project. One of my ear­li­est fail­ures in Thai­land was vend­ing ma­chines. An­other was try­ing to du­pli­cate the suc­cess of Mis­ter Donut in Thai­land in Malaysia. In both case de­ci­sions to write off thou­sands of dol­lars were made in a mat­ter of min­utes based on re­sults of ac­tiv­i­ties that were less than a year old. I have al­ways re­as­sured my­self by the fact that R. H. Macy failed seven times be­fore his store in New York caught on. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs. Don’t worry about fail­ure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.


Publi­cize your suc­cesses. The suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur knows how to at­tract favourable at­ten­tion, both in his field and the me­dia. One well pub­licesed suc­cess will cover up a mul­ti­tude of blun­ders.


Learn how to sell. An en­tre­pre­neur must know how to sell. It starts with sell­ing an idea, be it to as­so­ci­ates, part­ners or fi­nanciers. I know of no suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs who can’t sell them­selves or their ideas.


Be­come a leader ( eas­ier said than done). Gen­eral Eisen­hower used to demon­strate the art of lead­er­ship with a sim­ple piece of string. He’d put it on the ta­ble and say pull – and the string would fol­low. Then he’d say push and the string would go nowhere at all. It’s the same way when it comes to lead­ing peo­ple. Ef­fec­tive lead­ers know that they get the best ef­forts out of peo­ple by work­ing with them, by help­ing them do their best and by show­ing them how to be more pro­duc­tive.


Ex­pect to work long hours and make per­sonal sac­ri­fices. Those self- made men and women who can be clas­si­fied as worka­holics are in­vari­ably happy worka­holics. But when you play, play hard. Find time to re­lax.


De­velop your con­tacts. The suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur will cul­ti­vate his busi­ness and so­cial con­tacts. No one can be suc­cess­ful in a vac­uum or alone. He needs bankers, lawyers, ad­vi­sors, ac­coun­tants and es­pe­cially cus­tomers. Good­will is al­ways es­sen­tial and can’t be bought, only earned.


Main­tain a de­tached point of view and have faith. Man­ag­ing a grow­ing busi­ness re­quires un­yield­ing ded­i­ca­tion that can con­sume the body, im­pair the senses and warp the mind. Such ef­fects are harm­ful to the in­di­vid­ual, his fam­ily, and the en­ter­prise. Clin­i­cal ob­jec­tiv­ity is the only pre­ven­tive medicine. Growth im­plies and en­tails risk. Risk begets fail­ure as well as suc­cesses. Wide per­spec­tive gained through non- busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence or study helps one en­dure the pres­sures and ac­cept with equa­nim­ity the re­sults, good and bad, of busi­ness de­ci­sions.


Make a con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety. A suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur re­al­izes so­ci­ety is like a rich for­est. For ev­ery­thing we take out we should be pre­pared to put some­thing back. Too many peo­ple treat so­ci­ety like a slot ma­chine try­ing to put in as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and hop­ing to hit a jack­pot.


Work for your­self. This is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant rule of all. From all the truly wealthy en­trepreneurs I know, not one of them got that way by be­ing on some­one else’s com­pany pay­roll. If Ben­jamin Franklin’s rule “A penny saved is a penny earned” was ever true, it is cer­tainly not true to­day. Mod­ern en­trepreneurs are build­ing for­tunes on bor­rowed money.


Don’t think about mak­ing money. Con­tra­dic­tory ad­vice? No, be­cause if you’re busy plan­ning to make big money, you won’t be do­ing what you should to make it. No suc­cess­ful self- made en­tre­pre­neur is look­ing to make a mil­lion dol­lars. It’s the process of mak­ing the money, the chal­lenge of win­ning at the game of busi­ness that in­trigues him.


Re­mem­ber, rules are for the obe­di­ence of fools and the guid­ance of wise men.

These are my 18 rules – re­ally much of it is com­mon sense.

Wil­liam E. Hei­necke is Chair­man and CEO of Mi­nor In­ter­na­tional and served as AMCHAM Pres­i­dent in 1978 and 1981.

Bill Hei­necke at age 19 when he started his first busi­ness – of­fice clean­ing ser­vice

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