The Little Red Entrepreneurial Hen

June 24, 2011

1:00 pm

It is common knowledge that many great artists sacrificed, suffered, and invested in their art before it paid off.

I remember the first opportunity I had to make a significant contribution to a meaningful organization with the requisite significant ownership stake.  Joining that club of vested team members came at a cost.  I took a 65% hit in salary to join the team. I performed tasks from which I was buffered for the last 10 years as an experienced senior executive.  I made cold calls and stapled together proposals to earn my slice.  It kind of reminded me of the entrepreneurial version of the old children’s story, The Little Red Hen.  For those of you who need a refresher course in the story here’s the Cliff Notes verision:

Once upon a time, there was a little red hen who lived on a farm.

One day the hen decided to bake a loaf of  bread, so she went out and gathered some wheat seeds and asked the other barn yard animals,  “Who will help me plant the seeds ?”

“Not I,” said the cow.

“Not I,” said the horse.

“Not I,” said the pig.

So the little read hen said, “I will plant the seeds myself,” and so she did.

When the wheat matured she asked for help to cut the wheat.

“Not I,” said the cow.

“Not I,” said the horse.

“Not I,” said the pig.

And so it went with this little relentless, entrepreneurial red hen.  Through each step of the bread-baking process, she asked the cow, horse, and pig for help as she milled the wheat, made the dough, and baked the darn bread into a beautiful golden loaf.

“Who will help me eat the bread?”

“I will,” said the cow.

“I will,” said the horse.

“I will,” said the pig.

The the little Red Hen replied, “You didn’t help me make the bread at all so I’m not going to share my bread with you.  I’m going to eat this bread myself,” and so she did.

Now, the lesson buried in that children’s fable is that if you want a seat at the table, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves and help.

In the case of becoming part of something special, that may mean watering the wheat for free.  It could require that you do jobs that are beneath your station, like spreading manure on the fields.  You’re definitely going to need to make an investment in baking the bread.  Because if you want to come on board with full salary and benefits, if you expect an executive assistant to manage your calender, then you’re just looking to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread.  You’re not a baker, you’re not a teammate, you’re not an owner, you’re an employee.   Entrepreneurs are investors, not employees, and people who aren’t willing to invest something in the venture shouldn’t get a seat at the table.


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Glen Hellman (@glehel), is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and works for venture capitalists as a turn-around specialist. He is the Chief Entrepreneureator at Driven Forward LLC, frequently muses on his blog, Forward Thinking, and works with entrepreneurs to help them figure out what to do and get them to do it.

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