Yesterday I spent a stimulating day at a local event called Small Business Boot Camp. I was invited to attend as the guest of one of the women to whom I referred in an earlier post that has been encouraging to and supportive of the new venture in my life. In spite of the fact that our county is adjacent to Davidson County--aka Metropolitan Nashville, a savvy city in many respects--we can be a backward place, stuck in "old boy" thinking and decision making (don't get me started on our city council), with a business that proclaims "We'll trade for anything that don't eat!" (cringe), and women whose hairstyles have been stuck in the 80's far too long. This doesn't mean there aren't forward thinking, highly competent people in our midst, and yesterday's seminar proved it.
Led by Amber Hurdle, an executive coach, a team of women presented on a variety of topics of concern to small business owners that ranged from strategic planning, to marketing, to time management (which has become far more than the concept of not handling a piece of paper more than once). Some of the information was a review of familiar concepts--repurposed, if you will--while other take aways were new and thought-provoking.
One item for consideration was something called the Hedgehog Concept. Because I've been away from the world of business and its associated models for a long time now, I hadn't been aware of this particular item, its name derived from an ancient poem about a hedgehog and a fox, and the hedgehog's ability to survive an encounter with said fox because of its ability to do one critical thing very well (roll up into a spiny ball so that it can't be eaten by the fox). In short, for us modern types, the Hedgehog Concept concerns itself with identifying what thing a person (or company) does really well, and capitalizing on that ability to achieve success. It doesn't stop at identifying the skill, however, but incorporates three components that lead to success: the skill, one's passion, and the junction where the marketplace utilizes the skill and passion. The conjunction of those three is literally the core that leads to success.
As the presenter was sharing this portion of her talk I thought immediately of Frederick Beuchner's definition of vocation: the place where one's deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. This may not sound like a formula for business success, but I would suggest that its application undergirds the success of all sorts of people. One such individual is William Penn, about whom it is said that he came to the New World to do good and ended up doing well as a result. Okay, so that may only be a common adage in Quaker circles, but you get my drift.
I made an attempt to share Beuchner's definition as a means of understanding the hedgehog concept through a different lens--not all people who are in business would describe themselves as business people, after all, and allowing for different frameworks through which to experience an "a-ha!" might be helpful to fledgling entrepreneurs--but as soon as I invoked the word "theologian" the presenter didn't know what to make of me. Though I confess to being a little disappointed that she didn't immediately embrace my addition to the conversation, her response brought home an important truth about the entrepreneurial and business world where I now make my vocational bed, a truth reflected by the Hedgehog Concept: we are each individual and unique, and just as who we are and what we have to offer will have its distinctive place in the marketplace, so will our manner of connecting the necessary dots to be successful in that marketplace be distinctive and unique.
I don't think of myself as a business person, but that doesn't mean that I'm not capable of applying the necessary concepts to my work to help me succeed in business. Yesterday's seminar was an important affirmation of that self-understanding, and reminded me that I already have many of the tools that I need. And those that I don't? There's a whole community of others in the same boat who are there to help, many of whom don't think of themselves as being a business person either. And here's a little aside: Of the group yesterday, numbering roughly 25, only three were men. That's an entirely different post.