From a Tiny Grain of Sand
November 22, 2016
From a Tiny Grain of Sand

By Cliff Ennico

This week's column is an excerpt from a talk given by Cliff Ennico to participants in a recent business plan competition.

It was a pleasure to be a judge at this year's competition.  You are all to be congratulated on the amount of work you put into your business plans, even though some of them, well, need a little more thought. 

You are all now wondering whether or not your plans will succeed in the real world.  While "Shark Tank" is a fun show to watch on television, and we all love seeing one of the "sharks" commit to making an investment, the hard truth is that the vast majority of entrepreneurial startups never get funding.  

Some of you have good ideas, but that won't be enough.  I hope you don't mind, but I want to share with you one concern that I have with virtually every one of you and your teammates.

You are all way too nice to be entrepreneurs.       

You care way too much about what other people think of you, and you want too desperately to be loved and admired.  You want to be a hero, because entrepreneurs are your heroes. Those are all qualities that led you here, but they will eventually kill your business plan, and destroy your dreams.     

Let me explain.

You all know what a pearl is, right?  One of the most beautiful objects in all of nature, and a highly prized piece of jewelry.  But do you know how pearls happen?

Basically, an oyster is sitting around minding its own business when a grain of sand gets inside its shell and lodges itself under its "mantle" (the membrane that makes up 90% of an oyster's body).

That grain of sand irritates the Hell out of that oyster.  It hurts, and the oyster tries to dislodge the grain of sand and spit it out.  It rubs and rubs against that grain of sand trying to loosen it, and secretes a sort of slime around the grain of sand to make it smoother and easier to spit out.

That slime forms a layer around the grain of sand that gets bigger and thicker the more the oyster tries, day after day, week after week, to dislodge it.  Eventually, the slime hardens into a shell, and the oyster secretes more slime around that shell, still trying to dislodge the damn thing. The shell gets bigger and bigger as each layer of slime hardens over the previous layers.

That is what pearls are, and how they are formed.  Cut open any pearl, and you will find at the center the tiny grain of sand that got the whole thing started.

Everyone tells you "the world is your oyster" when you start a business, and you know what? The world really IS your oyster.  You are that grain of sand, and the world around you will do everything it can to spit you out because you are irritating the Hell out of it.

When you launch your business, the world will not welcome you with open arms.  You are disrupting the lives of many people who are comfortably minding their own business and heavily invested in the status quo.  They won't like that, and they won't love you.  They will hate you and your business.  Some may play dirty tricks on you hoping to spit you out so they can go back to being comfortable, complacent and safe.

Take Uber, the ride sharing service.  You love Uber, don't you?  It's a lot easier than trying to find a cab.  But a lot of taxi companies, limousine services and other local transportation players hate Uber - with a passion - because it threatens their whole business model.

Throughout the world these people have brought lawsuits against Uber trying to get rid of it.  They have spent millions in advertising and PR campaigns trying to persuade the public that they are not as safe with Uber drivers as they are with "licensed" taxi drivers (a dubious claim).  They have filed charges with state and federal tax authorities claiming that Uber drivers are employees, not independent contractors, and that Uber should withhold taxes on everything their drivers make.     

All of their efforts are the layers of slime that turn a grain of sand into a pearl.  And Uber is turning into a very beautiful pearl indeed.       

To build a successful entrepreneurial company you will not only have to cope with adversity.  You will have to thrive on it.  As a grain of sand, you must commit to being the biggest, baddest, pain-in-the-poop irritant this oyster has ever dealt with.  And you don't do that by being nice to the oyster, or by being worried about what the oyster thinks of you.  Your attitude must be, "the oyster be damned, I'm making a pearl."     

If your pearl is big and beautiful enough, someone, someday, will pay a ton of money for it.

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at  COPYRIGHT 2016 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.Permission granted for use on

Posted by Staff at 8:54 AM