Realism is a key entrepreneurial quality. It allows the entrepreneur to see the writing on the wall - to read shifting customer preferences and make the fine-tunes to the product, positioning, and packaging in good time. They need to possess such realism to realize when a launch is not picking up, so they can cut losses and make appropriate changes, to pivot the business, or just wait it out.
In 1954, when Marc Gregoire developed Tefal, the now must-have, non-stick cookware, manufacturers took no interest in his invention. Data told him there was no demand. However, intuition and passion led him along and he decided on selling direct to consumers at trade shows and department stores. It was not till much later, in the late 1950s, when market acceptance was visible, that Tefal finally took off! James Dyson, who developed the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner had to travel to Japan before he found a licensee that believed in his product.
It is realism that gives an entrepreneur the courage to implement a strategy born out of an assessment of the situation and the possible opportunities. It is the ability to see the reality in its full force that motivates the entrepreneur – whether the resultant action is to pivot to a new direction, recall a product or stop an ongoing project.
The entrepreneur also has to deal with a very different challenge: He often faces a situation where the prospects look realistically bleak. If his behaviour reflects such reality, it may not be well received by the others in the organization – key talent may leave looking for safer pastures, and customers will shy away. He, therefore, needs to keep his team motivated by remaining optimistic.
One should not forget that the very reason an entrepreneur is able to invest time and resources on the business is due to an ability to see the optimistic side of things. We call this Tinted Reality. That is the ability to see reality, and yet colour it just that little, to retain a sense of optimism and hope.
To sum up the optimism and the action orientation, here’s what William A. Ward, one of America's most quoted writers of inspirational maxims, said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” The realist reflects the entrepreneurial approach, which I hope you will keep in mind, always.