The March 27, 2018, “Grand Rapids Press” featured a story entitled “Entrepreneurial interest has declined, Amway report finds.” Sandra Martinez, the story’s author, noted that Amway, a direct sales company located in Ada, Michigan, tracks people’s approach to and opinions about being their own bosses through its Entrepreneurial Spirit Index.
Amway’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Index, with a sample base of 50,000 people from over 50 countries, tracks individual’s interest in starting a business. Amway’s global index fell 0.03 this past year, down from its 2016 index. The American portion fell two points. China rose 6 points. The Amway report cited the risk of failing and difficulty raising start up funds as the key obstacles.
Worldwide, Millennials, those under 35, had the highest score at 52 with Millennials in Asia and Latin America scoring highest. Women trailed men. Women in the European Union had the lowest ranking, but North America was a close second.
Entrepreneurship plays a critical role in the antiques and collectibles field. By and large, antiques and collectibles sellers are independent business entrepreneurs. Collectors also are entrepreneurs, albeit they often do not think of themselves fitting this mold.
[Author’s Aside: Put aside the notion that a business is something created to make a profit. Collecting is an entrepreneurial enterprise. Collectors assemble, study, and preserve a specific group of objects. The acquisition of the first object is the act that starts the process. In many cases, the collector fills a void that exists within the collecting category. The collector’s approach is very business-like. The collector often understands his/her inventory better than most businesses.]
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. At first glance, the negatives outweigh the positives. The negatives include high risk, constant uncertainty and stress, a continual need to adjust, especially to stay ahead of the curve, aggressive competitors – some of whom have no qualms about not playing by the rules, ongoing financial woes, and the enormous amount of work with no guarantee of success. In this age of instant gratification and immediate rewards, the last is perhaps the biggest deterrent. Why be an entrepreneur? The answers include the opportunity to be independent, follow one’s own vision, conquer a challenge, blaze new territories, feel a sense of exuberance, excitement, and passion, stare failure in the face, accomplish something no one else has done, and pride in a job well done.
I was once part of the weekly, biweekly, and monthly paycheck community. As long as I fulfilled my work requirements, I received a paycheck on a regular basis. While my work contributed to generating the organization’s revenue, I worried little about whether or not the money would be there to cover the paycheck. When I moved into management, this complacency vanished. However, I never worked for an organization whose future was in doubt.
I left the corporate world because I wanted to be my own boss, the arbiter of my own destiny. William Henley’s “Invictus” said it best – “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” It is the auctioneers, collectors, dealers, estate sale managers, and others in the antiques and collectibles trade who I have encountered over the years who follow this philosophy for good or ill that I most respect and admire. They are unsung entrepreneurs, individuals who do what they do because they cannot do anything less and understand that “having fun” above all else makes life worth living.
Paula Fernandes’ “Entrepreneurship Defined: What It Means to Be an Entrepreneur” in the February 19, 2018 “Business News Daily” ( HYPERLINK "https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7275-entrepreneurship-defined.html" https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7275-entrepreneurship-defined.html), interviewed 20 company founders and business leaders about entrepreneurship. She offered this simple definition: “an entrepreneur is a person who identifies a need and starts a business to fill that void.”
As I read through the comments of the 20 business executives, I encountered words, phrases, and ideas that can be applied directly to the antiques and collectibles trade. I do not view the antiques and collectible trade in isolation. The trade is a sub-category of the larger entrepreneurial business community. As such, the antiques and collectibles trade can benefit from what it can learn from others.
Steven Benson, founder and CEO of Badger Maps, noted: “An entrepreneur must be able to accept failure….to risk failure at the deepest personal levels.” Failure is associated with mistakes in the antiques and collectibles field—a collector paid too much for an object, a dealer sold it for too little, and/or both bought something thinking it was one thing only to find out it was something else or found a costly flaw in a piece upon arriving home after purchasing it. It is hard to laugh at failure. Most individuals take it personally. One mistake and “I am out of here” is not a healthy antiques and collectibles mindset.
Mistakes are the tuition cost that auctioneers, collectors, dealers, and others pay to learn the antiques and collectibles trade. Rather than hide mistakes, learn from them. Better yet, use the mistakes to teach others how to avoid them.
Pennsylvania Germans laugh at themselves instead of others. I learned the lesson well. When I make a mistake, I look in the mirror to remind me who the responsible party is. More often than not, I laugh. I never received a 100 percent on all the tests I took in high school and the universities I attended. I remind myself of this constantly.
Justine Smith, founder and CEO of Kids Go Co., talked about individuals being wired to be entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs “are driven by an innate need to create, build, and grow. You must be a master plate juggler, able to switch between thinking, genres, and activities moment to moment.” In the early and mid-20th century, the antiques and collectibles trade was a relatively safe entrepreneurial enterprise. The number of collecting categories was relatively small. Goods traded in relatively narrow price ranges. The 1970s and 1980s changed this. Today, no one can accurately predict where the antiques and collectibles business will be in five years or at the end of the decade. Uncertainty is the order of the day. Survival requires the ability to adjust, if for no other reason than changes in the secondary market created by the digital age.
Eileen Huntington, co-founder and CET of Huntington Learning Center called attention to entrepreneurs having the “guts to take calculated risks and the tenacity and persistence to keep going even when there are bumps in the road.” I am not certain what a calculated risk is in respect to the 2018 antiques and collectibles trade. It seems that the antiques and collectibles trade has evolved into a crap shoot. Everything has become a calculated risk. This is one reason why the size of collections and number of dealers has diminished.
MJ Pedone, founder and CEO of Indra Public Relations, describes successful entrepreneurship as “being able to take action and having the courage to commit and persevere through all of the challenges and failure.” The auctioneers, collectors, dealers, and others in the trade who have a “never say die” approach to the business are among those I admire most. In an April 7, 2018 email from Rich and Sharon Schmidt, owners of the River Street Antique Company, in Merrill, Wisconsin, they state that they began selling antiques and collectibles in the mid-1990s after retiring from their professional careers. Twenty years in the antiques and collectibles trade is a lifetime. Ten years is a major accomplishment. Perseverance is a critical component in the antiques and collectibles trade. Newt Gingrich wrote: “Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
Although tempted to write a second “Rinker on Collectibles” column offering my thoughts on some of the additional comments that appeared in the Paula Fernandes article, I am not going to do it. Instead, I encourage my readers to print out the URL found in this column and read the full article. If phrases such as “blazing new trails,” “constant hunger for making things better,” “imagining new ways to solve problems and create value,” “passion for learning,” and “people-oriented” are not inspiring perhaps entrepreneurship is not a good choice for you. If they are, consider taking a look at the antiques and collectibles trade. Its entrepreneurs will welcome you.
Harry L. Rinker welcomes questions from readers about collectibles, those mass-produced items from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Selected letters will be answered in this column. Harry cannot provide personal answers. Photos and other material submitted cannot be returned. Send your questions to: Rinker on Collectibles, 5955 Mill Point Court SE, Kentwood, MI 49512. You also can e-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Only e-mails containing a full name and mailing address will be considered.
You can listen and participate in WHATCHA GOT?, Harry’s antiques and collectibles radio call-in show, on Sunday mornings between 8:00 AM and 10:00 AM Eastern Time. If you cannot find it on a station in your area, WHATCHA GOT? streams live on the Internet at www.gcnlive.com.