Episode 96: Andrew Sharp – Is 'entrepreneur' an overused word?


All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü

Andrew Sharp is the CEO of global brand Bobux shoes and the co-founder of car tracking software, Blackhawk, but don’t call him an entrepreneur as he believes he isn’t one.

Bobux shoes is a company constantly striving to learn more about healthy foot development, while producing quality children’s shoes. However, while children's’ shoes is the business that Sharp is currently in, he wouldn’t say that children's footwear was his natural calling. Instead, Sharp believes that it’s not the field you are working in that matters. It’s the attitude towards problem solving that makes all the difference when it comes to success.

As a business, you need to survive first
Sharp believes that a business’s first priority should be survival. He will openly admit that sometimes it IS about the money. He admits that, while Bobux is still passionate about improving healthy foot development worldwide, his job is to make sure that Bobux sell more shoes. Saying “I can give you that spiel if you’d like, but basically the broad answer is that we are here to sell more shoes.”

“I would say most businesses have to stay above the line, right? If you’re not making money, in terms of enough to cover all of your costs and things like that then you’re going to go out of business and then what sort of impact can you actually make if you’re not here?”

Choosing integrity
Sharp is most definitely results-driven first and foremost. However he’s carried over the core values he learned as a child to the way he does business. Choosing the path of honesty and integrity every time. Especially when it comes to customer service. He provides an example of this literally from the morning before he recorded the podcast.

“We’ve got an order out of one of our factories from a very large company. They made a mistake when they first gave us the order. But then they sent us the revised notes to amend the order – without sending us a new order. When we processed the order, we processed the first one without the amended notes. We found the issue, three weeks before we shipped it. We’re three weeks ahead, so we’ve got time to fix it, but it’s going to cost us basically all of our profit for this order.”

“But we said, ‘Ok we’ll amend your order’ and we did it. Honesty and authenticity and those sorts of things, means that we have to admit that is what one of our staff said. It wasn’t even a senior leader that said we would amend it. It was one of the most junior staff that we’ve got and you have to stand by that. You have to trust your people.”

“There was internal struggle. Not so much from the staff, but I know that some of board [weren’t] thrilled with the outcome but they understand this is part of being a great global brand. You’ve got to make sure that you stand true to your word.”

The other side of philanthropic business models
As the world is shifting, there is more consciousness around where things come from and the impact that products have on the world. Sharp goes onto explain his views around being an ethical brand and being an environmentally conscious brand. “It is interesting, there is a shoe company and they have a great model (buy one pair of shoes and the company will give one pair to somebody in need in a different country). That’s their model.”

“Now, the studies that have just recently come out about that (I don’t want to get in trouble so legal disclaimer, I don’t know all of the details) and that I have looked at and read is that giving the pair of shoes to the person in that village, actually stops a shoemaker in that village from being able to make and sell his shoes to make his living. So yes, you are giving a better quality product to that person, in that village, however, you’re actually robbing [the shoemaker] from making a living.”

What makes an entrepreneur
Sharp shares experiences from different companies he’s worked for over the years, all in different fields. To most people his attitude and insight towards business management would have most people considering him to be an entrepreneur. However, that’s not what Sharp thinks. He does not see himself as an entrepreneur and believes that word is heavily overused in today’s world. When asked what he thinks of when he hears the word, Sharp explains that “It’s one of those words that people throw around with a little too much freedom.”

“I think an entrepreneur is someone who does something new that actually benefits the world. And yes, as we’ve talked about earlier, they have to be making money while they do it. I mean you’ve still got to be alive in order to be able to continue contributing to the world. No offense, to real estate agents, but they’re not entrepreneurs. They are real estate people, and they’re selling a house. I’ve got great friends who are real estate people. I love them and they do a great job, but they’re not entrepreneurs and so they should stop calling themselves that.”

The halo effect
When asked what he thinks the halo is, that makes the word entrepreneur so appealing, Sharp says, “I think that entrepreneurs, since the Jobs, the Bransons, those sorts of guys have come through and got on the cover of Time magazine. Or like the Zuckerbergs where movies have been made and books have been written about them, these people are now held up as heroes, as rock stars almost. People then associate a halo with it and say ‘Well if I’m an entrepreneur then I’m like Steve Jobs.’”

He says it’s not so much the fact that people want to get rich quick, or even be famous he just believes that the word has been romanticized so much. He shares his own experiences with the word saying, “I was originally very enamoured with the term entrepreneur. I used to call myself that and I went out for entrepreneur of the year and all those sorts of awards. Then I started looking at what I was actually good at and realized that it’s not necessarily entrepreneurial. It’s not coming up with the original idea and then making it work in a way that’s going to make the world a better place. I don’t see myself as an entrepreneur.”

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