U n l e a s h Y o u r
E n t r e p r e n e u r i a l P o w e r
Michael E. Gordon
My father was the cofounder of a meat processing and distribution company,
and his concept of training me in the family business was to
start me at the bottom. The very bottom! “I want you to learn the business
from the ground up,” he told me. For starters, Dad put me in charge of the
company’s hamburger operation. It was a one-person business: me. I had a
500-square-foot work area, equipped with a boning bench, a meat grinder, a
patty maker, storage shelves, packaging materials, pallets, gloves, telephone,
radio, desk, and miscellaneous knives and supplies (no computer in those
days). Each morning, I would belly up to the boning bench with knife in
hand. I would take a slab of beef, debone the meat, and trim off the fat. The
next step was to cram raw chunks into the hopper. Once inside, the meat was
chopped between metal grinding blades, and out came raw ground beef. In the
second operation, another machine shaped the bulk ground beef into perfect
patties that were then packaged by a third machine. The input was chunks of
meat plus my labor, the process was mechanical chopping and molding, and
the output was packaged ground beef patties. But something really important
happened in this simple process: I added value for customers!

If it weren’t for my labor and the machines, customers would have to buy
the raw beef and chop it themselves, or buy a grinder and form the patties by
hand. It doesn’t seem like much value, but billions of pounds of ground beef
are sold annually in the world. So customers were willing to pay a bit extra for
the small value I added.
Since I am producing a product and adding value, does that
mean I am an entrepreneur?
Day after boring day, my operation produced ground hamburger patties,
amounting to about 200,000 pounds per year. One day I had an idea: What if I
produced specialty hamburger patties? I could envision a line of different types
and flavors: healthy organic meat from range-fed, steroid-free cows; smoky
burgers with bits of smoked bacon added during the grinding operation; Tex-
Mex burgers with added salsa and other seasonings; Hawaiian burgers, veggie
burgers, turkey burgers . . . (this was in my youth, decades before the existence
of prepackaged veggie, healthy, and turkey burgers).
I came up with an idea, and I am thinking how to add unique
value. Am I an entrepreneur now?
I actually began to create and eat my prototypes in my spare time. Some of
my concoctions were really tasty! Others were unpalatable. Weeks later, when
I had developed confidence in my new idea, I asked for a meeting with my
father. I brought my successful experiments and a cooking grill to demonstrate
my concept. My father sampled the proposed new product line and became
What happened next was truly exhilarating. For the next two hours, the
questions were flying: What kinds of approval do we need from health
agencies? How should we price the new product line? Who should we
sell to—consumers, distributors, restaurants, supermarkets? Should we sell
locally, regionally, nationally, globally? Who will run this business? Should
we set this up as a separate business unit and create a branded identity? Do
we have competition now or in the future? How can we know if there is an
opportunity here? How much money do we need to launch this venture? How
much money can the company make in the course of a year? What about other
resources—people, space, equipment, infrastructure? The meeting ended on
a high note, with my father asking me to write something up about this idea.
(In those days, I knew nothing about the importance of writing a business plan
or an executive summary.)

After studying the competition and the potential market, I came to believe
that this was a real opportunity to make money. Over the next few weeks, I
began to write a summary of what needed to be done. My starting point was
a detailed list of assumptions, based on questions my father had asked in our
meeting. I even calculated our projected financial growth over the next several
years. I asked for another meeting and presented my thoughts to my father.
He was even more interested. He made a decision to pursue this venture
inside the existing company and asked me to run this department, with its
own profit-and-loss accounting.
So here I was at age 17 with the mandate to build a new hamburger business
unit inside the meat company.
Since my idea appears to be a real opportunity, and I am to
be in charge of this business, am I an entrepreneur now?
Though I faced many challenges, my focus was on getting the new business
unit going and making money. My strategy was to create a branded line
of hamburger patties (Gordon’s Great Guernseyburgers, Healthy Heiferburgers,
Smokey the Bearger, and others) and sell to customers under our
brand name, at a premium price. I would sell directly to retail consumers,
to distributors, restaurants, and food markets, to everyone except other meat
markets. I knew that if I were successful, competitors would smell the profits
and try to horn in on my business. Because I could not prevent that
from happening, I would have to rely on my brand recognition to build
sales and profits quickly. But I did not want future competitors to see the
momentum we were gaining before we were well along with our branding
Now am I an entrepreneur?
Looking back, I realize that the entrepreneurial spirit was within me, and
I was beginning to live the entrepreneurial process. I had developed an idea
and, through discussions with more experienced hands, confirmed that it
represented a real opportunity for our company. I had even come up with
a strategy: to develop a product line of unique hamburgers—burgers that
were different from what everyone else was selling. My prototype taste tests
were a rudimentary form of market research, and that research told me that
customers would value the difference they found in our products. My written
summary of the proposed business, including financial projections, brought
my idea to a level of practical concreteness.

Was I an entrepreneur at that point? No. I was an almost-entrepreneur: a
young man with ideas and plans but with no skin in the game. Like countless
other commercial dreamers, I didn’t take that bold step of implementing my
strategy. I went off to college to pursue my passion for science, and the wouldbe
Great Gordon Burger Empire was forgotten. There was no champion to
take up the cause.
Many years would pass before I could truthfully say, “Now, I am an entrepreneur.”

Question 1:

Please read the whole text and briefly explain its concept in few lines in your language, tell what is it about, and write the summarization of each title separately?

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