This sounds so ridiculously lame, but it’s true: part of my inspiration for deciding to start a business was Ashton Kutcher.
A few years ago I was sitting in my grey corporate cubicle, having a miserable day, avoiding doing work while reading CNN online, and I saw a headline about Ashton Kutcher, and the thought suddenly occurred to me: “Ashton Kutcher doesn’t have to put up with this crap. Why should you?”
Seriously. I remember thinking, “Ashton Kutcher doesn’t have to sit in a cubicle all day. He doesn’t have a boss. He doesn’t have to be part of the boredom and waste and enforced idleness of life in a cubicle – and why? Is Ashton Kutcher really so much more talented than you? Why can’t you do your own thing, just like Ashton Kutcher?”
Of course, I wasn’t trying to become a celebrity or become the new cast member of “Two and a Half Men.” My goals were more modest. I just wanted to escape from my cubicle and start a business that would allow me to have more freedom, more control of my schedule, more fun, and a moderately higher income.
But the more I think about it, if aspiring entrepreneurs are looking for a role model, they could do a lot worse than to look to the example of Ashton Kutcher.
Ashton Kutcher might have started his career as a sitcom goofball on Fox’s “That 70s Show,” but he’s actually been really savvy and entrepreneurial in how he’s managed his Hollywood career. He’s managed to stay in the news by being at the forefront of lots of pop culture trends in the past few years, everything from wearing trucker hats to dating older women.
Here are a few lessons in entrepreneurship that we can learn from the career of Ashton Kutcher:
- Don’t be afraid to try new things: Many actors would have been content just to get work on a sitcom and make a few movies, but Ashton Kutcher worked hard to take his personal brand to the next level. He’s started his own production company, invested in restaurants, and starred in his own practical joke show on MTV (“Punk’d”), and he’s kept trying new things at every step of the way. How can you expand the footprint of your business? Can you offer other services, serve different markets, or find new ways to deepen your relationships with existing customers?
- Embrace new technologies: Ashton Kutcher was the first person on Twitter to reach 1 million followers (and he’s currently approaching 9 million followers). He embraced social media from the beginning and built his own platform on Twitter at a time when other celebrities, actors, and artists were skeptical about social media or weren’t figuring out how to use it to their best advantage. What are you doing to build a “platform” for your business with social media? Are you talking to your biggest fans? Are you making it easier for people to spread the word about what you do?
- Play to your strengths: Most of Ashton’s movies haven’t done very well, but he recently replaced Charlie Sheen in the lead role on “Two and a Half Men,” so even if he never becomes a big movie star, it seems like he’ll have a long, lucrative career on TV. Sometimes if your first entrepreneurial venture doesn’t succeed, you need to readjust and re-evaluate and come back with something different. Sometimes you have to go “back to basics” with your business. There’s no such thing as “failure” as long as you learn from it and re-calibrate your business to get on track for bigger success.
- Remember your roots: Ashton is an Iowa boy (like me) and he still comes back to Iowa regularly to visit his parents and family. He and his (now ex-) wife Demi Moore made an unscheduled appearance at a nightclub in Des Moines a few years ago and it got big news coverage. He also speaks at political campaign rallies in Iowa. Even though he’s a big Hollywood star now, he still is well-connected to his Midwestern roots and is pretty well regarded in his home state. CorpNet CEO Nellie Akalp has written about how important her family roots in entrepreneurship have been to her – no matter how “big” you become as an entrepreneur, it’s best to stay in touch with your beginnings, no matter how humble. Staying in touch with our roots keeps us grounded and gives us perspective on what is truly important in life.
- When you make a mistake, apologize: Ashton got a lot of heat recently on Twitter for a comment he posted after Joe Paterno was fired in the wake of the Penn State scandal. Apparently, Ashton didn’t know/hadn’t read anything about the scandal, and posted something like, “Why did they fire Joe Paterno? That’s too bad!” People on Twitter lit him up, but he promptly apologized for sounding ignorant and even made self-deprecating jokes about it. No matter what happens as an entrepreneur, if you make a mistake, the best defense is to quickly apologize and make it right. Trying to ignore a situation or cover it up will only make it worse. The best way to maintain trust with customers is to let them know that you will stand behind your promises and make it right when they are less than satisfied.
So thank you, Ashton Kutcher, for being an unlikely source of entrepreneurial inspiration and lessons in entrepreneurship. You helped motivate this fellow Iowan to get out of the cubicle and get on to a much better place in life.
Whether your style as an entrepreneur is more “Ashton Kutcher” or “Charlie Sheen,” CorpNet can help you take the next step to starting a business! We can help you incorporate as an S-Corp or form an LLC to get your business up and running. We help entrepreneurs start a business by managing the business filings to incorporate a company. Whether you want to form an LLC or S-Corporation or other corporate entity, CorpNet can help you choose a business structure with a free business consultation.