Running free

Features - Interview

Ron Shimony talks about the potential ups and downs of being your own boss, and how to retain employees who have that entrepreneurial spirit.

November 17, 2010
Mike Zawacki

Ron Shimony went from driving a taxi cab to pioneering multi-million dollar companies. Lawn & Landscape caught up with him to talk about the mentality of small business owners and how they can encourage their employees to have an entrepreneurial mindset.

What traits do you see in a successful entrepreneur?
It’s the dream of every employee to own their own destiny and to not have an employer deciding their income. But owning and operating your own business requires a lot more than what people expect in the beginning – self motivating, disciplined, adopting a routine, sticking to a goal.

These are the hardest parts of owning your own business because you don’t have a boss. You don’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. You don’t have to show up for work or worry about someone firing you. The consequences aren’t there and, instead, it’s whatever you produce, you eat.

Most people who want to be an entrepreneur don’t have these traits, but no one is taught about motivation, discipline and mind-set, or how to deal with fears, doubt and hesitation. 

They go into this and find themselves out in left field. Until they learn these traits they’re not going to succeed.

What questions should I ask myself before I turn in my two week notice?
There are three roadblocks to success, whether it’s working for corporate America and especially in owning and operating your own business.

The first one is doubt. Doubt is the cancer for success. It makes your mind play games with you. Self-doubt will build fear and cause hesitation.

The second is fear. Fear, by itself, has absolutely no power. We give fear its power. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.

And most of our fears, if we’re honest with ourselves, rarely happen.

The third thing is hesitation. You need to take that first step and start.

Those three roadblocks hamper entrepreneurs more than any other roadblocks that I know of.

If we look at history and at all the people who made our world different, Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times before he created the light bulb. If he would have stopped, we’d be sitting in the dark.

The world laughed at the Wright Brothers.

Those who changed the world were willing to fight their battles over fear and self doubt and just get started, and this takes courage.

What can business owners do to encourage that sense of entrepreneurism in their key employees without losing them?
While that looks attractive to some employees, actually there are a low percentage of people who go from being employees to starting their own business.

Right now, 95 percent of people work for someone else. So there is very little migration.

My advice to employers is to not give those employees with entrepreneurial ideas a reason to leave your company. You’ve got to give them a sense that they’d be loosing something if they left. Job security? Sure, but an entrepreneur is willing to risk security for opportunity. But is there an opportunity for them to have a stake in your company?

Now, if they have an ownership stake in the company, they have something bigger to lose than just monthly income.
Give your key employees an incentive to be part of your company. If they’re so valuable, then give them a piece of the action.

If they’re making a significant contribution to your bottom line, then give them a portion of it. You’ll still reap the benefits, and you’re giving those employees a long-term incentive if they stay and continue to contribute and perform.

When you do make that entrepreneurial leap, how do you convey that sense of excitement and optimism to suppliers, lenders and even potential employees?
No. 1, for those who have never been involved with starting something from scratch, is to find a mentor. Find someone who has fruit on the tree. And this is important because there are so many people out there who don’t have the tree, let alone the fruit. Find that person and learn from them. Learn about their failures. It’s the most economical way to save you a whole bunch of time, money and headache.

The author is editor of Lawn & Landscape’s sister publications Golf Course Industry and Snow Magazine. Send him an e-mail at