During the past seven years, I've talked with hundreds of thousands of small business owners and entrepreneurs. I can't begin to tell you the number of times I've heard an entrepreneur share a story about a failed business venture that ends with, "I was ahead of my time."
Because entrepreneurs are visionaries, they sometimes see opportunities the market isn't ready to accept, so they are labeled eccentric and easily discounted. But often they are just ahead of their time. Recently, I found myself in the same situation.
Earlier this year in his State of the Union address, President Obama spoke about high-speed rail as a centerpiece of his administration, both as a matter of economic stimulus and as a long-term strategy for transportation and the environment. His remarks made me smile and shake my head. You see, my first husband, Rich Pisani, an entrepreneur, ran for public office in the early 90s on the sole platform of bringing high-speed rail to Missouri.
Rich's idea was to build a bullet train between Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri to attract the 2004 World's Fair to Missouri. If you remember your history, St. Louis became the center of the world stage when it hosted the 1904 World's Fair so on the centennial anniversary, Rich and his team hoped to recapture that attention for our area.
But Rich was really coming out of nowhere. However, he was passionate and committed. Our campaign slogan - "Capture the Spirit" - took us across the state campaigning passionately about the economic realities of hosting a World's Fair and building high-speed rail.
In fact, Rich was so committed to the idea of high-speed rail he legally changed his name to Richard Thomas "Bullet Train" Pisani, so it could appear on the ballot that way. (Yes, I was married to "Bullet Train.") Definitely an interesting marketing strategy.
A lot of people thought Rich was off his rocker. In fact, four or five years ago someone gave me a daily calendar which listed the "dumbest things" people have ever done. Rich's legal name change appeared on one of the pages.
Now, nearly 20 years later, another politician proclaims the need for high-speed rail. Do you think President Obama will legally change his name to Barack "Bullet Train" Obama? (Michelle, we need to talk.)
The moral of this story. Never say never. Timing is important for every entrepreneur, but sometimes it's simply a matter of waiting for your day to come.