Are You The Next Big Entrepreneur?
February 19, 2015
A famous restaurateur once told me, “The only real way to get rich is to be your own boss.” With his being just one of many success stories that have mushroomed of late, today’s economy is increasingly becoming anyone’s playing field. Many of us daydream about striking out on our own, on our own terms; and finally having the world embrace our genius. But how do we know we’ve got what it takes? We’ve compiled certain statements that showcase qualities many successful entrepreneurs have – and if more than one speaks to or sounds like you, then take heart, grit your teeth, and get ready for the wonderful madcap world of entrepreneurship. Your vision is one that lights that fire under your @$$. What IS this grand vision that’s luring you away from the comfort and security of life as an employee? It’s got to be something that stokes your excitement and belief; and is enough to get you out of bed at 3 AM and keep you going till 2:45 AM the next day. Especially because when you start out, you will be both your own workforce and spokesperson – and as any marketing professional worth their salt can tell you, people respond to passion. If potential customers see that you believe in what you’re selling, they’ll listen. Which is the first step to transforming them from buyers into your own personal advocates. You have a vision that goes beyond the money... Let’s face it – in the beginning, you’re going to have to spend more than you will earn. Your return on investment will only start making itself felt after about a year, and that’s if you’re lucky. So your vision needs to be strong enough to hold through the lean years. Which brings us to our next point. And the fear, and the naysayers. Burlesque star Dita von Teese once said, “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” And so it goes with your vision. For every handful of cheerleaders you have, count on there being a million and one people pointing out all the holes in your plan. Someone will always be there to stoke your fears of failure, bankruptcy, and so on. So in the face of all that, your vision has to be something you can hold steadily on to even as you stumble towards it. Such is the path of a visionary – you really do have to struggle before the world acknowledges you as Jobs 2.0, and not as someone who belongs in a straitjacket. (And even then not everyone will. Which is okay. Really.) You’re ready to be everything to it. You’ve got to be ready to get into your business, not just up to your elbows, but sometimes to a point that people will warn you’re in over your head. There’s no boss here but you – so you have to be extremely flexible in doing everything (or at least knowing how it works). Many who got laid off during the US recession bravely took on the challenge of starting their own endeavors. It would be a piece of cake, a lot of people assumed. After all, they’d be able to dictate their own hours and run things exactly as they pleased. But to the dismay of many, their new enterprises left them a lot more tired than their old day jobs – because not only were they their own new bosses, they were also the labor, the clerks, the accounting department, the porters, and so on. They found themselves working way more hours than they’d ever worked before; and that was essentially because they were doing the work of ten people. So entrepreneurship is a lot harder than everyone makes it look – but as a wise person once said, “The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.” …but know where to get help if needed. Nobody can really do everything themselves and shouldn’t, unless they want to go bananas. Which is why we hear stories of successful people thanking their parents for letting them move back home for a while; spouses for all the patience; other friends who have helped them by designing a logo or offering free services. Turn to your support system for actual help or leads; and you may be pleasantly surprised. They will be both your first guinea pigs for your market offering; and your spokespeople and models once you’ve got it figured out. Just don’t forget them once you make it big. You have the endurance to see it through. By all accounts, entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time and more patience than usual, as is usual with all things that must be cultivated and grown properly. So you will need to know when to pace yourself, and bide your time until the timing is right for your product or service. You’re selling something that is easy to love. One of the axioms at Google is “Make something easy to love, and the money will follow.” Please note, it’s not about just doing what you love, but something that your desired customer base will both value and desire. Google is a prime example – its ease of use, not to mention its omnipresence, have made it an invaluable part of life as we know it. IKEA designs are 1) not your mother’s furniture, 2) are incredibly easy to put together, 3) sell for a price you can get behind. Or even think back to your own Facebook posts – notice that the ones that have earned the most likes are those that are either highly useful or amusing to your friends, not just yourself. Your customers know the difference between what is self-serving and what they actually want. And with social media giving everyone a voice these days, they won’t be shy about letting you know whether they love it or hate it. You know that a good reputation is key. Not all of us start out as entrepreneurs – most of us cut our teeth working for someone else. And along the way, we build up our reputations in our respective industries. This gets bruited about the longer you work – and can very well work for or against you. And it’s key when you finally strike out on your own, because chances are, you will still be tapping the same contacts and clients – and when you don’t have the clout of your former office any more, your reputation as a good worker who’s pleasant to deal with will see you through. That said, a word to the wise – be very careful and try not to burn bridges with former employers or contacts. You never know who you might end up working with again in the future. You’re willing to learn the rules so you know how to break them. As stated in the previous point, your former workplaces are where you learn the ropes of your chosen industry. While you’re there, take every opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your field. What do you like about it? What is absolutely necessary and what isn’t? Who are your most high-value clients, and who should you save for later investments? If you were boss, how would you improve your offerings? With a strong foundation grounded in the basics, you’ll be able to pinpoint opportunities for your own business; be able to distinguish between the absolute must-have investments and the nice-to-have expenses, and allot your resources accordingly. You have to be able to tell it like it is. That goes for your potential investors, your customers, but most importantly, yourself. You have to be able to be brutally honest with yourself if your business model or something in the mix isn’t working. This way, you can cut losses as early as possible, or take the necessary steps to prevent you from being bogged down. But that said, don’t forget to acknowledge yourself for the challenge you’ve entered – every morning, you should be able to look yourself in the mirror and acknowledge the steps you’re making in this journey which, let’s face it – is is not for the faint of heart. But if one does their homework; has patience, temerity, creativity (not to mention a sense of humor!), time will show you just how fortune favors the bold.