What Makes an Successful Entrepreneur?

I was listening to a call-in podcast this week.  One caller was dissatisfied with his current company and wanted to start his own business in the same field.  The host asked the caller if he knew how much the business was making and the caller replied, “I know what we charge and what I make.  I can run this so much better.”

Sound familiar?  Nearly every employee, and most entrepreneurs I know have said, “I can do better”.  Whether you had a better idea or just a better way of doing things, saying “I can do better” is often the first step – it certainly was for me.

But the fact is, most don’t “do better”.  They either won’t – let’s face it, a steady paycheck is tough to leave – or they can’t, and their attempt never quite gets off the ground.  Yet there are others who succeed at starting and running their own businesses.  What do these people do differently?

  1. They do their research. Before starting my business, I studied the market.  I created revenue and expense projections.  I figured out startup costs and made sure I had enough for contingencies, which I needed.  It was a good thing too – I had grossly underestimated the speed at which I would grow and needed that contingency fund.
  2. They get comfortable with risk. Most employees cannot get past the thought of not having a steady paycheck, or with the fact that they will spend money every month – hundreds, even thousands of dollars – before earning any revenue.   Getting comfortable doesn’t mean you have to go “cold turkey” – many business owners start a business in their spare time or find a side hustle.  I did – I taught classes while I built my business.
  3. They put in the work. To quote Forrest Gump, running a business is   There are dramatic highs and lows.  It tests you in a way that few other things do.  I thought of giving up a few times along the way.  Then I gave myself a mental shake, pulled up my big girl panties and got to work.  Every damn day.
  4. They do it with respect and integrity. I’m a big fan of good, honest competition – it drives innovation and customers are better off in the long run.  But successful business owners don’t take shortcuts.  They honor agreements, they don’t poach clients and they don’t parasite off others.  I watched two employees start businesses in the same industry.  The first honored existing agreements and acted with integrity, the second not so much.  Guess who’s still around today? (Also?  )

So, if you’re thinking you can do better, you’re not alone.  If you have the drive, determination and appetite for risk, I encourage you.  And if you do all of the above with integrity, I’ll be your biggest fan.  (Of course, if you’re sneaky, underhanded and unethical, I’ll also root against you.  With gusto.)

And if you just want to complain?   That’s great too.  Business ownership is not for everyone.  Just respect those who take the risk.  After all, they’re probably the ones employing you.

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