Should You Become an Entrepreneur?By Donald J. Strankowski
Ascend Career and Life Strategies
Individuals like you, with dreams and ambitions, are starting new businesses today at a faster rate than ever before. Over one million new ventures are being launched each year, and the rate is accelerating. The opportunities for finding or developing a new business idea are all around you, and with the proper preparation and mental mindset, the possibilities for your success are enormous.
However, we also know that approximately 80 to 90 percent of new businesses fail in the first three years due to a variety of factors. One major factor is managerial naiveté. It is an inability to sell the product or an inability to control costs or both. Another major reason for failure is offering the wrong product at the wrong price to the wrong market at the wrong time, or a combination of these factors. In this instance, even the best marketing efforts and cost controls won't help you. Many of the business failures today can also be traced back to a lack of preparation, initial research, and commitment.
Making a career change into another position and industry is one thing. Taking on the total responsibility of becoming an entrepreneur is something completely different. Making a change into a different career involves a change in budget. Becoming an entrepreneur includes making a dramatic change in lifestyle. As an entrepreneur, you may spend more time working your business than if you worked for someone else however, you also have the option of adjusting your time to work in certain family and personal activities. You need to ask yourself, "Is this a viable career option for me?" As someone who has started their own business and nurtured it into profitability, here is my answer: It all depends on what your motivations are. There are some key ingredients you must have if you are to make this career option of becoming an entrepreneur work for you. If you are unsure or in any way lacking in any one of these areas, your chances for success will be greatly diminished.
Sure, a person needs business acumen and smarts to run their own operation. But the keys to success (or failure) lie deeper in our personal qualities than in how much we absorbed in Economics and Marketing 101. They are personal qualities that we all possess to one degree or another and can be improved and refined through our own self-development. They are, in no particular order:
Let’s take a look at each quality more closely. You can then determine if you are willing to make the jump to being your own boss.
With any new business, the fear of failing is a daily occurrence. Concerns about capital, competition, meeting payroll, driving revenues, and promotion are usually foremost in the entrepreneur’s mind. All out paranoia and constant worry are detrimental to one’s success. However, motivation by slight fear can be a powerful tool. You must proceed ahead in spite of your fears, accepting the fact that you may crash and burn and have to start over. Many of today’s successful businesses are the result of starting over—many times. Once you have accepted the fact that you are going to ride the storm out no matter what and that you will face many obstacles along the way, the entire day-to-day operations of starting own business become much easier. Accept the fact that you will fall and skin your knees—a lot—and view each occurrence as a learning experience rather than a set back.
One of the key benefits to being your own boss is just that; you report to no one but you. Now, do you have the will power to do what you have to do when you have to do it, no matter what? If you think for one moment that being your own boss equates to working less, stop right here. This option isn’t for you. The fact is, you will actually be working many more hours. The tradeoff however is that it’s your personal project. Only you can decide how far to take it. With this in mind, the self-discipline needed to buckle down and take care of business is paramount to the success of your business.
As I mentioned earlier, becoming an entrepreneur includes making a dramatic change in lifestyle. First you need start-up capital. Whether you take out a small business loan or use your own savings, you need money from somewhere. Secondly, you still have to account for your own living expenses. Chances are you’re business will not show a profit for 12-36 months. How will you account for this? You need to incorporate a high level of frugality in everything you do as it relates to your own business and personal life.
You must be 100 percent committed to making your venture a complete success. It all starts with passion. Are you starting this business for the right reasons? If it’s all about money, probably not. Most entrepreneurs are passionate about their businesses and what they do. Many of the successful business owners don’t even think of their operations as “work.” When you have this level of passion, you are dedicated to the degree of making your business work—no matter what. If you have anything less than a high level of desire and enthusiasm for what you are doing, you are reducing your chances for success substantially.
Your business may have been started on a great idea. However, what do you know about taxes, marketing, distribution, and selling into major accounts? Maybe a little bit in each area, but not a whole lot in any particular one. You need to confer with experts who can give you solid advice in any area that you are not already an expert in. This means putting your ego in your back pocket and listening carefully to what they have to say. Rather than doing it all yourself, take some time and learn or consult with people who are experts in their field. Learn from other’s mistakes as to minimize yours. The time spent learning from the people who have been successful in their respective fields will save you ten-fold down the road in terms of headaches and growing pains.
How committed are you to your cause? What are you willing to sacrifice? How are you going to handle failures and setbacks? The answers you give to these questions will determine your level of perseverance. When the going gets tough, will you get going or go shopping? To maximize your chances for success, you must employ what I call the Titanic Principle; you must be willing to go down with your ship. You must be 100 percent committed to achieving your goals and riding out the storm, even when the weather gets extremely rough. No one has ever achieved greatly without passing the persistence test. Your level of perseverance, fortitude and conviction will determine your level of success more so than anything else.
Don't look for easy money. Don't look for gimmicks, useless gadgets, promises of overnight wealth, get-rich-quick schemes or rewards without working, because there aren't any. You must be willing to put in a lot of hard work and long hours before you start making any real money in a business, particularly one you’re starting from the ground up.
It takes on average two to three years to break even in the average business. It takes almost three to four years to show a profit and generally more than five to generate any real cash flow. So you have to be patient and pay your dues. If you're impatient and are constantly taking shortcuts, you'll end up setting yourself farther back than you can possibly imagine.
Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone. It involves heavy sacrifice in both time and lifestyle, especially in the early stages. However, the rewards of owning your own business and being your own boss can balance the equation. Most successful entrepreneurs wouldn’t trade it for anything. Also, know that most millionaires (up to 90 percent by some accounts) in the United States are independent business owners. You must decide first how willing you are to make the needed sacrifices and how passionate you are about your cause.
Donald J. Strankowski Jr. is founder and President of Ascend Career and Life Strategies, a training and consulting firm for businesses, professionals, executives. He works out of Boulder, Colorado and can be contacted at 303-245-7049, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at www.AscendCareers.net.