You find yourself telling friends and family, “I’m thinking about becoming an entrepreneur.”
Not good enough.
If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you must be thinking, I have to become an entrepreneur.
It has to be a burning desire, not a passing thought. The challenges you’ll face along the way, the storms you must endure, all demand an intense entrepreneurial drive to succeed.
I interviewed author, speaker, and 40-year entrepreneur, Chip Bell, about this phenomenon. As he put it, “Whenever someone says to me ‘I’m thinking about’, it gives me pause. I want to say, ‘Come back to me when it’s I have to…'”
That speaks to the first of five success principles Bell (and I) offer for those that not only have to become an entrepreneur but end up doing it well:
As Bell told me:
“Under the emotional surface of every successful entrepreneur is a drive, zeal, and yearning. It’s the source of their tenacity and persistence. People who are employed often live their work at work; entrepreneurs live it all the time.”
Bell also says entrepreneurs are driven by what needs to get done, not hours on the clock. Often, the passion you pour into your venture requires sacrifice in other parts of your life. I’m not saying you’ll have to compromise your values or turn your back on loved ones, but there are times when “having it all”, all at once, just won’t happen. Be ready.
A smart editor once told me that if you want to sell a book idea, it must fill a hole. Ninety-nine percent of book proposals aren’t bought because there’s no unique problem the book would solve or a unique way the book would solve a long existing problem. The same holds true for most business ideas.
Bell pointed out that passion only takes you so far. He described a couple with a huge passion for wines and gourmet pizza that opened a restaurant. It closed within a few months because there were two other pizza restaurants and a national chain nearby.
Their offering wasn’t a unique value proposition.
3. Acquired Intelligence
I’m not talking about the microprocessor you’re running upstairs. I’m talking about doing your homework on the market you want to serve and the product/service you want to create.
As Bell told me, such intel answers the question, “Who will do business with me, and why?” Doing the work to understand your audience increases the likelihood you’ll experience an entrepreneur’s Holy Grail–the referral. It goes so much further than merely “hanging your shingle” via a business card and website.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. I hired some researchers to help me conduct focus groups/interviews on which problems/issues leaders most needed solving. Then I tailored my offerings to solve that problem. I’m constantly talking to other entrepreneurs in my space to unearth success principles. You can too.
Successful entrepreneurs have to be able to shift gears, quickly. I’m not talking about flitting from vision to vision or idea to idea with reckless abandon. It’s about being in touch with the market and the opportunities and challenges that arise, and then being prepared to make adjustments.
I never thought I’d have such a robust coaching business but the market demanded it. It wasn’t inconsistent with the rest of my business model and I have the skills to do it well, so I flexed to the opportunity. Sometimes, you even have to be agile enough to pivot your entire business model, not just adjust it.
Strength is born from flexibility.
Everyone knows entrepreneurs inherently take risks. But Bell pointed out that risk-taking comes from confidence, which comes from having resources at your disposal. Bell defined resources as:
“..having some money in the bank (financial savings double your family income), a network of trusted advisors, a smart business plan, a smart staff that can bolster your weaknesses (not your brother-in-law because he works cheap), and a line of credit.”
Wantrepreneurs often cite finances as the barrier to making the leap. I never encourage someone to just “go for it” without having such a stockpile of resources available.