A lifelong entrepreneur dishes on the things they’re not telling you in business school.
1. This job is rough, tough, and most likely not for you.
The vast majority of people I talk to who want to become an entrepreneur are 100% certain they can leave their job, create something out of nothing, and be financially self-reliant within a short time. I, however, am 100% certain they cannot. If you think you are an entrepreneur, most likely you are not.
In 90 days, most of you will be out of business … and 90 days is a stretch. The odds are absolutely stacked against you. If I were a betting man, I would bet that your first attempt would fail. Quickly.
None of this is to say you should not believe in yourself if you want to be an entrepreneur. You should. You must. But believing in yourself without some sort of concept of reality is foolish, and it’s the trap most new entrepreneurs fall into.
Most of the time, people are not in a mental state where they can face rejection and “no” after “no.” And trust me, there will be tons of “no’s” in the beginning.
2. Don’t be foolish—test your idea.
One of the biggest reasons so many new entrepreneurs fail is because they have an idea they think will work, so they jump into it without actually knowing whether it will work or not.
Test your idea on a small scale before implementing it on a large scale. For example, if you’re an author (and yes, authors absolutely are entrepreneurs), you should always write a book proposal before investing the months or years it might take you to write the manuscript.
See if there is outside interest and the perception of value before you risk your life’s savings. If there is no interest or perception of value you can find … that might be a clue. So many people think they have “THE” idea, when in reality they only have a “so what?” idea.
3. Start by financing your business yourself.
The startup industry is booming right now. There’s so much venture capital out there that everyone thinks their idea is worthy of hundreds of thousands in angel investor dollars.
Everyone seems to think they have a Google- or Facebook-level idea, but what they don’t think about is the fact that those were not overnight successes.
Watch the Facebook movie. They were busting their butts for years! They had already proven their value by the time the cash was rolling in the door.
Don’t wait on outside dollars. Finance it yourself. Remember that you are NOT short money; you ARE only short one idea—so find that one idea to make more money now. Today is critical.
4. You should not quit your day job right away.
This is the most obvious way to finance your entrepreneurship. What it takes to be an entrepreneur is not take full time immediately. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you can test it while still having a full time job.
When I started managing Andy Andrews over 30 years ago, I backed myself up with three part time jobs.
And if you think you don’t have the time to work a full time job (or several part time jobs) and work on your entrepreneurial dream, then you haven’t read Jon Acuff’s Quitter.
5. There is only one number that matters.
When you launch a new business, especially if it’s online, you’re going to be poring over all sorts of analytics, charts, spreadsheets, etc.
These numbers will seem important, but they’re not. There’s only one number any new entrepreneur needs to dedicate any amount of worry to—this number MUST have a dollar sign in front of it.
How much money are you making? Are you impressing your banker? If not, you are either doing something wrong or you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle. Focus all your effort into finding cash NOW.
6. Never assume anything about anyone.
The biggest mistake I’ve made as an entrepreneur is that I once thought other people knew what they were doing. I assumed that if they had the degree or the company that says they knew how to do something … that they actually knew how to do something.
The majority of people you are going to need to help you out, whether it’s website creation, copywriting, branding, or anything else, will say they know what they’re doing, but it’s the minority who actually can deliver on that promise.
Finding an accountant who can count, a graphic designer who can do graphics, and a web person who can make websites is so much more difficult than it sounds.
The harsh reality is that there is no right answer. When you start, trial and error are your two biggest tests. The only semi-reliable quality you can go on is whether the person you are hiring has the “people” quality. Do they leave you with a good impression? Do they know how to communicate? Can they write an email without sounding like a fool?
If you can answer “yes” to those questions, that’s a start.
7. You need to go to bed crying and wake up vomiting.
If this is going to work, everything in your being has to be so intense that these two functions become regular. You have to be so passionate that it feels like your hair is on fire 24/7.
If you walk around casually sipping a cup of coffee every morning, you are not an entrepreneur. A true entrepreneur is running so fast they probably have forgotten to eat breakfast and take a shower. It is impossible to be an entrepreneur and stand around the water cooler with a cup of coffee. It will not happen.
Some of this post may have discouraged a few of you. If so—good! The world needs fewer passionless entrepreneurs.
However, if you made it through … and you STILL possess a desire to make whatever your venture is work … then I hate to say it, but you should definitely go for it.
Jump right in, but do it with a sense of reality. Keep these seven things in mind, work, work, and then work some more … and you just might make it.
Never lose sight, however, of what makes every business successful—people. You are now officially in the people business. Welcome, and congratulations!
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