It takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur.
It requires a rare blend of risk taker, visionary, creative thinker, resilience, perseverance, confidence, and tenacity to even start a business, much less run one successfully. It’s not for the faint of heart. Since the week of November 13-17 is Global Entrepreneurship Week, this month’s column will offer entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ideas on growing and protecting a successful business.
The dictionary defines entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” With all due respect, I would revise that to “always” with considerable initiative and risk to health, wealth, and sanity. While entrepreneurs built this country, it’s never been the easy way to go in creating a way of life. As both a former employee and an entrepreneur, I can confidently say that employees rarely lack the full understanding or empathy for what it takes to start and build any business. It’s the ultimate risk and reward situation. To that end, let’s examine a few thoughts I have for both starting and growing a business:
- You have an idea on how to create a business out of your skill set? Great. You’d better also have a passion for it because you will be tested. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you will die on a hill for it, and sometimes that’s what it might ask you to do. It’s a two-sided sword you must wield: competence and passion.
- You need boldness and confidence. This is no place for the meek. While humility is a personal virtue, nobody wants to hire a humble consultant, attorney, IT expert, contractor, CPA, or brain surgeon. I’m not suggesting arrogance, which is aloofness with no care for the well being of others. Confidence is believing that you are highly skilled and able to improve the conditions of others with genuine concern for their improvement. You must be able to boldly project and communicate that confidence.
- You need to line up enough financial reserves for six months. While it may not take that long to get going making money, you don’t need the stress of a financial burden to cause desperation.
- Create a marketing “process.” Business plans look good on a shelf, but often don’t ever get looked at. What you need to focus on in as acquiring clients. That means picking up the phone, setting meetings, and solving problems for them.
- Plan for obstacles. Bad things happen. Whether in your control or not, you need to create a strategy and plan for being resilient. It’s a combination of adequate insurance, strategic planning, communications, and practice.
- Have a board of advisors. Too many entrepreneurs go the “lone wolf” route. The smartest business owners are the ones that surround themselves with experts and sages. Executive coaches, technical experts (finance, IT, Human Resources), and peer groups are crucial for assuring you don’t get caught breathing you own exhaust.
- Constantly reinvent. Don’t become stale; rather constantly seek ways to build the better mousetrap; to differentiate yourself from the competition; and to find new ways to help your clients. Business (and life) is about changing realities. Be on the cutting edge of change.
- Hire strong people. Building a strong team is paramount to growing and transitioning out of your business. Don’t settle for warm bodies; rather demand excellence from your team. That starts with you. Modeling and mentoring is required to build a top-flight team of employees.
- Plan for obstacles. Look familiar? Let’s just say “ditto” for the suggestions from above. Entrepreneurs may be resilient by nature, but often get bloodied and bruised in the process. Make it easier for yourself with proper pre-planning of crisis and critical systems.
- Remember to have fun. I’ve met too many entrepreneurs that work themselves to a frazzle. They become a worse boss than the one they left to start a business. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, then you should go get a job working for someone else. It’s not worth the sacrifice if you’re not enjoying the journey.
Bonus: Vibe Coworks in Poulsbo will be offering an exciting lineup of events, activities, and workshops to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Check out their schedule at www.VibeCoworks.com. What an opportunity to learn more and engage with fellow entrepreneurs.
Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are the engines that run our communities and country. You are responsible for hiring and developing more people that the Fortune 500 companies. You’ve taken a huge financial and emotional risk, with hopes and dreams of making a better life for yourself and your employees. For all of you, I leave you with three final words of encouragement as you end one year and prepare for the next:
- Don’t listen to the haters. You know who they are. They are energy suckers and will only harm you and your business. Stay positive and focused on the next step in the journey.
- Don’t be one of the haters. Positivity starts with self-talk. Worry is a bully; it gives you nothing and only takes. Keep your confidence and boldness up.
- Utilize help. There’s no glory in being stubborn and trying to do it on your own. There are colleagues, experts, and friends that can help in a multitude of ways, be it emotional or financial. Find those friends that believe in you and always keep fighting the good fight.
It takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur. Go be crazy!
© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
My November column for the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal.