The topic of “what it takes to be an entrepreneur” gets only a little less ink than “what it takes to be a leader”.
Perhaps this is because so many strive to work for themselves. It seems a romantic thought to work for yourself and yet for me, the experience has been everything except romantic.
Since selling my first business and committing to serve others, I’ve had a first meeting with a couple aspiring entrepreneurs a week. That means over 1,000 have crossed my radar screen.
Less than 100 remain visible.
Most wash out because I require written plans. I learned early on that everyone is willing to talk about their dreams yet few are willing write the 10-12 drafts it takes to come up with a real plan.
Why do they resist planning? Maybe because it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen? Others may shy away because planning takes a lot of work. And of the few who complete a solid plan many walk away because their good planning shows that the risk of starting a business outweighs the benefit.
And so, 9 out of 10 of those who have approached me about starting a business fail to launch.
Worse, the Small Business Administration estimates that 70% of those who do launch eventually fail. This estimate seems locally accurate as well.
I have found that each new business opportunity is different for each person who is considering taking the leap. And each individuals personal situation is different, too.
My business started in 1988 solely because I didn’t have a job. Alice and I had three small kids so we had to figure out what people needed – find a need and fill it – then figure how that could pay me enough money to support us. That’s how and why we launched “Contract Marketing”.
Entrepreneurial plans should fit around your life. Not vice versa.
It is ever so personal and subjective. And so, we ask each prospect to write a life plan before we teach them business planning.
Most people approach entrepreneuring in reverse – looking for the big idea in business without considering chasing the dream’s effect on their life and their family.
In Ashtabula, the people who’ve grown businesses over the last 12 years who I admire the most are the folks who’ve built their business around their family and life desires.
When your chances are 30%, writing your life strategy before your business strategy is crucial. That is, when you’re fighting for what you want for your life you’ll do the things in business you might least like to do.
Which brings me to the only secret I know for “what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur”: you must be willing and able to do things you hate to do.
The best entrepreneurs I know follow Hall of Fame football player, Jerry Rice, who said, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”