What Does It Take to Be a Successful Entrepreneur?

So, you want to be an entrepreneur. In my opinion, there are few higher callings in life.

Just imagine where our society would be if it weren’t for those who felt called to strike out on their own and build a for-profit business or launch a not-for-profit initiative.

What would the automobile industry have looked like had it not been for Henry Ford? Where would industry and philanthropy be were it not for Andrew Carnegie?

Who has been a bigger entertainment and media influencer than Oprah Winfrey? How quickly would computers have become mainstream were it not for Bill Gates?

Who would have opened the doors for the athletic endorsement empire if Michael Jordan had not come along? When would technology products have become so advanced if it weren’t for Steve Jobs?

And how quickly would the food delivery industry have progressed if not for Little Caesars Pizza co-founder and billionaire Marian Ilitch?

The road ahead will be challenging

Those are just a few of the incredibly successful entrepreneurs who changed the way we view and interact with the world.

Now, having said that, I think it’s important that we look at the flip side of this coin in order to remain realistic. The sad truth is that approximately 90% of start-up businesses fail during the first year.

That’s despite the high ideals and strong work ethics of those focused on launching those businesses. Plenty of other startups go belly up during years two through five.

Believe me, the last thing I want to do is discourage someone from launching a new business. It’s one of the most exciting things anyone can attempt to accomplish.

And who knows? You could end up being the next Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs.

But before you decide to go all in, conduct some self-examination. And if you don’t feel you can be objective about it, ask a few close family members and friends to provide honest feedback.

It’s time to look inward

Here are 5 questions I’d recommend asking yourself:

• Am I an effective communicator? Regardless of who you need to communicate with – vendors, employees, current and potential customers, investors, media, etc. – you need to be able to express your vision in a logical and persuasive way. Let them see both your enthusiasm and your realistic view of handling the inevitable obstacles.

• Am I a good salesperson? You may end up having salespeople working for you, but before that happens you have to sell them on the value of your product, service, or initiative. You’ll also have to sell investors on why they should get involved in your company, customers on why they should spend money with you, and media on why they should publicize your efforts.

• Can I roll with the punches? If launching a successful business were smooth and easy, everyone would do it. I can guarantee that you will encounter a series of roadblocks, some of which will make you wonder why you ever thought this was a good idea. It’s times like these when you need to remind yourself that every successful entrepreneur has gone through the same things and emerged victorious through

• Am I capable of developing a solid business strategy that will stand firm as the landscape shifts? Most entrepreneurs have put plenty of thought into their business strategy, but the plans most likely to succeed are ones flexible enough to adapt to changing conditions. Many business plans fall apart when the unexpected occurs. Including pandemics, inflation, and supply chain problems.

• Am I willing to learn? Entrepreneurs who think they already know everything there is to know about their industry and the people they’ll be dealing with are in for a rude awakening. A much better mindset is one that realizes change is inevitable and keeping up with those changes is crucial. Be willing to learn from a wide variety of sources, including articles in related journals, podcasts, conference speakers, and conversations with others in your industry.

Learn before you leap

One more thing… There is a lot you can learn by working for someone else in your preferred industry before tackling the huge challenge of launching a new business.

I was one of the fortunate 10% whose start-up business became successful. And which is still thriving 15 years later.

But what I learned while working in the corporate world for 10 years before launching my business was invaluable. I discovered what worked and what didn’t work. And if I had to single out one thing I learned, it would be how crucial customer service is to the success of a business.

I also learned to dream bigger than what I had assumed was probable and what I believed was possible. So, devour everything you can as an employee and don’t burn any bridges when you decide to take your leave. Then, give it everything you’ve got.

Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville, TN.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your personal circumstances and/or your business.

Image by Alyibel Colmenares from Pixabay