All too often these days, we see the success stories bandied around on social media and in the news - entrepreneurs who have made it big and now, with some creative branding, are morphing their success into new ventures. Good for them.
The downside is that this has significantly changed how people view the term "entrepreneur." As I've said before, the millionaire in a flyover state importing and selling widgets on Amazon likely isn't an entrepreneur. In some cases, he's only barely a small business owner.
Now, I'm not throwing rocks - your bank account balance is none of my business, but the facts speak for themselves - if you don't have a business, you aren't an entrepreneur. At the same time, the expectations of what it means to be an entrepreneur are radically different today, too - a generation ago, an entrepreneur was someone who had either made it big or was in the process of doing so. They were dreamers who had created incredible wealth or were eccentrics who didn't have a brick-and-mortar building to go to work in each day.
Today, though, the current idea of the entrepreneur is one who starts a business, is immediately successful, and simply needs to stand around and cash checks for the rest of their lives.
"Entrepreneur" is a sexy word with lots of implications for a lot of people, but there are a few things that business owners need to understand before they ever decide to step up to entrepreneurship.
· Your success is never guaranteed. Sure, it's easy to start a business - you can create a veritable avalanche of new entities with a few clicks of your mouse and then run them right from the couch. That makes you a business owner, not an entrepreneur. If you take those ideas and grow them into an enterprise that successfully solves a specific issue for your clients, then you might just be on the way to being an entrepreneur.
· That great idea? It might not be. Sure, the statistics on small businesses failing are terrible and have been for many years. In my experience, many of those closures are the result of bad parts of a business - a restaurant in a bad location, an attorney who costs too much, an auto repair shop that doesn't handle certain vehicles - but rarely the business itself. On the other hand, the ease at which one person can now open a business online means that a lot of would-be entrepreneurs have never vetted their business plan. They just hung out a virtual shingle and hoped someone would come along to pay them.
· Did anyone tell you how much work you had to do? From the first days I began coaching entrepreneurs and trying to help them in their course-corrections, I was always amazed at the expectations for the time involved. Sure, when you're successful and have all the trains running on time, you don't work as much. On the other hand, when you are building a company from scratch, you are virtually guaranteed 12 hour days. (Here's a hint - take the time to establish the systems you need in those early days of your company. Why? Well, once they are done and on paper, they help you to NOT spend 70 hours a week in the office. THAT's the secret of The E-Myth Revisited!)
· Whatever success you'll enjoy in your business needs to be achieved, not given. How many times have you looked at an email in the last hour of your day before you leave the office only to find something you really have to address before you can leave? Do you jump on it, no matter what your plans were, or do you leave it until Monday? Procrastination kills businesses as surely as a lack of sales. Again, setting the expectations with yourself ... if you wanted to act like an employee and not an entrepreneur, you should still be working for someone else. Hold yourself to a higher standard and do the things that need to be done - when they need to be done!
· The "overnight success" is the exception, not the rule. If you opened your doors thinking the money was going to pour in, then good for you. I'm a huge believer in the power of positive thinking, but you need to add a healthy dose of realism. You need to understand that if you are going to take on the title of entrepreneur, you have to plan on it being a cause or a company that you are willing to spend a lot of time, effort, and yes, money on. Look back at Jobs, or Gates, or Kroc and you'll see - they sacrificed for the company in the early years and, in some ways, "became" the company. Their brand was tied to their personality and vice versa. Can you do that? If your company worth doing that for? You have to know that before you ever open the doors - it's a part of your own dream, vision, purpose, and mission.
To step up the level of success you demand and to earn the title of entrepreneur, you have to practice that craft and those skills everyday. You have to rewire your own brain to think differently.
Success isn't guaranteed, but consistently doing these things with determination will give you the best shot at the success you seek.