Entrepreneurs aren't a dime a dozen anymore. According to The Wall Street Journal's research, the number of entrepreneurs is the lowest it's been since before Y2K. It seems that for every Mark Zuckerberg or Brian Acton, thousands upon thousands of Millennials are eschewing the founder path.
Perhaps they've realized what Marc Fischer, CEO and founder of mobile technology studio Dogtown Media, has learned: "Startup founders have a duty to question the status quo, state a bold vision, hack the system, and disrupt everything they touch. Joining the club of entrepreneurship is easy; executing on the vision is hard."
His words ring true for anyone who's had a brilliant idea only to discover that breathing life into it makes Dr. Frankenstein's job look like a piece of cake.
As Fischer learned in his time as a mobile app developer, "Graveyards are filled with founders who floundered and failed for a million and one different reasons." Why? Most people just aren't ready to question the status quo and disrupt en masse.
Whether you already have a revolutionary concept you want to bring to the world or you're merely eager to write your own paycheck, you need more than passion and dreams to reach successful entrepreneurship. You must be willing to adopt true leader characteristics and integrate them into the fabric of your working philosophy.
1. Track your finances like a hawk.
You don't have to become obsessive, but you should know as much about your balance sheets as your accountant.
"Many new businesses underestimate their operating costs and overestimate their profits, which can lead to failure pretty quickly," says David Disiere, founder and CEO of transportation insurance agency QEO Insurance Group. "Make sure your projections are realistic and your startup is well-funded before you get started, and once you do, stay on top of your finances. Even if you use an accountant or hire an employee to manage the financial side of your business, you still need to understand your fiscal standing at all times to ensure your business stays in the black."
Not sure how to understand all those numbers and make smart projections? Gain a basic education by doing some in-depth research online or asking for advice from a finance whiz. The more comfortable you are with your accounts, the better you'll be able to stay afloat.
2. Just do something already.
Everyone knows someone who has tons of plans and knows a million and one useless facts yet never takes one step forward. That's akin to planning a whirlwind trip to Europe, mapping out every step of the journey, and then shelving the itinerary. Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk took a no-holds-barred viewpoint of this mindset during a recent blog rant: "Too many of you just read and consume and make pretend. ..."
Don't be that guy or gal. Sure, it's fine to study up on the competition, create all sorts of disruptive objectives, and brainstorm until the cows come home. But at the end of the day, all talk and no action equates to zero entrepreneurship. Allow your dreams to leverage actions. No one snagged a client by sitting on the sofa and wishing something would happen.
3. Give yourself mental and physical breaks.
If you haven't realized it already, all work and no play really is a recipe for disaster. As an entrepreneur, you can expect to work like a dog. Hey, Elon Musk reportedly still works 80-90 hours weekly, after all. However, he's stepped back a bit because he realizes that bodies and minds aren't computers.
Even if you can't do more than snag 30-minute walks or bike rides or use your favorite app to enjoy a few solid hours of REM sleep per night, you'll be doing more than the workaholics on their way to burnout city.
4. Ask for -- and take -- all the advice you can get.
You don't know everything. Neither do I. Augment your knowledge gaps with a little assistance and advice from others. Of course, be sure to implement what you learn as well. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is seeking counsel but never using it to better themselves or their processes.
At the same time, don't forget to share what you find out. Author, coach, and speaker John Maxwell has noted: "The true measure of leadership is not how much you achieve; it is how much you inspire others to achieve." Stop being selfish; generously spread your insights like seeds ready to burst.
5. Replace bad habits with smarter ones.
Human beings are reliably consistent. You can depend on it. Unfortunately, they're not always consistently making good choices.
Take time to jot down your worst work habits standing in the way of you becoming a founder. Are you a procrastinator? A self-saboteur? Generally afraid of failure? Be honest with yourself. Systematically work to turn your poor habits into smarter ones, inching closer to becoming a leader who can pick up the torch and get people to eagerly follow. I've written a book on this topic.
Truth be told, just about anyone who's willing to make changes and take action has the capacity for entrepreneurship. Figure out what's standing in your way, and push it aside.