One day you decide that you have had it with your current job and that you are going to go into business for yourself. You would certainly be far from alone in those sentiments. From 2003-2007, between 610,000-645,000 new employer firms have started, and since the start of the decade the number of new non-employer businesses has increased by approximately 5.6 million according to the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau (quick note: it really doesn’t help much that the numbers aren’t as current as many would like, but I don’t think the cost of such research on a timely basis on the taxpayers’ dime wouldn’t go over so well). Those numbers do seem a bit large, but the truth is that according to research:
Two-thirds of new employer establishments survive at least two years, 44 percent survive at least four years, and 31 percent survive at least seven years.
Furthermore, the number of new employer firms is offset by the fact that between 540,000-588,000 businesses have closed down during the same time period. The reasons are many and vary from instance to instance but the numbers do not lie: not every entrepreneur is successful in their venture. It takes more than the ability to create a product or provide a service and opening up shop to be successful. Just as important, having money to start with doesn’t guarantee success either. First and foremost, one needs to possess entrepreneurial spirit: the willingness and desire to start and operate a business from the ground up. Successful entrepreneurs do not want to go into business for themselves simply to be their own boss, for the hours, or even for the money. Once you feel that you possess this entrepreneurial spirit, do a little soul-searching to see if you possess some of the other important qualities that are necessary to be a successful entrepreneur:
Having a love for what you do in life is an essential part of being an entrepreneur. Simply liking what you do is not enough, or else you would have remained an employee and not subjected yourself to the amount of work required to start a business. You need to have the kind of passion that will enable you put in the long hours and make the personal sacrifices necessary to get a venture off the ground. Sometimes, it may seem as though more time is spent working than doing everything else combined. There are times, especially in the beginning, when it may seem like you are not getting anywhere. There are times when you will be putting more money into the business than you are bringing in. Some days you may simply feel that all of your effort has gone for nothing. Having the drive and determination to keep pushing forward in spite of the bumps along the way is key since those bumps are all but guaranteed.
The successful entrepreneur is one who practices discipline and patience. They understand that success takes work, and more importantly, time. Nothing, aside from winning the lottery, happens overnight. The line from the old baseball movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come” does not apply in the business world. It takes time to develop a business model and business plan, implement a marketing campaign, find the right people to work with and employ. Even in the world of e-commerce, simply putting up a website is not enough. All of this is of particular importance if you are bootstrapping, or are attempting to avoid taking on debt while growing a business. Careful planning and budgeting is essential, but without the patience to work through the early stages, success will be difficult to achieve.
In order to be successful when starting a business, one needs to throw caution to the wind in some instances. There will always be detractors, people who tell you that your idea cannot be brought to life, or that an idea is nothing more than a pipe dream. Some people shrink at the first hint of criticism or doubt. Others embrace it. They use the negatives as a driving force, and set out to prove the detractors wrong. Being unafraid to fail, to take calculated risks regardless of what other might say, being a visionary and a leader in a given area or field are what these qualities represent. Nobody every succeeded by being complacent. None of the innovation we use in everyday life were developed by those who took the cautious road or stopped at the first sign of doubt or difficulty. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who were bucking trends, daring to be innovators and leaders rather than followers, setting precedents, and daring to be different
Nobody can do all things at all times, it’s just a fact. It is especially difficult to all of the things necessary to get a new venture going if you aren’t knowledgeable on the subject. There are all kinds of software packages for developing business or marketing plans, simple incorporation, etc., but sometimes you just need to know when to call in for reinforcements. When it comes to some things like drawing up legal documents, or installing computer systems it is best not to leave it to chance that you are doing things properly. It is one thing to be ambitious and to attempt to do everything on your own, but it is another thing altogether to venture into territory in which you have no background, experience or knowledge. Successful entrepreneurs are like great managers: they understand the importance of delegating and outsourcing certain responsibilities and procedures in an effort to not only achieve optimal results but to also make the most efficient use of their limited time and resources. Nothing is worse than wasting time (not to mention the ability to be moving ahead with the business and possibly missing out on income opportunities) trying to complete projects yourself that can be done correctly the very first time and within reasonable costs by qualified professionals. That is why they do what they do, and you do not.
Now, this is by no means a complete list of qualities that entrepreneurs should possess, and in fact it is probably true that there are some successful entrepreneurs who don’t possess any of these characteristics (although that would be very difficult to imagine). The point is, that it takes much more than a simple desire to do something in order to be successful at it. If that were the case, then almost everyone in the world would be doing what they love, and no one would be dissatisfied with their jobs. Unfortunately, some people just are not cut out to be entrepreneurs for one reason or another, but more likely than not it is because they do not possess one of the key traits mentioned above.
What do you think are necessary qualities to be a successful entrepreneur (only successful traits, since anyone can be a flop at it)? Do you think it’s possible to make up for a lack of one quality by having an abundance of another?