Category Archives: Small Business

How to Become an Entrepreneur

I’m often asked how to become an entrepreneur, and I am usually reluctant to answer, because becoming an entrepreneur is such an individual endeavor. No two people have exactly the same dream, the same knowledge base, the same commitment, the same personality… I think you see what I mean. This is why so many classes on entrepreneurship fail—they can provide some basic business knowledge, but they cannot teach you how to become an entrepreneur.

At the same time, there are general traits that every entrepreneur must have, as well as a few activities you must perform in order to have a successful business. Basically, here is what you need to become an entrepreneur:

Passion. Some go so far as to say you must be “obsessed” if you want to build a successful business. Do you lie awake at night thinking about your business? Do you put money into your business startup fund instead of buying that Latte every morning? Are you frequently making notes and plans for your business? Do you know why you are passionate about this business? If you are not possessed by your passion, don’t start a business until you are. If you are still looking for the perfect business idea, keep searching until you find the idea that stirs your passions—you’ll know it when you see it.

People Skills. Last week I wrote about a person on TV who was doing everything wrong while trying to become an entrepreneur. It primarily had to do with this person’s interpersonal relationships…although she had an MBA, she had no core knowledge of her business and could not lead her employees—they were like a ship without a rudder. She did not understand her customers, and therefore built no loyalty…and on and on. It doesn’t matter whether your business is brick and mortar, or online, you will have to deal with customers, and hopefully, employees at some point. So, people skills are mandatory if you want to become an entrepreneur—at least a successful entrepreneur.

Be a Copycat. Don’t reinvent the wheel…look at people who have the same passion, for the same type of business, as you do. Then, copy what the successful ones are doing. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they do it—they will often share their passion, knowledge, and methods with you. This simple activity can save you the time, money, and aggravation you might expend making all the same mistakes others have already resolved.

Plan, Plan, Plan. By “plan,” I don’t mean writing a typical business plan. Except for presentations to investors—formal business plans are useless. I’m talking here about plans written on whiteboards and cocktail napkins. The writing down of thoughts, innovations, and ideas as they occur to you. It is important that you visualize starting and running your business, and then capture in writing, every idea and thought you have during this process. Five million (yes, million) businesses will fail this year, and most of them because they didn’t plan out their business thoroughly. But remember that Business Plans are made for banks and investors—“planning” is for you and your successful business.

Gather Knowledge. It is important that you have core knowledge about whatever your business produces in the way of products or services. For instance: If you open a tax consultation service, you had better know something about taxes. You also should have a basic knowledge of business, e.g., requirements of the law, accounting, marketing, sales, customer service, and the like. Basic business knowledge can be learned through classes and adult education, as well as books and online courses. So, continue to learn while you do your planning.

Start! There are thousands of drawers and shelves around the world that hold the remnants of people’s business dreams. There are simply too many people who dream, and plan, and wish…but never suck it up and actually start a business. Dreams made—dreams lost. Develop your planning and gather your knowledge—then commit. All the planning and knowledge in the world won’t help if you never get started. Yes, it’s scary, but if you have the passion, you will start in spite of your fear, and become a better entrepreneur for it. So, START!

That is a pretty basic set of guidelines on how to become an entrepreneur, but if you follow them, you will substantially increase your chances of making your new business a success.


Forget Tax Incentives!

With Congress and the Administration wringing their hands over how big to make tax incentives for small business so they will hire more people; they are—as usual—totally missing the boat. Tax incentives to hire more people will do little to increase jobs. As one small-businessman said in an interview the other night, “Tax incentives are nice and I’ll take them, but they do not encourage me to hire more people. Why would I hire someone that I have no work for and then turn around and lay them off again?”

What is really needed is more work! When small business owners have more work for their workforce, don’t think for a minute that they won’t hire the people they need to do that work—whether there are any tax incentives or not. That’s why they are called “business” owners.

All this haranguing and carping in Washington simply proves even further just how far out of touch with the real world our politicians actually are. Until demand for small business products and services increases, small business owners will NOT hire more people. It’s as simple as that.

Small Business Can Learn From Big Business

I just read a comparison between the market values of the two largest U.S. automakers and Japan’s two largest automakers. The market value of GM and Ford combined is $8.1 billion. The market value of Toyota and Honda combined is $146.3 billion—over 18 times greater than the U.S. big two.

Why is the American auto industry on life support, while Japan’s is alive, healthy, and prosperous? Most of Japan’s cars, that are sold in the U.S., are built in the United States. Japan’s auto makers belong to the same U.S. unions, pay the same wages, charge comparable prices for their products…and yet, they are many times more successful. Why do you suppose that is?

To find the answer I think we only have to look as far as the customer satisfaction surveys conducted by J. D. Powers, Consumer Reports, and the like. American automobiles just do not satisfy the consumers as well as the Japanese automobiles do, and they haven’t for a long time. According to the surveys, Japanese autos are better designed, higher quality, and just built better. In other words, Japanese automakers provide more value for the money.

How does this apply to small business?
Value for their money is also what our own customers and clients search for. It doesn’t matter if you are a one-person web site design studio, or General Motors…if you do not provide the best value for your customers or clients money—you will fail. It is as simple as that. Maybe it is time for all of us to take stock of what we are delivering to our customers and clients.

Toyota does it; Honda does it; Costco does it; Avon does it—why can’t we?