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.

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4 thoughts on “How to Become an Entrepreneur”

  1. Thanks, Bob, for your list. It’s a good one. I especially like “Be a Copycat.” It made me smile. Often times we think that we have to create something so extraordinary, not realizing what there is probably something out there upon which we can build. But instead we insist on, as you’ve indicated, re-inventing the wheel from marketing to manufacturing that our project never gets off the ground. There is, of course, copyright to consider. But with the advent of the Internet, copyright law has become quite complicated. But in reality, infringements happen all the time. In the auto industry there seems to have long been infringements on manufacturing patents. I have long wondered why reverse engineering was not some sort of infringement. But it does not appear to be.
    .-= Judith Ellis´s last blog ..Being Republicans =-.

    1. Judith – Thank you for your comment. When I talk about being a copycat, I am referring to building on the concept of OPE (other people’s experience). When I coach or advise new startups I always recommend they create an Advisory Group of business people who they can use not just as a sounding board, but as a resource for introductions to other like businesses as well.

      For instance; if I was a plumber and wanted to start my own plumbing business I would ask my advisory group to introduce me to a plumbing business across town that I could ask about the dos and don’ts of starting my own plumbing business. I can’t think of a better way to get a quick start on a new business. This could work with nearly every business there is.

      Regarding copyright and patent infringement: there are so many easy ways to work with people who originated the patents—licensing, joint venture, royalties, mergers, etc.—I don’t really know why anyone would steal from others. Maybe arrogance or laziness?

      Sadly, it has become so costly to defend ownership in court today, that very few small businesses can afford to do it. They simply copyright or patent their work knowing that honest people will honor those things and a legal defense will never be required. Thieves on the other hand…

  2. Bob – Reading your last comment reminded me of a scripture my mom quoted to us often growing up: “In the multitude of counsel there is safety.” I have been an entrepreneur for many years and have begun more than a few business. This scripture has stood me in good stead. Oh, thanks for the explanation of your copy cat meaning. But I think I understood your meaning already. Your writing is generally very clear and always appreciated. Thank you.
    .-= Judith Ellis´s last blog ..Being Republicans =-.

  3. Great article. I enjoy hearing about entrepreneurs who triumph potentially devastating situations and rise from it with a leaner, more efficient business and go on to achieve everything they desire.

    Thanks and Regards/-
    Jason Webb

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