As someone who has been the founder or CEO of five companies and has worked with hundreds of startups worldwide, I’d like to share a few ideas about what I think it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
First, it is very hard work. I mean a ton of work.
Many entrepreneurs joke that they quit their 40-hour a week job working for someone else to start their 80-hour a week job working for themselves. Startups take a lot of care and feeding. Expect to work long days, long nights, weekends, and holidays. You must be prepared to dedicate a large portion of your life and possibly your life savings to building your own company.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be great at sales.
At least in your business’s early stages, the owner(s) must be an enthusiastic and professional salesperson for the product. You will need to spend a lot of time networking, sending hundreds of emails, negotiating, and closing deals. If you don’t like sales, you might want to reconsider your entrepreneurial path.
And to be successful in sales, you need a customer that wants what you are selling. Based on the ideas in Jim Collins’ famous book Good to Great, there are three questions you need to ask yourself.
What can my company be world-class at, that I’m deeply passionate about, that people want to buy?
I’ve seen plenty of entrepreneurs that are exceptionally good at what they do and deeply passionate about it, but no one is interested in buying the product. That’s not a business; it’s a hobby.
You must understand that you can’t do it all by yourself.
You have to have a strong team of highly talented people around you that you trust. I recently heard Bill Gates explain one of the biggest stumbling blocks when he started Microsoft. He said, “I thought I was a pretty smart guy, so I tried to do everything myself. Marketing? It can’t be too challenging, I’ll figure it out, and I’ll handle that. What I learned was I couldn’t handle that; I needed to find somebody who was extremely talented in marketing so I could focus on the things I am good at.”
You also must be patient.
I talk to so many entrepreneurs that think they will have a 100 million or billion-dollar company within just a few years. I challenge you to research a few dozen multibillion-dollar companies, and you will find that none of them became successful overnight. It took years of hard work before they broke through and started generating massive revenues.
Prepared for failure.
And based on that last point, you must be prepared to fail. Starting your own business is risky. Research shows a bit more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years.
When I started my first company, I barely made any money for the first three years. There was one point that I was down to only $500 in my business checking account. It was terrifying. Today, 29 years later, my business is thriving, and I couldn’t imagine working for anyone else. Even with all the challenges becoming an entrepreneur was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
If you want to get in contact with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please visit my site at https://johnspence.com/contact/ and let me know how I can help.