I’ve had an opportunity to be around and observe quite a few successful entrepreneurs throughout life. Some were my employers, some were family members, some were former entrepreneurs and some would become future entrepreneurs. These successful entrepreneurs possess characteristics that set them apart from average, and this is worth examining.
I am not naïve enough to believe that by default that they are exalted or morally superior human beings, but I certainly wouldn’t believe the reverse. They all have interesting and admirable qualities that we can learn from.
They are like a force of nature.
If entrepreneurs get tired, you don’t usually see it. They not only seem to defy the 2nd law of thermodynamics in which everything tends to disorder – they capitalize on it. They might build a plumbing empire doing common things like rooting out toilets.
We tend to follow entrepreneurs not just because they pay our salary but that we can’t help but get caught up in a force of nature. Other words that come to mind: drive, ambition, confidence, vision, hustle, endurance, energy, bullish, faith, guts, glory.
One entrepreneur that I worked for told me the three laws of business were “Get the money”. Did you catch all three? He employed about 80 people. While this approach may seem simple, it is simply logical. Whether you specialty is sales, service, R&D, production, customer service or accounting – we all need to focus on doing our jobs well enough so that the business is profitable and will last into the future. If the business declines, that means jobs will be lost.
We think of passion as something that might burn high and then flag and possible burn out. But entrepreneurs seem to wake up with uncommon energy and drive every day of their lives.
They pay attention to the little things.
Entrepreneurs are not careless and tend to be very skilled at managing limited resources. They know that a small leak can erode a property-saving dike and a small hole can sink a sailboat. They know the importance of follow through and organization. They know that seemingly small things, like returning a phone call, could be the most important thing that they do that day.
Entrepreneurs are often sticklers on timeliness. I worked for another entrepreneur who liked the expression: “Are the trains running on time?” This shows that it not only matters that you consistently produce, but that you keep to a timely schedule.
Timeliness is especially important in a service business. If you go to a fast food restaurant in which you are not served in a timely and efficient way, you will be quick also to turn elsewhere. If there are inattentive and slow checkers at a grocery store, then that business will tend to decline.
Hiring the right people is also part of this. A highly specialized and skilled doctor with her own practice may have no interest in accounting or office management, but she knows the importance of hiring the right people for the job, and periodically checking that they are performing at a high level.
Successful and wealthy entrepreneurs are often surprisingly frugal. This tends to free up resources in their business which enables them to expand productivity. The classic “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko has extensive research to show the frugal habits of multi-millionaires. Most of these millionaires tend to be entrepreneurs. Their formulas for both saving and growing come together in generating great wealth.
Entrepreneurs don’t let opportunities slip through their grasp. The small things can be a big deal.
They know that the only “sizzle” is in success.
Entrepreneurs are focused on the success of their business. If one can’t put the pieces together to become a success, then a person has nothing to show for their efforts yet. Entrepreneurs are shrewd – and they are strategic. They find ways to leverage their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. They are natural builders, but they always keep working to improve.
Success is going to be a relative concept. What could be a successful side business could be a disaster if tried as a primary endeavor if one is a key bread-winner in his family. There is an opportunity cost as well. If you can make ten times more working for someone else, then trying to have your own business would most likely be a poor return for your time.
I would define business success as creating a material benefit for both one’s family and community. Volunteer work or unprofitable work could produce a benefit to the community, but it does not return any monetary value to yourself or your family. Alternatively, you could procure some venture capital to produce and bring your genius invention to market. This could benefit your family in the short term, but if you never have a successful roll-out, you have not benefited the greater community.
We need to distinguish between hobbies and businesses. Hobbies, like college, tend to cost money. But a hobby can be a great learning ground. If you don’t have a real business yet, maybe it’s best not to pretend. If you like to golf in your spare time, would you call yourself a “golfer”? I don’t think so.
Entrepreneurs know that it doesn’t matter how they impress their initial customers in a sales presentation if they don’t have the product quality and follow-through to create a consistent customer base. It doesn’t matter that much how they look or what kind of cars they drive. Success is not in just maintaining an appearance or in a self-centered illusion – it is outward looking. An unpretentious seeming restaurant might have the best food around and a steady stream of customers. It also doesn’t matter how great your ideas are unless you put them into practice and have more than a flash in the pan success.
With a new year approaching, I would like to toast the movers and shakers – the entrepreneurs. Cheers! To your success.