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July 24, 2008
By Mitch York 1
I recently got together with a group of executives from a company based here on Long Island to discuss entrepreneurship. A number of them already have side businesses going on and therefore I won’t name the company. These are people really itching to bust out and succeed on their own. I took some notes from our flip-chart sheets that I thought would be interesting for any entrepreneurs in the making. Here they are:
What is Entrepreneurship?
We wrote down some ideas about what entrepreneurship means to us, including:
· Making our own rules
· Having courage and determination to see our plans through to success
· Being able to exercise creativity in a way that is not possible in the traditional workplace
· Having an unlimited potential for income (and other things)
What are some of the negatives of business ownership?
Interesting that all of our initial ideas were idealistic – that’s the way it should be. But we also discussed the less rosy side of business ownership:
· Uneven income streams
· Lots of hours per day, and a long time to reach goals
· Lots of stress
· Difficult to manage family concerns
· Feelings of isolation
Key Success Factors
We then discussed the key factors for success of our entrepreneurial ambitions. They included:
· Getting Started: This part is hard, especially when you are fuzzy about what it is that you are starting, or your business starts by itself with you along in the passenger seat. How to address that: see next item.
· Having a plan: several of us have started businesses and aren’t sure where to take them. Coincidentally (NOT!) we generally had no written plan and vision for our destination. As the saying goes, when you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. We therefore agreed that a plan – which does not have to be elaborate and can in fact be a page or two, at least to begin – is a precondition to success.
· Having courage: If entrepreneurship were easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy. It takes courage and determination to ignore the forces of gravity and nature which want you to fail; to keep your Gremlin (i.e. the negative voice in your head) in check, and to realize that even when things are dire you can push on.
· Failing Forward: Speaking of courage, you have to be able to embrace failure and keep going. Without failure we’d have none of the medicines that immunize and cure most of the diseases that used to kill most people before the age of 40. If you’re not failing, you’re doing entrepreneurship wrong.
· Running toward vs. running away: Many people are running away from something when they decide to start a business. If you are running away from difficulty at work, from midlife anxiety, from personal/family issues or other factors that are left unresolved, you create weakness in your Personal Foundation. You have to go into business looking forward, with a vision and a plan (see earlier item). It’s important to look inside yourself for what may need shoring up before you launch too far into entrepreneurship.
· Liquidity: Most businesses fail because they run out of money. It’s very tempting when you start a business to fall victim to the Law of Big Checks. (I made up this law but it’s true.) You make the decision to invest in your startup and write a big check to get started. After the dry heaves subside, you find it’s easier than you thought to write other and more checks (or more likely, credit card charges). You may well need a Money Buddy: someone who you call every time you are about to make a purchase of $500 (pick a number) or more to decide if that expense is one you absolutely must do now, or can possibly be deferred without negative consequence.
· Standards, Values, Personal Foundation: We agreed that if you are going to start a business, it has to be one that reinforces the things that are important in your life. You need to be conscious of what types of clients, business partners and employees you want to have and make sure you create an environment in which you aren’t creating new conflict within yourself through a mismatch of business strategy and who you are as a person.
· Support: Sooooooo important. Your self-organized group is a fantastic element of the support every entrepreneur needs so you don’t feel you are walking the factory floor alone. You also need the support of your family. If your spouse/significant other isn’t on the bus, either you will not be successful or you stand a good chance of hurting your relationship(s).
Contributing blogger Mitch York is a personal friend of The VAR Guy. York coaches executives who are evolving into entrepreneurs. Find York — and his personal blog — at www.e2ecoaching.com.
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