Writing this book has required more effort and patience than either Ron or I thought possible. I now understand why I have never found a volume like it on the shelves. Setting the work aside, it has been an amazing opportunity for reflection and contemplation and has brought me to a conclusion I had already come to: entrepreneurship is truly an art form.
Several months into the writing, Ron suggested we create a company as a test case for the book. This has proved to be an invaluable exercise. As we went through the creation and launch of this company, we forced ourselves to analyze each important action in light of the principles espoused. I am delighted to report that the fundamental tenets have held fast. Ron and I started the company with a total of $5,000 in March 2007. In seven months we grew the monthly revenue stream from $0 to over $60,000, with a gross net profit of $40,000. As of October 2008 the business is generating monthly revenue of $110,000 at a 65% margin. Has it been easy? No! Were there moments of confusion? Yes! After all, this is entrepreneurship.
Many of the things that haunted me during my first voyage into starting my own company are the same things that keep me awake now. There are no guarantees in life or in business. However, 27 ventures later, my nerves have settled. I have “learned” my way to solid ground. The principles herein will help you learn your way to solid ground much sooner. This learning was achieved through a progressive series of choices, ventures, successes, and failures.
The entrepreneurial path is worth the climb. It has provided countless individuals with financial stability, it has allowed personal freedoms, and it has facilitated an exhilarating and liberating lifestyle. One of the greatest joys I have in my life is helping young entrepreneurs who are facing the same quandaries I encountered early in my career. This has been one of my main motivations for writing this book.
Inevitably, as associates find out about this project they ask me, “What’s the key thing I need to know to be a successful entrepreneur?” Honestly, it isn’t as simple as one thing, but following are three critical attributes I have found are necessary to succeed.
1. Unalterable Determination
I am associated with a young entrepreneur named Mike Proper. When he was in the ninth grade, he was placed in foster care. Under duress he ran away from the foster family, finding safety in another state. Mike dropped out of school in order to support himself. Even though he does not have a formal education, he possesses an intense, relentless drive and an unconquerable spirit. Mike has since founded a company that has grown to a value of over ten million dollars. Mike Proper simply will not be denied.
The single most important factor to success in entrepreneurship and life is unalterable determination. I often say I’m not the smartest, I’m not the fastest, and I’m not the most handsome, but I’m definitely the most determined.
2. An Undeviating Support System
I had a young man in my office the other day who possesses incredible entrepreneurial drive and talent. He stood on the threshold of his first entrepreneurial venture. He was looking for some final advice and encouragement as he jumped from a warm, safe corporate job into the cold, harsh realities of business ownership. As we discussed the required sacrifices ahead of him, his face took on a look of fierce determination. As I looked in his eyes, I knew he had what it takes; however, I still had one remaining question. “How is your wife doing with all this change?” I probed.
At the very mention of his wife, calmness transformed his countenance. He responded, “She is amazingly supportive.” He nervously laughed as he recounted a dream his wife had the night before. She woke him in the middle of the night to share what she called a “hellish nightmare.” In a state of terror, she recounted how she went shopping and bought a vast array of expensive makeup and clothing. In the dream, she felt sick and was worried she had jeopardized her husband’s dream of starting his own company. He commented, “I am so lucky to have a wife like this.” Indeed, he is a lucky man! Some of the most talented and capable individuals I have known simply could not follow the course of their dreams due to the lack of support from their significant others.
Without an undeviating support system, it will be very difficult to succeed. Not only will this type of relationship provide fortitude, but the sharing of all you do will enhance the joy of the ride.
3. A Greater Purpose
The final key to entrepreneurship is having the source of your motivation rooted deeper than the shallow objective of making money. You have to be driven by a purpose greater than owning a BMW, something beyond cashing a big check. Making money will be a natural derivative of achieving a greater purpose. Your motivator must be deep and meaningful. It will make the entrepreneurial journey more purposeful, more enduring, and more valuable. I wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about enabling educational opportunities for disadvantaged girls in third-world countries. It consumes me, it inspires me, and I am drawn to it. This type of motivator is far stronger than making money.
Here is my parting thought: You can do this. You will have family, friends, mentors, professors, and any number of other folks tell you otherwise. Honestly apply the principles of this book, and you will not only survive entrepreneurship, but you will thrive in it! The hardest step for most people is simply taking those first few determined steps toward making something happen.