ET-5 What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur
Do You Have It In You to Be Your Own Boss?
On the premier edition of Questions and Rants on the podcast, I address the question I get all the time from would be entrepreneurs- “Do I have what it takes to make it in my own business?”
On these special editions of the podcast I tackle a common topic in the startup and entrepreneurship world and share my own experience as well as what I’ve learned from interacting with hundreds of other business owners over the years.
In this edition I share some of the story on how I got started in moving away from being an employee and onto the path of becoming a business owner. I also break down what I think are the three main things any entrepreneur needs in order to maximize their chances of small business success. Luckily, these are things that are not a secret and things anyway can get or develop within themselves.
And you don’t have to go on some long spiritual journey or to years of school to do it- you just have to commit.
Listen to the podcast, see if you agree and by all means share your own thoughts and experiences here, too! I’d love to hear what others think about these issues.
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Listen right here:
Matt: Do I have what it takes to run my own business? This is a question that I have personally little trouble understanding because from my earliest days, my earliest memories, I always wanted to run my own business. So, to hear people question whether or not they can do it or whether they not it makes sense or whether or not they have what it takes is sort of funny to me because I just knew from such an early age that it was what I going to do. I had to do it. It was inside me. It had to come out. There’s no other way to explain it. It was something I needed to do.
And I feel like anybody that has even an inkling of that kind of same feeling can definitely run their own business. There’s no magic formula. You don’t have to be born into it. You don’t have to know the right people. You don’t have to have a certain amount of money saved before you can run your own business. You literally can start with nothing. There’s a great story in the blog if you could back a little ways about a guy who started his business because he has to and all he had going from was a borrowed latter. I mean, literally, that was it, a borrowed latter.
He built that. One single asset he had, his time, his borrowed latter into a multi-million dollar multi state business. So, there are really no restrictions who can start a business or who can be successful with it which is one of the great things about this country. But, to get into a little more detail on who can start a business.
First, I want to tell you a story about soup. Then, I wanna tell you after we get through that, I’m gonna give you the 3 key ingredients that you need to be successful in running your own business. These are not really secrets. I’m giving them away free on the podcast and all you have to do is write them down on your mirror or on a sticky pad or wherever you’re gonna see it every day. Remember these 3 things. Apply them and you’ll be successful in your own business. Alright, so story about soup. I, like I said, wanted to be an entrepreneur from a very early age but I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to do it.
So, I went to college for the right reasons, to get a good education but I picked a wrong major for the wrong reasons because I went to a college that didn’t have the program that I wanted. Again, for the wrong reasons, I went to that college. Although, I don’t regret and had a wonderful time. But anyway, I got out of college. I had no qualifications to start a business. I didn’t know what business I wanted to start or anything else. The only thing I did have experience with was working with restaurant.
So, I worked as a restaurant manager. I worked at a few different chains. I got pretty good at it. In hindsight, it was great experience in managing people and I had to manage cost of food and cost of labor. My bonus was tied to that. It was all good experience but at that time I hate it at every single morning. I hated getting up and going because it wasn’t what I wanted to do and I didn’t know how to get out of what I was doing into something that I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I just knew I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do my own thing. This kind of thing, desire to get out and do my own thing was eating at me but I didn’t know how to do it.
Each day, I was getting more and more frustrated. I was looking at things at this business that I was doing that I thought I could do better. Maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong. But, the final sort of straw that started me on the path to finally breaking out and getting into my own thing was that I was working as the General Manager at the Einstein’s Bagels. Einstein’s Bagels is a national chain. I think they’re a headquarter than Denver. They were at that time. They had stores all over. I worked at a store in San Diego, in Mission Valley. It was August and it was hot. Half of the days, our air-condition didn’t work. Then, we got a memo from the corporate saying that every day we had to have 2 kind of soups available. It was 90 plus degrees out or in Celsius, I don’t know what that is, but it’s hot. If you are not familiar with Fahrenheit, just trust me, it was hot every day. The air conditioning frequently in that building for whatever reasons in that building didn’t work.
I’m supposed to be selling soup. “Why?” I said at the meeting. “Am I supposed to be selling soup when nobody’s buying it?” and they said “Well, we want all the stores to be the same. And we have stores, even though it’s August now, it’s cold and people are buying soup.” And I said “Yes, but in my store, it’s not cold and nobody’s buying soup and I wouldn’t care except that every day you are telling me I have to make soup which costs money and I don’t have any sales to offset that cost. So, basically, you are saying I have to intentionally lower my bonus.
Get paid less because you are insisting that I make soup in a store that’s never going to sell any just because for some reason maybe somebody gets of a plane after they flown in from Wisconsin or somewhere where it was cold that week and they bought soup, and they might wonder into the store.
They might wonder why they can’t buy soup here. Even though is 95 degrees and chances are there not gonna buy a soup anyway.” Nobody could give me a good answer to that other than “Shut up and do what you are told.” That, to me, was sort of the final straw. I couldn’t stand anymore that I couldn’t do what I thought was right. Now, I’m not saying that I always knew what was right or that I would have made all the good decisions.
It just drove me crazy that I couldn’t make these decisions, that I have didn’t have control over the decision making and what I was supposed to think of as my business, encourage them as to take ownership of our stores and run them as if they were our own and we will get bonuses based on the performance of the stores. At the same time, they are telling me to sell soup in August. It didn’t make any sense.
It drove me nuts. And eventually, not long after that, I was accepted into the MBA program. I quit that job. I went back to school. I got masters in business with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and that started me on the path to finally getting me to my own business. First, as a consultant and then as many other things, and many other businesses over the years, I get to the point where I am today. But it was that final straw of not being able to be in control of something as simple as whether or not I had to serve soup on a hot day. Nobody who is gonna buy it. If you got that same feeling, or anything that close, that same kind of frustration, that “I can do it better.”, then you got everything you need to be your own business owner.
There’s nothing else. There’s no other magic ingredient that you need. So, in my experience. There are really 2 kinds of entrepreneurs. The kind I’ve just described is the kind of entrepreneurial personality who just needs to do it, who just can’t accept not having the amount of control and amount of decision making ability that comes with being your own boss. It doesn’t mean that things are gonna be easier. It doesn’t mean that you’re always gonna be right. It doesn’t mean that the other person that you think is wrong is wrong.
It just means that you need to be independent and you need to do your own thing. And if you got that in you, that’s all you need. Go do it. The other kind of entrepreneur are the ones that fall into it because they are kind of left with no choice. It’s either do their own thing or they can’t do what they want to do. It’s not that they set out to be an entrepreneur, that they have any desire to own their own business or they are looking to branch out or get away or overcome something, it’s sort of they are just back into it because there’s no other way for them to do what they want to do without running their own business. The first kind of entrepreneur wants to own their own thing regardless of what it maybe or they may have some general idea.
The second kind of entrepreneur knows what they want to do and the only way to get there is to have their own business. Either one of those, if you’re in either situation, you wanna do your own thing and there’s no other way to do it but own your own business or you can’t work successfully in other environment but your own, in either those 2 cases, you’ve got everything you need. Now, let me give you the 3 secret ingredients that, I say them tongue and cheek because again there’s no real secrets in entrepreneurship here.
The 3 ingredients that you need to be successful as an entrepreneur, it’s one thing to get mad and frustrated and say “Hey! I’m outta here. I’m gonna take this job and shove it. I’m gonna do my own thing and I’m gonna beat you at your own game and I’m gonna take your business away. I’m gonna prove to you that I’m right and you’re wrong.”
It’s good to have the passion but there’s more to it than that if you want to be successful. Number one thing is to educate you. You may be, as I was, professional in one area of business. When I was a restaurant manager, I knew about managing the restaurant. I knew about food cost and labor cost and having the staff and good customer service. I didn’t know anything about commercial leases. I didn’t know anything about getting a logo or trademarking a name or finding a POS system or any of those other things that funding the restaurant, dealing with vendors and terms and all that kind of stuff. There was a lot of pieces I never touched in my job which had I decide to go out and open a restaurant which I didn’t then but I did many years later, I would’ve been in trouble.
I would’ve been learning on the fly. That’s a dangerous way to do things because it will only takes a few mistakes to sink the whole ship. You may eventually figure that out, but if you don’t figure it out fast then you’re gonna be in trouble. The first thing that you need to do to be a successful entrepreneur is to make sure to educate yourself on all the different aspects of the business. You don’t have to be common expert but you have to at least know who you need to talk to or who you need to enlist for help so that you don’t run to those kind of problems that other people because they aren’t smart enough to go out and ask questions and forgot what they needed to know. Now, this is even more important if you’re getting to an industry you’re not familiar with.
I was able to open a restaurant because I had a lot of years of restaurant experience so; the difference between what I knew and what I didn’t know wasn’t that big. A lot of what I needed to know, I already knew from prior experience. If you’re opening a business in an industry or a niche that you are already familiar with, you’ve worked in for years; you got a much bigger advantage over somebody who’s trying to get into an industry they don’t know anything about. Doesn’t mean it can’t be done, it just means you have a lot more education in front of you before you really want to jump in to it full force and hope to be successful.
There’s a lot of ways to get educated on different niches. I won’t go into them here. It’s just suffice to say the more research and education you do, the better you of you’ll be. That doesn’t mean take the 4 years off and study, a lot of learning is done on the job but at least know enough so that you know all the major questions, the major hurls and challenges and generally, how things are gonna work before you start, before you commit. The second thing as an entrepreneur, and this is a tough one, is to stay objective. This is particularly true again as a star up, as a new entrepreneur.
A lot of people are gonna come and tell you that whatever your idea is, it’s done and it’s not gonna work. You don’t want to listen to those people unless you’re getting to an industry that you don’t know anything about and you’re getting advice from somebody who’s very familiar with the industry. It doesn’t mean that they are necessarily right, and you necessarily wrong, but you audit, try to stay objective, listen to what they’re telling you and figure out if there’s any merit to it because if somebody has been in the industry for 10 years, and you’re brand new to it and you think you’ve come up with some new invention or some new twist on it, just because you haven’t heard of that, doesn’t mean that who’s been in it for a long time hasn’t.
They may have heard of that and they may not be in use or may not be working for some reasons that you don’t know because you are not familiar with it. Stay objective. Listen to everybody. At least, hear them out. You don’t necessarily have to take everyone’s advice and you certainly don’t have to listen to people that tell you you’ll never gonna make it or you’re gonna fail but when people who are experienced to whatever you’re getting into are trying to give you good advice and be helpful, keep an open mind. You might learn something that will make the difference between success and failure.
Don’t let them turn you off the path completely but keep an open mind, stay objective and be open to learning and changing as you go. Sometimes people feel like they only have one good idea and they stick to it and they feel like if they very then things aren’t gonna work out and they’ll be back to where they were. They’re gonna fail. It’s all over. That was their one chance. Very rarely in business does your first idea turn out to be the idea that sticks. You have to be open to the idea that the market may tell you that it want something different than what you are planning to provide. So, keep an open mind and stay objective even as you stick to your goal.
And that’s the final and third key ingredient is be persistent. Don’t give up. It doesn’t mean be stupid and blind and unwavering. Be open, stay objective, keep educating yourself. You may have to pivot a few times but for sure it’s gonna be harder than you though. For sure, it’s gonna be harder than you though. For sure, it’ll take longer than you thought. For sure, you’re gonna make less than you were hoping in the beginning and maybe even for quite a while after you got started but don’t give up. No matter how many overnight success stories you hear, trust me, very very few of them are truly overnight successes. 99.9% of the success stories out there had a long road to get to where they are.
Even if they have a seemingly overnight success in your business looking at, they may have had 4 or 5 businesses before that one that failed or barely got off the ground or roaming marginally successful. People are not the overnight success that they seem. In most cases, they are the sum of many years of experience and maybe multiple people experience and some of it is timing, some of it is luck.
So, don’t get wrapped up on the idea that you have to be a fast success or that like you see, all the time people ask questions like “How can I make a million dollars for the next 5 years?” or “How can I make a hundred thousand dollars a month, passive income online?” these questions don’t make any sense. Don’t focus on the monetary goal.
Focus on what you can do to fill a gap in the market and how you can fill it more successfully and more effectively than anyone else who’s competing for that same gap in that market. If you do that, the money will follow. The sales will be there. You’ll be as successful and as large as you want to be. Don’t focus on a certain dollar amount or certain timeline and expect that you’re gonna hit that or give up if you don’t.
The most important thing you can do in being successful as an entrepreneur is just keep plugging away. If you do that, you’re gonna find that you are eventually successful and the harder and the smarter you work, the faster that success is gonna come. So, educate yourself. Stay objective and be persistent. With those 3 things, anybody that wants to can have their own business and be an entrepreneur and be successful at it.
That’s all it takes. I hope this was helpful. If you are successful, I’d love to hear about it. If you have questions, send them my way and I’ll do my best to try and answer them and help you out. By all means, if you need bookkeeping for your business, give us a call.