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Why Failure is an Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

An open letter to my fellow entrepreneurs:

In life failure is inevitable. Sure it hurts, it’s made fun of, and it’s pushed to the side because no one really wants to hear about failures only the success stories.

But it’s unavoidable…especially for the entrepreneur.  It’s no secret that half of all new businesses have failed before they reach their fifth year. And though the numbers do vary, the truth of the matter is, many entrepreneurs do not realize their dream.

But whether you believe it or not, failure is actually a good thing when used correctly. When I feel a little down about one of my ventures, I like to recall this famous quote by Helen Keller:

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

If you look at the definition of the word entrepreneur it’s clear that risk and new ideas are at the core of its meaning. The word “entrepreneur” is derived from an old French word “entreprendre” which means “undertake.” So an entrepreneur is someone who undertakes some venture, enterprise, or idea and assumes responsibility for the outcome.  So in reality, a true entrepreneur is NOT solely in the business field.

An entrepreneur can be…

  • An author wanting to change the world
  • A speaker wanting to make a difference
  • A musician working to be famous
  • An artist striving to be known
  • A leader wanting to take an organization from good to great
  • An athlete yearning for greatness
  • Or a college dropout wanting to become a business mogul

The main criteria is this: taking the path of MOST resistance and assuming responsibility for the outcome

But no matter how great the entrepreneur…they’ve had failures. In fact, what makes them “great” is that they’ve failed MORE times than everyone else!

So here’s a list of some of the great “failures” the world has ever seen:

  • R. H. Macy failed seven times before his NY store caught on
  • Michael Jordan failed more than he succeeded, lost over 3000 games, missed over 9000 shots at goal, and 26 times he missed the winning shot
  • Henry Ford filed for bankruptcy with his first company – Detroit Automobile Company
  • Lady GaGa had doors slammed in her face, DJ’s who didn’t want to play her records, music execs who thought she was nuts, and she was signed to Def Jam Records but then was dropped after 3 months…before she sold more than 15 million albums, 51 million singles worldwide and became one of Forbes most powerful celebrities.

In closing, I question the role education has in creating entrepreneurs… but I can never question the role the “school of hard knocks” has made in my life.  I believe with all my heart that an entrepreneur is someone who has an innate ability to dream and do!  I urge you to keep dreaming and keep doing!

 
 

7 Most Common Qualities of an Entrepreneur

Before we discuss the qualities of an entrepreneur, let’s take a look at how we define a true entrepreneur. The dictionary says it is a person who creates and innovates to build something of recognized value around perceived opportunities. Every time we recognize someone that has been a successful entrepreneur it’s simply someone who’s been able to identify a problem and come up with a solution to it before somebody else did. 

 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  To see if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur let’s take a look at the 7 most common qualities of an entrepreneur and questions you need to ask yourself.

 

1. Do you have a specialized knowledge in a particular area?

To start a successful business, you should possess a deep knowledge of the business field that you decide to pursue. Or maybe it’s just a love for gardening or baking or raising kids?  The list is virtually endless. The fact is that about half of all home-based start-ups are launched by people who decide to use the knowledge, which they gained from their previous work experience of a particular area or natural born talent.

2. Are you self confident?

Self confidence is a key entrepreneurial skill for success. It is easy to become demoralized, frustrated and resentful if you lack self-confidence. Self-confidence is concerned with how a person feels about his/her ability. A successful entrepreneur believes in her abilities. She is not scared to explore un-chartered territories, take risk and make difficult decisions. Self-confidence, however, is not a personal trait that either you have or you don’t. Please remember that!  A person can have high self-confidence in one situation and totally lack it in another. This is one of those skills that can be developed by training. Surround yourself with constant reinforcement through support groups too as they can be found within family and friends as well as other entrepreneurs that can help you keep steady and strong!

3. Do you have a track record for getting things done?

Successful entrepreneurs are persistent and hardworking. Getting things done is the vital link between motivations and their outcome. At times, entrepreneurs force themselves to choose work over fun, a boring job against a pleasant one, working on tax papers rather than relaxing and reading a magazine, for example. This requires self-control and if you don’t have it when you begin, you have to develop it!

4. Is good common sense something you possess?

Good judgment has to come from acquired knowledge and past experience. The combination of these two creates necessary prerequisites in developing common sense in a person. Common sense allows you to understand complex issues in simpler terms and get into the core of a problem.

5. Do you have the ability to be a good leader?

This is a must!  I’ve talked a lot about leadership on my blog and this is so, so important.  Successful entrepreneurs have to be capable of leading people and get work done by them. They can use a combination of various methods-effective motivation, planning, coaching and evaluation-to lead people and must be concerned about the wellbeing of others and easily get along with people. 

6. Are you creative?

No doubt that creativity can be regarded as a God given gift and that some possess more than others. Creativity is the ability to use your insights and come up with new solutions to old problems, get things done in a different way or find a totally different approach for conventional things to work together. Entrepreneurs need creative thinking ability virtually in everything. Each new product, each new marketing method, each business decision - all these are fertile ground for creative thinking.

7.  And lastly are you self-reliant?

Successful entrepreneurs need to take full responsibility for their actions. They know that what they are today, and what they are going to be tomorrow, depends solely on them, as it is the outcome of their own choices and decisions. They are proactive people, who set goals, walk an extra mile to achieve them and rely, primarily, on their own resources.


Becoming an entrepreneur is not easy and there are no guarantees for success. There are certain qualities that are absolutely necessary if you would like to become successful in your business ventures. Some of these qualities are built-in parts of your personality and some of them get developed over time. Knowing these characteristics and identifying your weak ones - those, which need strengthening - will eventually help you become a successful entrepreneur.

 

Good Luck!

 
 

What Makes a Good Entrepreneur?

I personally have started more than a few businesses and am currently helping another one get cooking right now. While it’s an almost overwhelming amount of work, I continue to enjoy the challenge of creating something from nothing. Some of my endeavors have flourished while others…well let’s just say “not so much!” I refer to those “trys” as my windows to the next big wonderful opportunity and certainly just another one of life’s lessons. What I like to place under the heading of:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”

As I continue to follow my passion as an entrepreneur, I continue to meet a lot of wonderful people who have great ideas; many of them taking steps towards starting their own business.  I encourage them to ask for help while they are researching their idea(s).  Just as my personal mentors have advised me when I was starting out, I tell them that even if this particular business doesn’t get off the ground, another one just might so keep learning, growing and exploring.

When people find out that I have started businesses they inevitably talk about how much fun it must be. They don’t really think about how hard it is to start the business, find the customers, run the business and do the work. While it may sound a bit overwhelming, 20,000 new businesses start every year. I fervently believe that if the United States is going to remain economically viable and competitive, we need more and more entrepreneurs to step up.

When I started to write this post I wanted to concisely describe an entrepreneur, but soon found it to be nearly impossible. Could it be, “an entrepreneur is a visionary who sees light (the solution) in the dark (the challenge or problem)?” That’s good, but not all of it!  Entrepreneurs are special people who are fueled by the thrill, and I mean thrill, of inventing their solutions to the every day problems that we face.

Then I thought I’d try to find a photo of a person or people that would show you what an entrepreneur looks like, but that also was impossible.  You see entrepreneurs come in every size, shape, age, race, gender, religion and nationality. This is so important to remember and realize so you don’t hesitate to proceed and certainly not put unnecessary constraints on yourself. You should also know that there is an abundance of support such as the Small Business Agency and several online resources that are available to you 24/7.

Even if you are not inclined to start a business, I ask you to visit, support, encourage and cheer lead your local entrepreneurs. When picking a restaurant, pick a local restaurant instead of a chain. Eat local food, buy local goods and we’ll all reap the benefits.

I’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs. We need to stick together!

 
 

The 8 P’S OF A SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR

Over the years, I have been blessed to have worked with and beside many successful entrepreneurs.  During that time, I have adopted a formula for successful entrepreneurship that I call the Eight P’s. 

 

  1. Passion
  2. Perseverance
  3. People
  4. Patience
  5. Plan
  6. Persistence
  7. Pray
  8. Profits

 

Passion

Always be passionate about what you do.  Mark Twain says, “Success is when your vocation becomes a vacation.” I love saying that and what I strive for in my business ventures.  Start your business to change the way things are and to enjoy doing what you have set out to do.  Acknowledging your passion for what you have set out to accomplish will keep you strong and motivated. 

Perseverance

Work Hard…But Smart and realize there will be trials and tribulations along the way!  Ask any successful businessperson and they will tell you that they work more than 60 hours per week and always describe themselves as “on” and thinking.  Many I know sleep with a tablet and pen by their bedside as they oftentimes awake during the middle of the night with great ideas and solutions and will jot them down for follow-up the next day. Working hard and with purpose and conviction will come easy and setbacks will come and go as you devise next steps to ultimate success.

People

Always look for ways to network.  It is critical to form alliances with people who can help you and whom you can help in return.  To succeed in business, you need to possess good networking skills and always be alert to opportunities to expand your contacts. Another key here is to surround your self with good people and treat them with the utmost respect.  Having the support of those who are part of your venture is worth more than any other asset in your business.  Without strong people, some who must be smarter than you in times of weakness, your goals will seldom be achieved.

Patience

This one is simple.  As the saying reminds us that Rome wasn’t built in a day, no truer words can be spoken about your business.  It takes time, planning, hard work and great people with a similar vision to make your dream come true.  Plan for set backs and plan for redirection of efforts, but keep vigilant and remember some of the great entrepreneurs before you that kept pressing along to reach their ultimate goal.

Plan

Your ability to set goals and make plans for your accomplishments is the key to your success. The successful entrepreneurs I know always have a plan. Your strategic plan should be a living, breathing document that is always updated, changed and modified as the business grows.  You need to also share your plan with your team so these concrete goals will provide the stepping-stones and so that everyone is marching in unison to reach your business goals. Update this simple, consistent action plan on a weekly basis, if possible at staff level meetings and share monthly with the entire team. 

Persistence

Stick to it! Never lose sight of your goals and more importantly your dreams.  Your self-discipline will be the key to your success.  Realize that not everything you have to do along the way will be pleasant, but if you stay focused on your vision it will be easier. Find a mentor(s) if need be for added support and advice, but never give up.  My mother used to say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!”  So hang in there and keep moving forward.

Pray

Last, but certainly not least….have faith.  No one said the road to success is easy.  You will have setbacks, disappointments and may even fail.  Calling on God to keep you strong and able to bounce back from adversity and temporary setbacks will prove to be one of your most powerful weapons.  As an ordained Episcopal priest, I have seen in my own ventures that if you pray and have faith nothing can stop you.  Solutions to your most difficult challenges will unfold before you if you are open to God’s work.

Profits

I am a fervent believer in sharing of the profits of my companies with those who have helped me to achieve the goals.  I think it motivates and breathes life and vitality into any organization to allow every one of the workers to share in a % of the overall profitability of a company.  I fervently believe that an entrepreneur who adopts this policy and rewards their employees multiplies his/her chance for success; all boats rise!

 
 

Start-Up Mistakes to Avoid: Failure to Differentiate

Is it better to launch products and services into the market or to specialize in select areas of your expertise within an industry?  Many aspiring entrepreneurs struggle (and waste precious resources) with identifying the best way to bring their ideas to the marketplace. Without a proper business model and market opportunity, the new business venture, no matter how great, will fail after launch.

Find the Holes in the Market

When determining how to make a business successful, identify the open holes in the current market offering.  Are clients and customers looking for a product or service, but no clear offering exists?  Is there a variation you can make to a current category of products or services that will meet a market trend in consumer demand (e.g. the green movement)?  Why have your competitors not identified and acted on the market opportunity? Is the cost of launching too great, are federal regulations too onerous or is the size of the market simply too small for a larger corporation to address?  You need to assess why your competitors have not tried to fill the holes themselves.

Fill the Holes Using Innovation

Innovation is the key to developing a killer niche product or service.  New and exciting ideas often spark the interest of early adopters and bright minds.  Innovation is also the wheel that turns the industry’s focus from the commonplace to the unique.  The same concept ensures the longevity and sustainability of your established business; without new ideas, all markets will begin to dry up and decay.  This decaying market phenomenon is, in fact, fertile ground for a disruptive niche player.

Corporate dinosaurs often make the mistake of underestimating the adaptability of the small, yet agile, chameleon, even on the brink of their own extinction.  The current automobile industry is a perfect example.  American automakers GM, Ford and Chrysler are on the verge of capsizing in the market after underestimating the importance of developing fuel-efficient compact cars.  As a result, nimble market players, Toyota and Honda, are now the world’s leaders in the auto industry, and the American car companies simply cannot compete.

Once you fully understand the depth and width of the market holes, identify creative solutions to fill the gaps.  For example, I recently discovered that the household lubricant industry is dominated by male-friendly containers and environmentally-harmful formulations.  I was able to fill a hole in the market by using innovative soy-based formulas and by choosing a can that is the size of a women’s hairspray canister.  Before investing money and time, however, be certain to conduct research, more research and even more research into your market niche play.  Make sure you understand fully your risks and opportunities.

Maintenance

Once you begin filling the holes in your chosen industry sector, always keep scouring the market for new, emerging gaps.  Expand and embrace market opportunities as quickly as possible.  Do not lose the race to the shelf by worrying about perfection; just grab the lead and run as hard and as fast as you can.  Treat new obstacles as opportunities for growth and once you overcome them, as market barriers for your competition.

 
 

The Introverted Entrepreneur: Lose the Weight

Over the past few weeks, I have unveiled strategies for success for introverted entrepreneurs.  Although popular culture often portrays entrepreneurs as ambitious, tenacious and highly-energetic personalities, many entrepreneurs are reserved individuals with one intense passion.

As an introverted entrepreneur, you must use your passion to guide your business and form goals to map your journey.  As you continue, you will find that your young business has gained dead weight. Dead weight comes from outdated and unrealistic goals, unproductive employees and staff, clients with high demands and little or no return on your investment, suppliers that provide poor-quality materials or services and conducting business in a saturated or ailing marketplace.

As you complete your strategic plan and build for future, be sure to not only deal decisively with the obvious dead weight items above, but also take a machete to poor work attitudes, habits, and morale that will slow, threaten, or undermine your success.  Although the process is difficult, particularly for an introverted entrepreneur, you must make certain that your culture and work place morale are positioned for economic growth and promising business development.

This process is especially important in an ailing economy.  Cash flow management is a critical function of maintaining a healthy business.  Dead weight will eat away at your profit margin like a poison and eventually wear down your ability to inject needed cash into your strategic growth initiatives.