Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So you're an entrepreneur...now what?

Over the years I've met hundreds of people who describe themselves as an "entrepreneur" of some type.  It sounds exciting, doesn't it? The word is defined as "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk". There some incredible success stories of people who made something out of nothing. Think of people like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mary Kay Ash, Ray Kroc, Sean Combs, Milton Hershey,  Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Caterina Fake, etc. Some of those people never went to college, and some never even graduated from high school. 

So what is it that makes an entrepreneur successful? Contributing factors include ambition, drive, determination, focus, willingness to take risk in the face of uncertainty, ability to dream, think conceptually, or "outside the box" challenge the norms, using a blend of art/science and gut instinct, creativity etc. By no means is this a complete list, and any one of these alone does not guarantee success. In my experience, the successful entrepreneur also does these other things correctly:

  • Finds innovation to meet the needs of others
  • Self Awareness of their own shortcomings and seek out people with skills and expertise to fill those gaps.
  • Recognize that there are things they do not know, and actively solicit feedback from others.
  • Networks extensively to fine tune concepts
  • Possesses an in-depth knowledge of their space 
  • Secures adequate financial resources to ensure development
  • Writes down their vision and sets multi-year goals
  • Develops a business plan and strategy
  • Knows how to create value for stakeholders/investors
  • Grooms leaders and bench strength for continuity
  • Defines the exit strategy for their involvement 

It is true that there are some entrepreneurs who achieved success as a result of being in the right place at the right time. Those instances are more often the result of being first to market or creating opportunity out of necessity or an urgent need. For everyone else-- and that is nearly all of us, being creative alone just isn't enough.

As a business consultant, I frequently meet with individuals with incredible passion, enthusiasm and creativity, yet lack business skills to monetize and execute their ideas. My advice to anyone who considers themselves an entrepreneur is to write a business plan, and let someone else read it. Seek out advice from people with experience and proven track record for success. The Golden Rule I happen to live by for Entrepreneurs, is "If it is too good to be true, it usually is". 

So you're an entrepreneur...before you run down the path of bringing your great idea to reality, step back, take the time to ask the tough questions and get someone to "punch holes" in your big idea. Then, and only then find an experienced business person to engage with on a project basis to get some professional advice. It could save you from burning through investor's money, or worse yet, your own life savings.

Rick Rockhill is Managing Partner and co-founder of Zarhill Partners Group, a retail brand and sales consulting group based in Burbank, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. They serve clients throughout the USA and Asia.

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