Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do you have the right stuff to be an entrepreneur?

For many of us the idea of being your own boss, making more money than Bill Gates, and having the leisure time to spend it is very appealing. And for many aspiring entrepreneurs, it is possible (well, maybe not making as much money as Bill Gates), but for some it is probably better to keep your day job.

At SCORE, where I work as a counselor, I see many clients, who, for a variety of reasons, want to start their own business. When we discuss the business that they want to start, I try to discover three things:

1. Do they have experience or expertise in this business?

2. Are they able to commit themselves to the business?

3. Do they have a passion for the business?

In my experience, if they do not have at least these three characteristics, it is unlikely that they will succeed. Of course, things like a good idea and start up money are also critical, but, from a personal perspective, without experience, commitment and passion it is unlikely that they have the “right stuff.”

If you have what you think is a good idea, or see a good opportunity, but do not have the experience, then I suggest you spend time to try to get it. If you are thinking about going into the restaurant business, but have never worked in a restaurant, try it to see if you can stand the hours, understand what makes a good menu, learn how to cook quickly for an endless stream of customers, how to manage perishable inventory, and get a sense for the rules and laws governing sanitation. If you have a great idea, but have never manufactured or marketed a product before, study the market, identify your strengths and weaknesses and see if you can find a partner who can compliment your strengths and overcome your weaknesses.

According to a recent study by the University of Tennessee, over 25 percent of businesses fail in the first year, and 36 percent fail by the second year. In the same study, they also identified the major causes of failure, most of which were the result of incompetence or inexperience, but do not ignore a lack of commitment and passion. One of my favorite anecdotes about commitment is a very successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur was asked, “What is the one piece of advise you would give someone who is about to start a business?”

After thinking for a moment, he responded “Be single, or get single”. That may be a little extreme, but it is true, that most businesses require much more time and energy, particularly in the start-up phase, than you can imagine.

And that relates to the last characteristic of most successful entrepreneurs. Have a passion for the business, because there will be times, often many times, when things are not going well, and, if you do not have a passion for what you are doing, it may be very difficult to overcome the emotional hurdles that these obstacles create.

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