How to Become an Entrepreneur

A successful entrepreneur can create businesses out of thin air.  A little startup capital and a lot of hard work are what is needed.  It may be similar to existing business models or completely something unique.  Both are viable options that can be rewarding.  

Owning your own business was many rewards.  

  • Challenge yourself.  There doesn’t need to be any here are no routines in running your own business.  You get to work on what you want to work on. If things get repetitive or boring, you can always find someone to do the work while you work on projects that can produce better results for your business. In the beginning, a business owner may do the operations, but eventually, they can shift to managing and growing the business. 
  • Have the liberty to set your schedule.  When you are the owner, the results are more important than the hours worked.  No one is asking CEOs of companies why they were not in the office on certain days, instead, they want to know the financial results.  The same goes for operating your own business, define what you measure and let those metrics speak for themselves.  
  • Choose who you work with. Many people hate their work because of the people they work with.  Some of the most difficult and menial work has happy employes (i.e. Costco or Chik-fil-a).  These companies have created a culture where people enjoy the environment and colleagues which makes the job enjoyable. 
  • No ceiling on earning potential. When you work for yourself, you have the ability to decided if you want to be a solo-entrepreneur, have a small team, or grow as large as possible.  Generally speaking, staying small reduces stress but also limits earning potential. Growth comes with managing more people which is the biggest challenge in running a business.  It’s your choice. In this post, the founder of Basecamp explains why he chooses to keep his company smaller rather than chase riches.  He has many opportunities to become a billionaire by accepting VC money and growing.  
  • Have more control over your destiny.  When you work for your self, you will be the last one to get laid off.  Most companies treat their employees without a personal connection. If there is a downturn in the business, employees will be laid off and the owner can compensate with his time.  In addition to being laid off, when you work for someone, you have no choice in the direction of the business. Do we stay small or grow? Do we pivot our product/service? Do we target a different customer?  Being an employee has its benefits for those that not business-minded, however, if you are, you should own some kind of business. Its the best way to control your future

If you are serious about wanting to start your own business, then you need to decide to do it.  Once you do, you can start planning.

Many people want to set out on their own, but struggle with one question:

 “I don’t know what kind of business to start.”

Here is the path that I have seen work many times to launch successful business owners.  This can be modified to apply to students starting out or those that have been working a job their whole life.   

Step 1: Get Skills

My suggestion is to acquire a skill or education that can land you in the best possible job.  It can be a professional service like a lawyer, accountant, engineer or something blue-collar like plumber or mechanic.  It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to be something you love, but preferably something you don’t hate.  

In the beginning, you probably will be doing the work yourself, so be sure you are willing to do it.  As you grow you will have the option to work “on your business” instead of “in your business.” 

For the purpose of being specific, I am going to use an accountant as an example throughout the remainder of this post. You can apply this to any profession.  

Step 2:  Get a Job with a Large Brand Name Firm

Once you have a skill, get the best job you are able to get within that field.  For an accountant, it would be to get a job at the largest possible firm with the best brand name.  Don’t worry about what you get paid or even what you doing within that firm as long as it’s within your field.  Try to get exposure to as many things as possible.  

The purpose of this step is to build a safety net in your career because having that brand name on your resume will open doors.  Although most people rarely learn much in entry-level positions at large firms, other people value it. This is the same concept of college for most careers. College is more about getting the credentials than learning. 

It’s not fair, but that’s how the game works. 

Step 3: Work Hard and Build Relationships 

Work hard at building relationships with people within the firm.  Be genuine. Take interest to be people and their personal lives. Joke around with them.  Ask about their family. Know what they enjoy doing outside work. You don’t need to do this with everyone, but try to do it with at least 1 person at every level; Colleagues, Managers, and Executives/Owners.  

Obviously, you also have to do your job well, ask great questions and over-deliver.  The goal is to make your manager’s life as easy as possible. They will love you for it. 

Step 4: Change Jobs to Medium Firm & Repeat Step 3

After 2-4 years of working hard, its time to start looking for new work.  This time we are going to look for work within a sub-industry of the career you were working in at a smaller firm.  If you were working at an international firm with 20,000 people, now you are going to look for work at a national firm with 1,000 people.  If possible, you are going to look for a sub-industry that interests you but still have access to a variety of things. 

Continue to maintain relationships from your prior work and build the same type of relationships here.  Use social media and email to check in with people from your prior work. If you had built a good relationship with them, they’ll be glad to hear from you.  

Step 5: Change Jobs to Small Firm & Repeat Step 3 

A few years after time at a medium-firm, it’s time to move to a small firm.  At this point, if you were working hard and doing a good job, your employers are going to do whatever they can to keep you.  If you are still determined to start your own business, you have to resist the temptation to take more money to stay. Employers will offer hush money to keep you satisfied for a few years to keep you working for them.  

This time we’re going to look for a regional firm with 200 people that may have a specialty that you can see yourself focusing on.  For an accountant that could be the audit of financial service companies, tax for retail businesses, or valuation of businesses for sale.

Continue to maintain relationships from your prior work and build the same type of relationships here.  Tell them what you are working on and keep the conversation open with them. These relationships may help you acquire new business or hire employees in the future.  

Step 6: Change Jobs to Boutique Firm & Repeat Step 3

After about 6 – 12 years of niching down and learning, you will now start looking for your last job before you launch your business.  This company should be much smaller than the previous ones. Generally, it is one where you will have access to work with the owners daily.  

When looking for this job, the idea is to find a business that you can see yourself owning.  

Observe and ask the following:

  • Does this business fit my lifestyle?
  • Does the business make a good profit?
  • What will I need to learn to start and operate run this business?  

When interviewing with the owners, you can hint at your ambitions to work hard and be a partner or business owner.  Either they value someone like that or are scared away by that. Stay away from the ones that are intimidated by an ambitious prospect, they won’t take the time to teach you what is needed.  

It may take you a while to find the right place.  Don’t be afraid to jump ship if it’s not working out. 

Once you get into the right place, you work hard to learn the ins and out of the business.  You want to learn how EVERYTHING works. Here are some of the important areas to learn about:

  1. Marketing, Sales, & Business Development
  2. Finance & Accounting
  3. Human Resources 
  4. Technology & Equipment
  5. Operations

Over a span of 1-3 years, you will learn as much as you can about these areas as they pertain to launching your own business.    

Step 7: Start your own business! 

It’s now time to be free! In the beginning, it may feel more like a prison than freedom, but anything worthwhile is hard. If you wish, over time you can build systems that allow you to step away from the day to day operations of the business and focus on the vision.  

To launch your business you have two options:

  1. Start a business from scratch.  This is my preferred method but it will require you to forego income in the beginning and is extremely hard to setup.  It can be done, but you have to be vigilant with doing things the right way from Day 1. You cannot take short cuts because you are starting out.  
  2. Buy an existing business in and improve it.  This allows you to have some revenue from the start, however, you have to pay for it.  It makes it easier to focus on the business rather than the urgency of getting new clients.  You have to work to make this business yours and improve it.

Naval Ravikant was quoted saying “it takes 10 years to build a business” in this video. I’ve found that it takes at least about 7 years for myself.  

None of this is a get rich quick scheme.  Start laying the foundation for what you want in a decade.  It may not be sexy but it works!

Be patient, work hard!

Leave a comment or DM me with what you’re working on and what challenges you face!  

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