Are You Cut out to Be an Entrepreneur?

Posted by Robert Norton on

This article will list the many skills that are required to launch an entrepreneurial venture that can be at least profitable, and hopefully scalable.  And it will help you decide if you are ready to take on that challenge.  Be advised that years of preparation and learning are usually necessary to be truly prepared to launch any company, even one that is not new and innovative.  And if you lack the skills listed herein, you need to plan to recruit people that bring these skills if you want a company to be successful. 

The skills required to build a company are the most valuable skills in the world.  What other skills can create potentially billions in value, jobs, and a higher standard of living for millions of people?  At least in a moral and legal way.

Building a successful company to $5 million, $20 million, or $100 million is the most fulfilling thing you can ever do.  Only about one in sixteen hundred companies will break even $10 million in annual sales.  So, it is quite rare.  Entrepreneurship creates jobs, wealth, value for customers, and it can often even mean progress in the standard of living of people in general.  It is a very noble thing when done with integrity and helps thousands of people.  Only Entrepreneurs can drive a higher standard of living for people.  And inevitably, in time, wealth is created for the Founders and key employees if the venture is managed and scaled properly.

The vast majority of Entrepreneurs, who must have strong egos and confidence even to try starting a company, fail to get the Mentors, Advisors, Consultants, and others that could guide them to success.  Or at least get them there much faster.  And they fail to do the homework required to tune their product to fill a need before building it.  This process is sometimes called “Product-Market Fit”.  This must be done in the company design process, not during the launch.  That is way too late, and dozens of major mistakes are baked-in if you got there too soon.  This one mistake alone is cited as a reason for failure by forty-three percent of entrepreneurs that shut down their company, according to a survey conducted by CB Insights.  Delays can mean death for a startup.  And once cash is burning, time becomes your enemy.  The design process can be done with little cash burn, and the discipline to stay in design until you get it right is a huge factor in success.  Rushing the business design is always a mistake.  

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Entrepreneurs must read, study, build a network of advisors, giving them a little stock usually, and above all be coachable and open to input from the marketplace and experts in various areas.  Ideally, this preparation and learning should be done years in advance of launching a venture.  I did this for at least five years, knowing I would launch my own venture eventually.  Though I had four small businesses before I had graduated from high school, including a direct mail-order business where we produced and shipped ham radio antennas.

Going to networking groups, pitch events, entrepreneurship meetings, and, of course, getting practice managing people myself as a Vice President of Engineering for three years before I founded my first large venture prepared me for my first big venture.  I recommend no less than three years’ experience managing people, recruiting them, and running some department of a company before you jump in these waters.   It is far better to learn these lessons on someone else’s dime and under some mentorship and training at a company that can afford to develop people.  Otherwise, you are learning via trial and error, which can be costly, or even deadly, in a startup situation.  Startups really need to hire mainly experienced people that can wear many hats and get it done.  Younger Entrepreneurs I coach that are successful aggressively seek help and dedicate time to their own learning and growth.

Entrepreneurs must also know there are times when you need to avoid the advice of “experts” too.  That is where tenacity and confidence are required.  Many experts are not qualified to work in startups or cannot see past the way things are done today (cognitive dissonance and more) towards the new business model you want to create.  Or have little to no experience with startups because all their experience was gained in larger companies.  Only experience gives you many of these abilities.  All arts must be perfected by doing them, not from textbooks or classes.  

Entrepreneurs need to be certain that the core value proposition of their venture is solid, even certain.  This is what should never really change much, if at all.  You may change, even many times, how you deliver that core value proposition, but not the core value itself.  This “Certainty” or core value of your business allows you to resist changes when appropriate, and still be flexible around all the other parts of your business.  It allows you to invest with confidence in the development of your “Hedgehog Concept”, as Jim Collins calls it in the top business book Good to Great.  Finding this balance between tenacity and flexibility is often a challenge for entrepreneurs.  Having a model for this is critical.  I call this model The Vision Pie and you can see my article on this here.

So here is the list of skills, or more accurately arts, that you will need to develop and execute well to build a company with the potential for high growth and value.  It is easy to make this list, but if you do not have these skills, you will not understand the need very well.  Or even what this list means in some ways.

Most entrepreneurs fail to spend enough time on the first phase of this “Design of the Business” process.  This is where the magic happens and both differentiation and sustainable competitive advantage are designed into the business model. And much more.

Odds are that you did not learn all these in your past career, or at least most of them. So, you need to source people who can help with these. Often just small slices of someone’s time to help in the design phase.

Click here to view parts two and three of this short video series that will walk you through the map to entrepreneurial success above, and discuss the tools taught at The CEO and Entrepreneur Boot Camp.

Taking The CEO and Entrepreneur Boot Camp is the best way we know to at least triple your chances of successfully launching a company.  We believe it is better than getting an MBA because it is faster, cheaper, and more practical.  I hope to meet you there someday in our online classes and coaching sessions.

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Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. And helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies successfully raise capital.

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