What Is A Real Entrepreneur?

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A lot of people these days are dreaming about starting their own business. Do they have what it takes to become a REAL entrepreneur - and what even is that?

In talking to entrepreneurs about starting a business there is a great deal of variety in energy, ideas, skills, experience, money, commitment, and time required. If you have none of these, we suggest not wasting your time starting until you figure some of them out. If you have at least some of them, it is generally worth the effort to determine the potential and think about a program. Even with this advice, we frequently hear numerous frustrations with the process:

“Doing a startup mostly s…ks. It’s hard in every way. You have to do all the sh…y work no one in a big company wants to do, especially you with your fancy degree and overblown ego. You work long hours. You make s..t for money. You worry about paying rent. But, above all, it’s hard emotionally. You’re a failure until you’re not.”

In contrast, to many, the potential for success far outweighs the burdens:

“And when you start a company because you are just so damn passionate about the idea that you can’t not do it, and you find business partners who you’re long-term compatible with, and you have aligned values and agreements about money and long-term goals and hires [aka – kids] – it’s pretty damn great.”

I have been involved in planning, launching, and growing businesses for many years — both as an entrepreneur and, more recently, as a business consultant. If I have learned anything over these years of hands-on experience, it is embodied in the following statement:

It requires balancing the passion and energy that come with great entrepreneurial ideas with the practical foundational programs that will allow those ideas to flourish.

While this sounds simple enough, nine out of ten startup ideas never get off the ground or fail. The primary reason is that visionary and well-intentioned entrepreneurs lack the practical expertise, experience, and resources they need to succeed.

Ways Entrepreneurs Can Avoid Failure

To help avoid failure there are some clear and changing trends that can affect success:

Needs versus ideas

We frequently talk about ideas as if entrepreneurs woke up with a great idea to save the world and make lots of money. The reality, however, is that most successes come from solving real needs rather than simply generating a “wouldn’t it be nice” scenario. The difference may seem subtle, but the reality is not.

  • First, needs imply some frustration so that the motivation to succeed has greater emotion.
  • Second, needs at least verify that the effort has real demand.

Principles affect success

Entrepreneurs have a mission, culture, and principals they should not vary from. Typically they involve product strategy, marketing tactics, quality, value, customer satisfaction, and cultural values.

Develop, test, measure, adapt

All entrepreneurs make mistakes; Steve Jobs was fired, Thomas Edison had over 10,000 trials before he developed the light bulb. The key to entrepreneurial success is to learn from the mistakes, to innovate, and adapt. Churchill famously once said,

“…the key to success is learning to make numerous mistakes and not lose your enthusiasm.”

Great people

There is always the personal, financial, and resource issue of human resources. Successful entrepreneurs understand their limitations and find other resources. The most common example, is creative people hating finance and needing to hire support help.

Remember you get what you pay for.

Satisfy the customer

Great entrepreneurs pride themselves in the success and satisfaction of their customers. Repeat customers, less returns, and word of mouth are the best, cheapest, and most efficient way to increase sales.

Hard work, emotion, and fun

Entrepreneurs require dedication and commitment. Their work requires emotional highs and lows, long hours, and extensive dedication to details. This is all supported by the need for entrepreneurs to have fun.

Details, execution, and process rather than financing and planning

This is the standard which came first question: the chicken or the egg?

Having a great product and/or program is the best tool for raising capital rather than trying to plan and get financing with little clue about how you plan to succeed. This may sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many plans I read that have pages of financial detail with little or no facts of how they will meet sales targets or make money.


To be a true entrepreneur, one needs to understand what makes for a successful business and to find ways to make it happen. There are many characteristics that make for successful entrepreneurs many of which were briefly discussed above. The points alluded to above are not exclusive to success, but entrepreneurs must make a conscious and constant effort to take them into account during the creation and the building of their business.

The key is to focus, be persistent, always question, and follow your goals with an open mind.



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