Entrepreneurship: A Risky Business!


How many times have you had a great idea that you just knew was going to be the foundation of next multi-million (billion?) dollar company? If you’ve had the idea(s) but don’t see the beginnings of that fortune 500 company yet, don’t worry because you’re certainly not alone in that big-idea-big-dreamer’s club. I have had a number of those ideas – and believe me – they’re still coming, and I’m still working with each one in its own allotted time.

Having said that, there are a few owners of multi-million/billion dollar companies whose ideas did materialize. But the path from great idea to huge success evidenced by enormous assets is often a long and difficult one. The key is to recognize the uniqueness and potential of the idea and commit to working with it.

The “spark” for many entrepreneurs is seeing an opportunity that doesn’t yet exist. Ted Turner, for example, launched CNN because he perceived that people wanted more television news than they were being offered. It took a lot of patience on Turner’s part to realize the vision, but he had read the market in a way that few “experts” did at the time.

In realizing the promise of CNN (the idea), Turner demonstrated another facet of the entrepreneurial spirit. Persistence! There are a lot of bright ideas that never reach fruition; taking a “raw” idea and converting it into a successful business model is, to restate the point, very hard and time consuming work.

And that work never stops. No matter how innovative your idea, the competition is always just behind you. With anything less than constant creative effort on your part, they may not stay behind you. If you’re still with me, here is where I want to elaborate a little on a few thoughts I had as to why everyone isn’t an entrepreneur.

No opportunity is a sure thing, even though the path to riches has been described as, simply “…you make some stuff, sell it for more than it cost you… that’s all there is except for a few million details.” The devil is in those details, and if one is not prepared to accept the possibility of failure, one should not attempt a business start-up.

It is not indicative of a negative perspective to say that an analysis of the possible reasons for failure enhances our chances of success. Can you separate failure of an idea from personal failure? As scary as it is to consider, many of the great entrepreneurial success stories started with a failure or a number of failures, and more often than not the latter was true.

Some types of failure can indicate that we may not be entrepreneurial material. Foremost is reaching one’s level of incompetence; if I am a great programmer, will I be a great software company president? Having the wrong attitude can also be fatal, such as excessive focus on financial rewards, without the willingness to put in the work and attention required. Addressing these possibilities requires an objectivity about ourselves that not everyone can manage.

Other types of failure can be recovered from if you “learned your lesson.” A common explanation for these is that “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” Or, we may have sought too big a “kill;” we could have looked past the flaws in a business concept because it was a business we wanted to be in. The venture could have been the victim of a muddled business concept, a weak business plan, or (more often) the absence of a plan.

When small businesses fail, the reason is generally one, or a combination, of the following:

  • Inadequate Financing – often due to overly optimistic sales projections;
  • Management Shortcomings – such as inadequate financial controls, lax customer credit, inexperience, and neglect, and;
  • Misreading the Market – indicated by failure to reach the “critical mass” required in sales volume and profitability, usually due to competitive disadvantages or market weakness.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled “Why My Business Failed,” Ken Elias cautions that “even if the concept is right, it won’t fly if the strategy is wrong.” Still, on being asked whether he would start another business today, he answers: “Absolutely. The experience is fabulous, exciting and the possibility of success is always there.”


Choosing A Business Opportunity To Start Your Own Business

Millions of people are desparate to escape the 9 to 5 grind. One popular alternative is to look for a business opportunity that turns you from an employee into a self-employed entrepreneur running your own business.

There are many good reasons why this can be a wise move. Being your own boss means you can set your own hours. This can be very important if you have small children, or simply want to spend more time at home. Working from home can also save valuable time, if the alternative is spending two or three hours every day commuting back and forth to your work place. And of course, working for yourself also gives you the opportunity to make a whole lot more money.

In other words, being your own boss gives you that valuable commodity called freedom. It sets you free from the limitations of being someone else’s paid employee, and in return makes you responsible for your own future. As a self-employed entrepreneur you are free to set your own hours, establish your own work habits, choose what work you will do or will not do, create your own products, drum up your own customers, and do what you have to do to make those customers happy.

And perhaps most importantly, when you are self-employed you are free to set your own prices and make as much or as little income as you are able to make. You will not have to answer to anyone other than yourself, your suppliers, and of course, your ever-present Uncle SAM (for tax collection), after you become successful.

How to get started — Two Alternatives

There are two obvious ways you can go about starting your own business. The first way is to quit your day job and launch full bore into your new business. We’ll call this the “All or Nothing Approach”. The second way is to continue on with your current employment and develop a business on the side, in your spare time. We’ll call this the “Spare Time Approach”.

Depending on your point of view, taking the All or Nothing Approach can be either an act of bravery or just plain recklessness. Unless you are independently wealthy, planning and timing will be very important with this approach. That’s because once you leave your previous employment your source of income will be gone and you will have a limited amount of time to make your business work. It is “sink or swim”. And you can sink pretty quickly without a source of income.

So that means you should plan the changeover to self-employment very carefully. Every situation will be different. An acquaintance of mine was able to step from his quasi-government job into a private consulting business because he spent the last few months of his employment developing leads and contacts within his industry. When he went out on his own he had customers waiting in the wings and was able to more than double his income in his very first year.

But most of us are not so lucky. We do not have the quality leads or the specialized skills. Nor do most of us have the opportunity to use our present employment to build a launching pad of potential customers before we take off into the wild blue yonder of self-employment. Most of us are starting from scratch with a few vague ideas, a questionable set of yet-to-be-defined skills, and severly limited income. So our venture into self-employment had better take off within a few months or we’re likely to crash and burn.

That is why the Spare Time Approach is best for most new self-employed entrepreneurs, because it lets you test your ideas, develop your skills, and build your business slowly. If you are unsure about the products or services you intend to sell, this approach lets you try out different product lines and see how well they fit in with your overall objectives.

In many cases new entrepreneurs states that their first ideas are not realistic, or there is no market for the services they want to provide. Or they find they cannot charge enough to make any money providing the products or services they have chosen.

Choose your product carefully

Like all new entrepreneurs, whether you take the “all or nothing approach” or the “spare time approach” you should be very tight-fisted with your limited resources. That means do not invest any serious money in a product or business idea until you have checked it out thoroughly. The best way to “check it out” is to:

  • Talk to other entrepreneurs who are already selling the product or service.
  • Establish the credibility of the product or service provider (person or company).
  • Make sure the company provides on-going support for their product(s).
  • Make sure there are no hidden or unexpected costs (such as franchise fees) that will eat away your profits.

This applies whether you are looking at an online product such as an MLM or affiliate marketing opportunity, or a more traditional product or service aimed only at local customers. But whatever business or product you decide on, you must be willing to put in a few months of hard work at the beginning until your business has picked up a little steam and is, at least, generating enough income to cover the expenses of running it.

In other words, work your butt off until your business is self-supported, and then you could start looking at ways to expand in a way that would generate even more income, if not a profit that will give you a little stipend until you can collect a full-time income. Then you can quit your day job.

As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, your choice of products is crucial to your success or failure. Many products are simply bogus ideas with no hope of working. And many others are designed to produce maximum profits for their creators, and minimum profits for people like you and me who sell them. So no matter how hard you work, or how committed you are to being successful, if you choose the wrong product you will be operating at a disadvantage straight out of the gate.