By Dave Isbell and Guest Blogger, Brett Kopf
During the past few weeks, I have been wondering why more people do not seriously consider becoming an entrepreneur? The most obvious reasons seem to be the lack of money and the fear of failure. It does not take a PHD to understand that most businesses never make it off the ground or close within five years. In fact, most of the people I have read about our talked to about this have failed in at least one business venture before they ever succeeded. Yet, there are businesses that started in a garage with nothing more than a card table, a few hundred bucks, and a good idea. So, what kind of person chooses to chuck the relative “stability” of a paycheck and benefits to instead spend their time and money on building a business?
One of my favorite pals on Twitter is Carol Roth. She is a Business Strategist, Deal Maker, Small Business Expert, Advisor, Speaker, Author, and rising media sensation. (All of that plus, someone has even made a fashion doll of her. How cool is that?) One of the things that I love about Carol (aside from her ineffable sense of humor) is that she is not afraid to pull punches. She will be the first to tell you that your passion for a subject, the need to create an income for yourself, or the desire to not have a boss are terrible reasons to start a business. To paraphrase Carol, the solution to the first problem is a hobby, the second is to get a job, and the third is to understand that every customer is an entrepreneur’s boss! So, if Carol, who has helped thousands of people to start and grow hundreds of businesses to earn billions of dollars, says that those are not good ideas to become an entrepreneur, then what is?
I asked Brett Kopf, a young Spartan who is still in the thick of launching a new enterprise, to share a bit of his story (and a few words of wisdom) about being an entrepreneur. Here is what he had to say:
I remember the day I decided to “take the plunge” vividly. It was the middle of December and I was a week away from graduating college. All around me, I’d heard about the major companies my friends got jobs with. Nestle, IBM, Intel…all with a nice, shiny salary.
I even had an offer from a legitimate Chicago startup to manage their social media. But, something wasn’t right in my gut. This was the first lesson in business. Always trust your gut, it rarely lies.
After having a near heart attack and giving into pressure, I called my brother David. We’d thrown around the idea of starting remind101 many times but never fully committed. “David,” I said, “I’m doing this 100%, with or without you. But, it will be near impossible to do it without you so take some time, and tell me if you are in or out.”
There was no hesitation. He was in. A year and 1/2 later we have raised over $30,000, have a functioning web application, made many mistakes, have users for our product, and are still learning every single day. But, what do we have to show?
Many people will commend us on our efforts for getting this far but David and I are pretty stringent on how we judge success. I deem success for our company as providing sustainable value to our users and making money. I don’t think we’ve accomplished either yet, but, I do think it’s a work in progress.
We got an incredible education in startups & business. Things like, “How do you find a lawyer?” “How much does it cost?” “How do you structure the equity?” “Should the button be blue or black?” “Should users have the right to choose when to be reminded?” The list goes on.
So, if you are thinking about starting a company I say hoorah! GO FOR IT! (Even better if you are a student.) But, remember to focus on providing value to your users and figure out how to make money.
We’ll get there, but it’s always a work in progress.”
So, what is an entrepreneur? I’m sure I’m missing a few things here, but it seems it comes down to this:
- Being a person who is more concerned about selling his or her time and talents to support his/her own huge vision than s/he is about creating a way to pay the bills at home.
- Having a product or service that other people want and are willing to pay for, and being willing to do the work to find and engage these people.
- Paying the business first: Delaying a paycheck while working harder than anyone ever thought would be possible to see a vision come to life.
- Thick Skin: The ability to fail, learn, and to try again, despite criticism and fear.
- Surrounding one’s self with the right people, and the ability to ask for help.
- Continual learning, planning, listening, and responding to the marketplace, business partners, and customers.
If you think you have the stuff, find a mentor write your business plan, and get to work! The world can always benefit from a leader who has a vision, an idea for something that people need, and sweat equity to make things happen.
Brett Kopf is the co-founder of remind101 & founder of Social Bonfire. @brettkopf on Twitter if you’d like to connect with him. All his links (and an amazing photo)are here too: http://about.me/brettkopf
Carol Roth did not contribute to this blog post. But she is awesome, and if Dave could figure out a way to get her to write for free, he would love to have her as a guest contributor in the future. If you were not paying attention the first time, you can find her at www.carolroth.com Just for the record, Carol did not pay Dave to tell you that she is a superhero rock star. She doesn’t even know he is writing this. Frankly, he is just a “fanboy” who is happy to joke around with her on Twitter sometimes while he waits for his pre-ordered copy of her book to arrive. Maybe he will even get lucky enough to have her autograph his copy [insert squeal of delight here!]
Dave Isbell has been a Career Coach since 1999, and holds professional certifications in the field (GCDF, ETS, and JCTC.) In his current role as the MSU Alumni Career Service Coordinator, he is fortunate to get to help Spartans find their “compassion” and then to connect with other people whom they can then collaborate with to do meaningful things. He is also working on a Master’s in Social Work, with an emphasis on Family Studies at MSU. When he is not working, studying, or attempting domestic bliss, he can be found reading, watching, or listening to something deeply profound or guiltily shallow. He occasionally plays rock music on a bass guitar, guitar, or drums, but those occasions are very few because he feels more pressured to work on term papers than to pluck, strum, or bang on something. As the founder of this blog, he is the person to blame if you don’t like it and he is usually the one tweeting as @helpingspartans. However, if you complain about not liking the blog or twitter account, be prepared to be assigned a job as an unpaid writer, editor, or designer.