On average I get about 10–20 requests a month for mentorship or advice. Whether it be former/current students, social media followers or people I’ve met while networking, many of them want to know: what does it take to be an entrepreneur?
I believe entrepreneurship is simple. Either you are one or you aren’t.
And unfortunately, a lot of you calling yourselves entrepreneurs? You just aren’t.
If you disagree with me, that’s alright, but today, I want you to prove it.
Saying is completely different than being
Forget the propaganda going around right now.
Forget it all, despite what the world tells you right now:
- Everyone can get a side hustle.
- It’s the easiest and best time for everyone to be an innovator.
- Everyone has an inner entrepreneur.
- You can start the next billion dollar business from your garage.
- Everyone can be an entrepreneur.
What if I told you tomorrow I wanted to be a neurosurgeon? Or a constitutional lawyer? A chartered accountant? A chemical engineer?
Could I just start any of these jobs? Of course not. Not everyone is built to be a doctor and take care of human lives. I can’t stand the sight of blood or needles!
So why then, must we tell everyone they can be entrepreneurs?
Now anyone can call themselves an entrepreneur.
It sounds nice. I can also say I’m athletic. But eventually I’m going to have to prove it and verify this statement. I’m going to have to hit the basketball courts this weekend. Or time how quickly I can run a mile.
So you can call yourself an entrepreneur, good for you. But can you walk the walk?
The entrepreneur life is trending right now. If you measure it by Instagram it’s surely glamourous! Unfortunately it’s based on false perceptions.
Not everyone is built for this life.
If I walked into a classroom today and asked 100 students — who here is ready for 10 years of limited sleep, no pay, lot’s of tears, working on a dream only you can see? To live in a state of constant doubt, loneliness and fatigue? And that no matter how good you are, how good your product is, how connected you may be, how perfect the moment seems… it still might fail.
Who would raise their hand? Probably not many.
And that’s ok. It really is.
You aren’t a failure if you aren’t an entrepreneur.
Entrepreneurship is not always rational. It’s not always sane. It doesn’t always make any sense. It’s certainly not meant for everyone.
Are you ready to pay those dues? To go through the ups and downs? To actually do the work required?
If you are, own it today. And put some substance behind your claim to be an entrepreneur.
Your Idea is Worthless.
“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps — we must step up the stairs.” — Vance Havner
For all the mentee meetings I take there are always 2 to 3 guys who want to send me an NDA to sign. *queue side-eye*
In response I always ask: Is this a registered business? Is this something you have started implementing? Is this something that would terrify your competitors?
No? Then I’ve got nothing to sign.
Your idea means nothing.
It is worth nothing.
And I’m not stealing it.
Please understand this; your idea means nothing until it’s been implemented. It’s not the next million dollar idea.
I’m sure there’s a guy sitting at home right now, telling the world that he came up with the idea of Facebook first.
Or any other amazing product we all use daily.
Guess the difference? He never did anything with this amazing idea.
Being an ideapreneur is very different than being an entrepreneur. One counts and the other simply doesn’t.
A young man emailed me some time ago asking if I could be his mentor. Having interacted with him in the classroom I said I would be open to the idea, how about a meeting in the next 2 weeks. He said, “Please wait, I need to finish my business plan first.”
It’s been 15 months since I’ve heard from him.
If you idea needs a year to validate in an archaic document its also not worth anything.
Until you work out your idea you can’t own it, sell it or take it anywhere.
Execution is what gives an idea value.
But a lot of people don’t want to do that part. Typically because it’s the hard part. It takes time, energy, resources, and doesn’t always guarantee success.
Now just as an idea means nothing alone, execution also means nothing alone. Don’t just go building so quick without validating any substance or value.
To be a successful entrepreneur, to have a successful business, you need a great idea AND great execution!
Have an idea? Great!
Build it. Today. Right now. Test it. Tweak it. Validate it. Sell it. Scale it.
Then we can talk. Sitting on it. NDAs. 10 year business plans; all of that doesn’t work and means nothing, especially today. The market is moving too fast for you to keep stalling.
You have to go all in.
An old business partner of mine used to preach entrepreneurship day in and day out, even teach its principles to others. Then I realized in every venture we started together or that I had seen him begin, he always had a backup plan. An exit strategy.
He always had a job he could go back to. He always had that safety net. He was always negotiating something that would bail him if and when he failed.
It prevented him from ever taking any real risk. He always left to go pay his bills or to fix his car. At the slightest turn of his savings not being able to cover his lifestyle, he bailed.
Maybe I’m stubborn. Or stupid. Probably both. But entrepreneurship is about the long haul and about sacrifice.
Because my friend always had backup plans he never had real skin in the game. It was almost like he knew inside that the ventures would collapse eventually. Surely that buried mindset of negativity wasn’t healthy for him or his businesses. Its admitting to yourself and your subconscious that you aren’t going to succeed.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not telling you to starve.
Or to not take care of your family.
Or to be irresponsible.
However, you have to understand that a backup plans allows you to have excuses. It allows you to give your brain some security. It allows you to not push as hard as you need to. Studies have proven that having a backup plan reduces your chances for success by 33%!
But if you build you business with no lifeline it will force you to push to succeed. It will force you to make it work. I think that’s a priceless experience to go through, despite the outcome.
Knowing that you put in all your blood, sweat and tears and tried every opportunity under the sun to make your idea work is invaluable. There is only all in for this life to work. Every great innovator that you look up to didn’t work his or her dream half-assed or lukewarm. They dove in the deep end with all their clothes on.
Tell yourself that this is going to work no matter what. That it has to work because you don’t have anything else. That it will come to fruition.
And then put in the the insane work required to make that come to reality!
Entrepreneur is not a job title
Recently a young man contacted me asking if he could sell expand one of our clothing brands to a new city. We were open to a conversation about growth and distribution so we asked him about his background/store/distribution channels/network/sales strategies. His response: “Umm… I don’t have a ‘formal’ business… I’m a hustler basically”
What does that mean?
I’ll tell you what it sounded like:
No plan. No strategy. No market. No clear customers. I just need to hand him boxes of our merchandise and let him go “hustle.”
“So what do you do?”
“I’m an entrepreneur”
“Okay… so what do you do?”
Hustle doesn’t pay the bills guys. It’s a means.
What are you actually selling? What’s your product? Your service?
How can we quantify it?
Measure its actual worth?
Actually sell it?
I believe we must take entrepreneur out of the dictionary as a noun. It needs to be redefined. It’s a verb. It’s an action. “To entrepreneur” is to undertake in a task. “To entrepreneur” is to solve a problem, develop solutions in the form of real products and services, to do real business!
“To entrepreneur” is a way of being. It’s a lifestyle.
Being a serial entrepreneur is not a title, it’s how you live. But it’s not a title. You are not in the business of entrepreneurship are you?
So what are you in the business of? What are you actually building and selling?
You need to have real products, real services. A real company that does real business.
Entrepreneurship is about mentality, drive and lifestyle. It doesn’t have a job description or tasks.
You have to make money
By definition, business is:
the purchase and sale of goods or services in an attempt to make a profit.
the commercial activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money.
In order to have a business, to be a business owner, to be considered an entrepreneur? You have to make money. That’s the whole point.
Not to say it’s the only point or that you must only be concerned with money.
However, in this day and age more and more entrepreneurs are popping up with business that have no plan to actually do what businesses are supposed to do, make money.
No revenue plan. No monetization strategy. No way of convincing anyone to pay for something.
Your focus should be on making money.
Not just raising money.
The most priceless investment in the world? It’s not an angel investor, not a VC, not negotiating the best term sheet.
The most priceless investor in your business is and will always be: A customer.
So many guys are building their businesses solely to sound exciting generate hype and bring in an investor. Not a business that can actually make revenue day one.
If your business isn’t focused on actually selling something to someone you aren’t in business.
And please don’t try to compare yourself to Facebook, Uber or SnapChat.
It’s very unlikely that you will be able to build a company with no business model, offer everything for free, survive long enough to scale and then miraculously flip millions of users to billion dollar profitability.
This is still the exception, even today. Not the rule.
A good entrepreneur is also a good business owner. A business owner sells goods and services for money. To actual customers. That brings in profit. All of that equals a business.
Just prove it!
The word entrepreneur is derived from the French words “entre” and “prendre’ meaning “to undertake.”
At it’s root, entrepreneurship is just about doing something, building something, undertaking in something.
You’re an entrepreneur? Prove it by doing.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, don’t just say you are one.
Find a problem and build something that solves it. Get creative and innovative and create a viable product. Market it, sell it, push it to actual customers. And then keep making it better and make some money!
An entrepreneur is someone who saw a problem, took a risk, started a real business and made money.
Be that guy.
How do you prove your entrepreneurship?
Leave a note in the comments!