“Trust because you are willing to accept the risk, not because it’s safe or certain.” — Anonymous
“A real entrepreneur is somebody who has no safety net underneath them.” — Henry Kravis
Perhaps you’ve noticed that there is not a lot of safety or security in your life. Some of us discover this truth through life’s circumstances, when something unexpected happens that we have no control over. The loss of a job, illness, divorce, or something else that changes our life’s trajectory that we do not have the ability to change. On the other hand, this lack of security can be a good thing under the right circumstances.
Helen Keller once said,” Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” She’s right, isn’t she? If you try something new, you risk failing, but if you don’t try anything, you also risk failing. As an entrepreneur, this is especially true. Your greatest success comes from your greatest risk since innovation is at the heart of entrepreneurship.
Jeff Bezos, a true legend in his own time, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, is a great example of successful risk-taking. By the time he was in college he knew he wanted to be a computer programmer. In 1986, he graduated from Princeton with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering. He had a few computer related jobs after college. By 1994 he realized that internet usage was growing by 2300% a year. He believed that there was a market for selling books online. Bezos loved books, and his dream was to sell books online. He knew he was risking his stable life, but he decided that he would rather live with the risk than have to regret not going after his dream.
Bezos put it this way: “I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was incredibly easy decision.”
In 2008, Bezos was named one of America’s best leaders in US News and World Report. The publication stated that “Amazon consistently succeeds with risky new ventures.” Bezos believes that “Every company requires a long-term view and must be willing to stay heads down and ignore a wide array of critics, even well-meaning critics.” Within Amazon he is constantly innovating with the goods and services provided. Amazon is no longer just a book seller that sells many different types of products. Outside of Amazon, Bezos’ Blue Origin company is developing spacecraft for human spaceflight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.
Bezos is a visionary and a risk taker who uses sound business principles. At the same time, he shows a lot of integrity. He doesn’t approve of unethical consumerism. He said, “What consumerism really is, at its worst, is getting people to buy things that don’t actually improve their lives. The one thing that offends me the most is when I walk by a bank and see ads trying to convince people to take out second mortgages on their home so they can go on a vacation. That’s approaching evil.”
He also believes in creating the right culture within his company through the people he chooses: “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.”
He is also been applauded as a great humanitarian, donating $15 million to Princeton University for the Bezos Center for Circuit Dynamics. He also gave $10 million to Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry to establish a Center for Innovation. He has donated many more millions to other charitable causes and nonprofit groups.
He has received many honors and awards including being named Time’s Man of the Year two times. Jeff Bezos is a great example of someone who combines amazing entrepreneurial skills with leadership and managerial skills. He is a Risk Taker of the highest order.
“Going into business for yourself, becoming an entrepreneur, is the modern-day equivalent of pioneering on the old frontier.” — Paula Nelson
First, let’s take a look at the skills that are most often associated with entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are admired, and rightly so, for their ability to shoulder risk and take action, to follow through on their visions, to be passionate and driven, and have endless numbers of new ideas. All of these talents and skills can lead to great success and are much to be admired. (But remember, these skills are only half of the equation for success.) Dave Ramsey is a great example of these qualities.
But you might not have known this… He began as a real estate investor who started from nothing and at the age of 26 had over $4 million in real estate with over $1 million net worth. He had an empire consisting of hundreds of rental units. But he also had too much debt. As sometimes happens, his primary lender was sold to another bank, and that bank decided to call in all his notes at once. Dave Ramsey spent the next 2 1/2 years losing everything.
As he describes in his book about leadership called EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches, at 26 he had a new baby, a toddler, a shaky marriage, a bankruptcy, and multiple foreclosures. In his own words he was” broke” and “broken”. Ramsey really learned his lessons the hard way.
Dave Ramsey came back to become a multimillionaire. He had taken an honest look the reasons for his failure and combined the entrepreneurial strengths of a visionary/action taker with leadership/managerial skills and strategic thought and practices.
Next Up: RISK TAKER/MAVERICK
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” — Albert Einstein
Let me ask you two questions –
- When you think of an entrepreneur, what skills come to mind?
- Why is it that 50% of all new businesses fail within the first five years?
Surveys have been taken to get the answers to the first question. If you answer the following, you’re in agreement with what most people think:
- risk taker/maverick
- action taker
- lifetime learner
All of those qualities are necessary if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, as well as a few more. But that’s only half the story. Have you ever heard the old expression, “What gets you there might not keep you there.”? That’s oh so true for entrepreneurs.
The passion and the vision of the entrepreneur will get you on the map, but without some key leadership and managerial skills, you very likely won’t stay there. To make it worse, some of these important skills might seem at odds with and even unnatural to passionate, forge-ahead entrepreneurs.
Aside from truly unavoidable circumstances, most start-ups and new businesses fail due to lack of key leadership and managerial skills. These skills, along with entrepreneurial skills, can be learned. You may be inherently better at some of them than others, but they all can be learned.
I have been in business for myself since 1996. I began that year with an online business when the internet was just starting to become common in the typical American household. Through much trial, error, and education, I learned how to be successful in the online world. It was a constant, and sometimes frustrating learning experience, as the templates and resources available today were yet to be made available to small business owners like myself.
Now I have ventured out into an area I toyed with many years ago — Residential Real Estate, and am enjoying it immensely. When I entered that arena back in the late 1980s it was a different world. Even though I had obtained my Real Estate license I ended up working as a sales rep for a company called “VR Business Brokers,” listing and selling small businesses, and that was my first real taste of being an entrepreneur. From then on I was hooked.
By the end of this series of articles, I hope to guide you based on what I have learned with a goal to help you have an understanding of the skills you need to succeed as an entrepreneur and how you can foster their growth. I am hardly an expert on the subject and have not been nearly as successful as some, but I have learned some things that I believe are worth sharing along the way.
Many entrepreneurs fail at their first and even second business, and then go on to be very successful. In many cases they failed because they did not know the entire skill set they needed. I hope to save you countless hours of frustration and even some business failures. In future articles we will look at those skills one at a time.
On the right-hand column of this blog, you will see a space that says “Subscribe to Blog Via Email.” If you’d like to be notified whenever a new article is posted, please put your email in the box and subscribe. I promise not to annoy you with unwanted emails.