By Jason Graf, CrowdIt co-founder and CEO
In my opinion, the essence of innovation materializes through entrepreneurship. Literally meaning to ‘undertake,’ an entrepreneur is one who takes the road less traveled (or not even explored before) and puts themselves in a position to creatively define their own destiny. To become an entrepreneur, you don’t need anything more than an idea and the drive to develop that idea into fruition. In a world where actions speak louder than words, I would like to provide a few key thoughts about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Know Your Limitations and Eventually You’ll Have Zero
As a wise man once said, “the first step to solving a problem is realizing there is one.” This may seem counter-intuitive, but realizing the limits you face is the first step to overcoming them. There are some key questions everyone should ask themselves which will help them define not only their limitations, but more importantly shape their goals.
– Why do you want this goal for yourself? This is difficult, but extremely important to reflect on why you want to achieve what you want to achieve. Without purpose, nothing else matters.
– What is the rate at which this goal can be achieved? It’s worth investigating how many people may have tried before you, and the reasons they failed. If we don’t understand what people did before us, we’re doomed to repeat history. On the flipside, if no one has done what you are attempting to do (big kudos to you), then you set the rate at which this goal can be achieved and you learn daily about the intricacies of what it takes to achieve success, all while teaching the world something new.
– What is the cost of achieving this goal? Nothing in life is free—anything we choose to do in life has a cost associated with it, whether it is time, money, resources, or all of the above. Accomplishing any goal requires compromises and sacrifices. You are more likely to achieve your goal by being realistic about the costs associated from the beginning.
Asking these questions and reflecting upon the answers will get you started on a path to achieving a goal or a dream. In fact, it may even provide a spark of ambition that takes you to somewhere you didn’t initially intend, but is in fact something you’ve wanted to achieve all along. Above all, the most important limitations that we all need to understand are those that we place on ourselves. If you don’t overcome your own personal limitations, how can you expect to overcome the limitations placed upon you in society?
Embrace Failure—Don’t Be Deterred By It
Some of the most successful entrepreneurs throughout history certainly weren’t trying to fail, but they did—repeatedly. But did this ever deter them from achieving something great? Not a chance, because they didn’t see ‘failing’ as being a ‘failure.’ You are only a failure if you give up. If you know the challenges in front of you, you just keep trying to overcome them until one day you finally do. Here are some inspiring examples of entrepreneurs who failed, but who achieved their goals despite numerous failures throughout the process:
– Walt Disney was turned down time and time again (legend has it at over 300 separate occasions) when seeking financing to start Disney World.
– Henry Ford wasn’t an instant success. In fact, several of his early business ventures failed and left him broke multiple times before he founded Ford Motor Company.
– Steve Jobs was a college dropout, initially an unsuccessful businessman, and even got fired at the age of 30 from the very company he founded—Apple.
– Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, thought restaurant owners would love to serve his fried chicken to their patrons. Apparently, he was turned away more than 1,000 times before the first restaurant owner said ‘yes.’
– Sir James Dyson, founder of Dyson Vacuums, went through over 5,000 failed prototypes and burnt through his life savings doing so. But the 5,127th prototype worked and now the Dyson brand is the best-selling vacuum cleaner in the United States.
Don’t be afraid to fail. In fact, you should welcome it. Each time you fail, you grow from the experience and you won’t make the same mistake again. Failure can be one of the most important teaching tools because it shows us how bad we want something and the ways not to do something. The only real failure is to not try to achieve at all.
Be A Sponge and Keep An Open Mind
Know enough to know you don’t know much. This also sounds counter-intuitive, but the most successful entrepreneurs never forget how much they can learn from others. Be willing to ask for advice and keep an open mind about the advice you receive. By filtering advice through your own pre-conceived notions, you might not otherwise gain the full value of the knowledge bestowed upon you. You may disagree with the advice or even dislike it, but chances are you can use that knowledge to your advantage. As good business practice, here are some tips to help you gain helpful advice to becoming a successful entrepreneur:
– Get a mentor—someone that has knowledge and experience that you admire and respect for advice. This doesn’t have to be someone that has done it all before, but someone who will be honest and direct. This is someone you should trust and that you’ve known for a while (so they know your background and what you are all about).
– Never stop learning, always be curious about what else is out there. Take classes at a local school in your area or online if you’re looking for a more flexible timeline. Read articles, blogs and memoirs from successful business people and try to apply their learning experiences to your own situation.
– Test your knowledge in public; use others as a sounding board. Attend local networking events, go to workshops, and join organizations or associations that focus on business or a particular area of interest. Once you start interacting with other people, bounce ideas off of them and pick their brains about different tactics and industry knowledge.
Being flexible and trying to soak up knowledge about management tactics, best practices, technology and services will truly help you in the long run. Ultimately, the goal is to never stop learning because being rigid and stubborn will get you nowhere.
On A Final Note
Not one person can do everything, but everyone can do something. Being a successful entrepreneur is also about the company you keep. The more you put yourself out there and the more you network, the more response and results you will achieve. The most effective entrepreneurs will trust in the three success factors listed above and will build a strong network of support around them. But the one thing that cannot be taught or learned is the one major difference between triumph and disappointment: you have to believe in yourself because if you don’t, how do you expect anyone else to?
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Jason Graf is the founder and concept-creator of CrowdIt. A SCORE mentor and avid entrepreneur, Graf has an unwavering drive to improve small business and startup success in the U.S. and all over the world. With his vision to modernize the current crowdfunding model to extend support beyond funding, CrowdIt is the first to incorporate business networking and much-needed support services into the crowdfunding experience. By acting as a virtual incubator, CrowdIt aims to rejuvenate the individual dreamer and reinforce the collective power of the crowd. With more than 13 years of experience in business and finance and as a business intermediary for Murphy Business & Financial Corporation, Graf’s passion for business, marketing, planning, and financing has helped other business owners get the support they need to flourish in today’s economic climate.