By the end of the conversation, I’d was sure he’d never start a business…
The other day, I met someone, completely outside of a work context. I happened to be with a friend who is also deeply involved in entrepreneurship and business-building. And soon our three-way conversation turned toward business.
Specifically, starting a business.
“I think I’d really like to start a business at some point. What would I need to do?”
We humored him. We gave him some things to ponder.
We told him about resources he could seek out. We issued a few warnings about things to avoid. We gave correct-if-generic advice.
But I was biting my tongue the whole time. Because no matter what we said, I knew our advice would never be heeded. Heck, it would never be needed.
Because this kid was never gonna start a business.
How could I tell?
My first clue was how vague and generic his question was. He just wanted to “start a business.” He wanted to “be an entrepreneur.”
This is like the hipster “writer” who wants to “be a writer” but never f***ing puts down his coffee and his cigarettes to put pen to page, or fingers to keyboard.
Writers write. Entrepreneurs start businesses.
And in both cases, that involves moving from the vague generality of the title to the specifics of creation.
If someone is going to start a business, here’s what their question might sound like…
“Hey I have this family recipe for jelly and I’ve been selling it at fairs and farmer’s markets, and I’d really to turn that into something more formal — what does it take to get a business like that set up?”
“I’ve been working in marketing for a couple years, and am racking up some wins and building my skills — now I’d like to offer that as a client service, through a business — what does that take?”
“I was dealing with [PROBLEM] and I looked high and low for a great solution, and I just couldn’t find one — so I ended up inventing it myself. And every time I show it off, I get another person who wants me to make it for them. Do you think this could actually be a product — and a business?”
It’s not about wanting to be or to have. It’s about wanting to provide value, to solve problems, to help others…
The mechanism for doing so is the offer, and the business. You don’t start a business to become an entrepreneur. You start the business and become an entrepreneur to provide a solution to a problem in the marketplace.
Are there exceptions? Sure.
But the vast majority of people who want to be entrepreneurs and start a business (without the other stuff) are better understood as perpetual, lifetime dreamers.
They dream and dream about this big vision of what it is they want.
They look to the glitz, glamour, and glory of success.
They don’t want to know the truth about what it takes. They want to explore and research the dream, and surround themselves with other dreamers.
When they hear about the hard work, and the repeated failures, and the difficulty and challenges, they run back to their startup coffee talks, where the dreams can be dreamed.
On the other hand, there are 3 big consistencies among every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever met…
- They find problems to solve, through their products, services, and offers.
- They learn to sell.
- And they are voracious and lifelong learners.
But first: there’s a distinction between a business owner and an entrepreneur.
You can buy a franchise location, and run it, and be a business owner. You can buy a bunch of painting supplies and register a corporation, and become a painting business owner. You can open up a storefront and sell generic retail merchandise, and be a business owner.
You don’t have to do anything NEW to become a business owner. You simply have to register a corporation, and do something that other businesses in your category do.
Entrepreneurs are engines of creation. The risk is higher. So is the reward. An entrepreneur figures out how to solve a problem in a novel way, and puts that in front of a market. Often through the creation of brand new products and services, often through the creation of brand new categories.
Let’s get into those three entrepreneurial consistencies…
Real entrepreneurs find a problem, and solve it…
Problems are markets. It’s a lesson I’ve written about over and over again.
You can define a market in all sorts of ways. But the most reliable, in terms of creating offers and businesses, is by a common problem.
You find a problem. Either one you’ve experience, or one that others have. You create a solution. Preferably a novel solution, one that’s never been done in quite this way before.
Then, you reach out to people with that problem, and present your solution.
Maybe you do it through responsive advertising, through paid and organic search, the yellow pages, or some other way that people are seeking out the solution.
Or you find where the people who have your problem congregate, or the common media they consume. In other words, the magazines they read, the websites they visit, the TV they watch, and so on. You put your ads there, flagging the problem and offering your solution.
Or you find ways to make both types of advertising work.
No matter what, you’re finding problems, creating solutions, and putting those solutions in front of people who have that problem, you potential buyers.
If someone is going to really be an entrepreneur, the business is almost the afterthought. They’re more focused on providing a solution to the market’s problem.
Real entrepreneurs learn to sell…
Here, I’m referring to at least two kinds of selling.
The first is selling your product. Most businesses start with the founder as the original salesperson. If they can’t sell it, nobody will be able to. So yes, it’s important to learn to sell your solution to your prospect’s problem.
Eventually, you will want to grow beyond this role. By putting your message into media, in the form of marketing and advertising. And potentially through hiring a sales team, who uses your fundamental selling story to sell on your behalf.
But there’s another kind of selling that an entrepreneur will never grow beyond.
Entrepreneurs must also learn to sell their ideas. They sell their ideas to their customers and prospects. They sell their ideas to their team. To their stakeholders. To their vendors. To investors and other backers. To partners. To the media. To total strangers. To anyone that asks.
Not that you should be a nonstop pitch machine — that’s repulsive. But that you should be ready to pitch your idea at a moment’s notice, and that you should be the ultimate advocate for solving that problem you’ve created an offer around.
You may grow beyond selling your products to customers, but you will never grow beyond selling the vision and purpose that drives your company.
Real entrepreneurs are voracious learners…
Here’s where I get a little self-serving.
More often than not, the person who will go out and create a business or an empire has a shelf full of business books, including all the books from their top authors.
They buy more training than they’ll ever consume. (But do their darnedest to get all the crucial lessons they need from everything they own.)
They are subscribed to all the newsletters, and read all the emails. They listen to the podcasts, and watch the videos.
They’re always learning. When they’re driving, it’s a book or program, instead of music — or, God forbid, talk radio. They may watch TV and movies to unwind, but just as often you’ll find them watching training videos and seminars to learn, to stimulate their mind.
They learn what they already know, because this time through it might give them an idea for this project, today — and even that is worth it.
They hire coaches and consultants. They join groups. They go to events.
They’re dedicated to a lifetime of growth. But more importantly, finding ideas TODAY and learning from others’ experiences TODAY to figure out their next step, and their next step, and their next step.
BONUS: They spend an inordinate amount of time learning, but an even bigger chunk of time DOING THE WORK…
They take action. Perhaps they spend 20% of their time developing themselves and their skills. But the other 80% is applying what they learn.
They learn to do.
And in that, they succeed.
If you’re a voracious lifetime learner and entrepreneur, you probably also want to invest in lifetime access to my BTMSinsiders training library before the price more than doubles on the evening of December 31st.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,