Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

So You Want to be Your Own Boss?

Being your own boss is the surest way to freedom, success and happiness; or so many like to believe.

The yearning to be your own boss is as American as hating to be bossed around. Americans have always shared the attitude expressed in the classic 1960’s Anacin aspirin commercial, “Please MOTHER, I’d rather do it myself!” How many of us have secretly dreamed of being able to stride into the boss’ office and blurt-out, “Take this job and shove it!” The very reason for the American Revolution was so we could tell our old boss – King George III – to take his colonialism and stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.

Unfortunately, the nature of the modern-day bureaucratic corporation combined with the attitude of many bosses that they have to prove they are the boss by bossing people around, goes against our ingrained craving to be the boss of our future. It is the rule, rather than the exception, for be-your-own-boss-1individuals to find themselves trapped in a work environment created by a management that professes respect and promises “empowerment,” but then acts in a way that shows they couldn’t care less about the employee. Too many have worked diligently to prepare for a rewarding career, only to find themselves mired in a corporate culture where the only real objective of management is to maintain their perks and power and take care of themselves. How often are people caught up in the clutches of a boss who keeps all credit and distributes all blame?

As Your Sow, So Shall You Reap?

The greatest frustration of all is when people come to grips with the fact that their future job security and advancement does not depend on their own talent and effort, but rather, on the Peter Principle; where managers rise to the level of their incompetence. In this type of disheartening and dismal work environment, is it any wonder that when many workers drag themselves out of bed each morning and stumble into work the most positive thing they can mumble is, “This day is one day closer to the day I will never have to do this job again.”

Among the legions who are frustrated with a bad boss or a depressing work environment, there is a fantasy – second only to winning the Powerball jackpot – to become one’s own boss. Unfortunately for most, the odds against either coming to fruition are about the same. But that’s okay, despite the risks, the opportunity to “be your own boss” offers some tempting benefits. It’s like Mel Brooks famously said in the 1981 comedy classic History of the World, Part I, “It’s good to be king!” On the other hand, the benefits of being your own boss are sometimes not all they are cracked up to be; especially if you want to be your own boss for the wrong reasons.

It is thrilling to strike out on your own as an entrepreneur and be able to decide what, when, where and how you are going to do things, but if the motivation for this comes from negative experiences, rather than a positive passion to lead and create, the chances for success are minimal. And that’s a real problem: Too many people want to be their own boss, but that they want to be their own boss for the wrong reasons.

The Desire to be Top Dog

When someone is thinking about leaving a job to become their own boss, they should ask two questions: Am I doing this because I have a bad boss and hate where I work? Do I have the desire to be an entrepreneur because of a passion to right wrongs, change the way things are done or meet a need not being met?

For many, if they are honest with themselves, the truth is that the desire to “be their own boss” is driven by a palpable dislike for their boss or a yearning to escape an unhealthy work environment. That is certainly understandable, but if someone jumps into the entrepreneurial world out of desperation, rather than the conviction of their ideas, it can often be no better than jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Being your own boss as an entrepreneur has an alluringly romantic draw, but the truth is that it is not for everyone. Many can be happier and even more successful working in a good corporate environment. If this is the case, the best solution is often to simply change jobs or companies.

It is not unusual for someone who has been outsourced, downsized or simply overlooked by their employer to believe that becoming an entrepreneur is the best way to a more fulfilling future. It may be just the push that was needed to start them on the path to entrepreneurialism, but unless there was already a burning desire, along with well thought out ideas and plans to do so, it could easily result in a bad situation getting worse. You don’t become an entrepreneur because you have to, but because you want to. The potential for success is slim enough, but when someone becomes an entrepreneur out of desperation, then slim is joined by nil when it comes to the chance for of success.

When many contemplate becoming their own boss they tend to think of the benefits like freedom, happiness, success and wealth, rather than the vision, commitment, hard work and assumption of risk that will be required to have any chance to achieve success. The first lesson to learn when starting down the entrepreneurial path is that you are replacing one boss with another who, while not as demeaning, may be even more demanding of your time, effort and commitment. Of course the upside is that you get to be that boss and receive the potential rewards for the effort.

So if you really do want to be your own boss, what is the check-list to run through before you take off?

As incongruous as it may seem, the desire to be the boss should be the least of your priorities. You didn’t like having a boss, so what makes you think that those working for you want to have a boss?

Your first priority should be to determine if your desire to be an entrepreneur is being driven by the passion of a cause and is not just a placebo for your current discomforts.

  • You are more concerned with what you achieve than with what you receive.
  • You have a yearning to have the power to do things as you believe they should be done. You see wrongs and want to right them.
  • You recognize an unfulfilled opportunity and want to grasp it.
  • Your experience and knowledge forms a solid basis for justifying that what you want to do should be done.

Do you have the perspective to recognize the difference between a risk and a gamble? Is there a need that is not being met? Are there changes taking place in your target market that are not being recognized or responded to? You see what is being done and are convinced you have a way to do it better. Your plan is not to do what others are doing, but to do what they can’t or won’t do. You want to be the boss so you can treat others the way you wanted to be treated by your boss, but never were. You have a vision to see the way things should be and have the power to communicate and motivate others to adopt your vision as theirs. You are eager to share the rewards of success with those who help you achieve it.

And most important of all, you have a willingness to do for others what, as a former employee, was not done for you. At the crux of this philosophy is the confidence, respect and trust you have in others that is demonstrated by allowing them to be their own boss when you ask them to do what you want them to do. The best chance at being successful as your own boss is to allow those who work for you to be your boss.

And the Moral of the Story …

The desire to be your own boss is a wonderful aspiration. It promises the joys and benefits of freedom, reward for effort, happiness and most important of all the potential for you to control your own future. However, none of these benefits are going to be available unless the decision to be your own boss is made for the right reasons. The reason to become an entrepreneur is for what you will achieve, not what you will receive. The path to successful entrepreneurialism is inspiration, not the desperation of frustration.

When you have the passion to create and lead you have the critical building blocks to be an entrepreneur. There is no guarantee of success, but when you want to be your own boss for the right reasons, you have opportunity to be the best boss you ever had.


The Only Thing Worse than Failing to Achieve Your Dream is Failing to Try

Failure to try is to guarantee failure by default.

There exists in the human psyche what some believe is a genetic, almost primordial drive in Americans to “be one’s own boss.” In fact, it can be argued that the desire to “be our own bosses” is what triggered the American Revolution.

This drive, this self-actuating desire, manifests itself in American society as an entrepreneurial spirit best described as the American Dream. In no other culture or country in the world has such a broad base of its population exhibited this longing to achieve individual freedom via the route of entrepreneurism. It was the embodiment of this ambition that served as both foundation and fuel for the American economic miracle.

That was then, this is now

Unfortunately, in the American society of today, dreaming of success inevitably invites a chorus of naysayers. They see the American tradition of “dream chasing” as passé. They believe that everything that should be done has been done. And since End-Of-The-American-Dreamthis is true, those who chase their dreams are, ispo facto, a threat to those who cherish the status quo.

Perhaps that’s why there seems to be a nascent consensus to suppress, rather than support the individual’s dream of success. Just look at the demoralizing gauntlet the dreamer must run to realize success. Negative pressures, disheartening influences, outright skepticism and threats of recrimination for failure. They’re all designed to discourage one from even trying.  Dreamers who face these seemingly irreconcilable influences often wilt amid the resulting conflict, confusion and insecurity. Indeed, the impediments can become so overwhelming that the very idea of making the effort to achieve success is blunted. William Shakespeare noted that self-defeatism when he wrote (in Measure for Measure) “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

The most significant impediment to following one’s dream of success is, without question, the specter of failure, and especially, how the naysayers might view one’s failure. Failure is positioned as the penalty lurking at the end, to be assessed when success is not achieved. Failure is depicted as the equivalent of a celestial black hole that sucks in failed dreams and destroys any hope for the future. The dreamer not only says “I have failed,” but far worse, he or she may be convinced by others to believe, “I am a failure.” Threatened by this bleak scenario, most fail to try to achieve their dreams, because they have more fear of failure than a passion for success.

Taking Responsibility for the Dream

But failure is a phony issue. Failure is like the schoolyard bully: it has the power to define how we actonly if we allow it to. BullySure, failure exists and it can be painful, but what many do not realize is that the benefits of success far outweigh the penalties of failure. There is another way to look at the concept of failure: Who do you think feels worst about themselves? Those who failed trying or those who failed to try?

Some use the fear of failure as a motivator for success, but the best way to defuse the impact of failure is to view it as something that can happen at the start of the path to success, not the end. Failure can actually be turned into a positive when it is viewed as a tool to signal that you are not on the right path to success, not as a signal that success cannot be achieved. When failure is viewed from this perspective, it becomes a motivator to keep trying, not to quit. The truth is that if you are not risking failure, you are not trying hard enough.

We all know the names Henry Ford, R. H. Macy, H.R. “Colonel” Sanders, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Walt Disney, Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson and Bill Gates. These diverse individuals – and thousands like them – toiled in different fields of creative activity and each had their own definition of success. But they all shared one thing in common: They were all abysmal serial failures before they became successful dream catchers that we know and revere. The irony is that their initial failures not only failed to dissuade them from their dreams, but clarified the goal and added fuel to the fire to achieve it. It is a great lesson to learn.

Another reason why failure has such a foreboding feeling for many is because they fail to understand the difference between a dream and a fantasy. A dream is something that can be made to happen, while a fantasy is something that can only be wished for. Chasing a dream is a risk; trying to achieve a fantasy is a gamble. The difference between those who fail and later succeed and those who fail and flounder is an understanding of the difference between a dream and a fantasy. A risk can be managed, but not so a gamble. If it is success you seek, the most important step is the first step and that is to make an honest determination as to whether your definition of success is a dream or a fantasy.

There are a number of ways to do this, but they all come in the form of questions:

  • Does what you seek to offer differentiate you from the competition?
  • Are you seeking to create something new or copy the old?
  • Do you understand the risks inherent in the effort or are you oblivious to them? (Only risks that are recognized can by mitigated and overcome.)
  • Is there a need that is not being met or maybe not even recognized?
  • Are you willing to share success, but accept responsibility for failure?
  • Do you have a specific, clear vision of what you seek to achieve, that can be communicated and understood by others?
  • Are you more passionate about what you will achieve than what you will receive?

Recognizing the intent of these questions and answering them honestly will either confirm the potential of your dream or force you to recognize a fantasy for what it is. Recognizing the difference between a dream and a fantasy will not guarantee success – success can never be guaranteed – but it will help you formulate a plan that will increase your opportunity for success. No one can dream for more than that.

And the Moral of the Story …

So you have a dream for success. Make sure it’s your mind and not your heart that is dreaming and when you do, chase that dream with all your heart. Failure to do so is the ultimate failure.

No matter what happens, you will always be happier having tried and failed, than you will ever be having failed to try.

What Knack do Entrepreneurs have that Others Do Not?

Rebellion against the tyranny of the status quo causes an allegiance to change; and that’s what separates winners from wannabes.

It is a given that individuals who choose the path of entrepreneurism as a way to make their mark or fortune are by nature optimists. Have you ever met an entrepreneur who is not at the core a “glass-half-full” person? Sure, entrepreneurs may mumble and grumble about all the obstacles, problems and challenges they face, but when pressed, they believe deeply that – against all odds – they will be successful. It has to be that way, because the shelf-life of a pessimistic entrepreneur is less than ice cream on a hot griddle.

Unfortunately, optimism by itself is not enough to assure success. It’s only part of the answer. Optimism steeps one in the belief that answers are out there to be Optimismfound. On the other hand, unbridled irrational optimism can be as deleterious to success as pervasive pessimism. Still, without the suspension of doubt – which is what optimism really is – no entrepreneur can be successful. It is just that it takes more than simple optimism to be successful as an entrepreneur; or leader, for that matter.

The Important of a High IQ

To make a mark as an entrepreneur or effective leader (both often share the same philosophical mentality) requires a certain level of IQ. But we’re not talking about the customary measurement of Intelligence Quotient here, because I’ve had personal experiences with a number of accomplished entrepreneurs and leaders who seemed to have the IQ of a goldfish. No, for this discussion, IQ refers to what would be called Inquisitive Quotient.

In simple terms, the successful entrepreneur is an individual who has never grown out of the naturally inquisitive nature of a child. Remember the movie “Big” in which Tom Hanks played a young boy – Josh Baskin – who had a wish to be “big” and became a boy in a man’s body working for a toy company? Josh’s naturally questioning nature innocently challenged the status quo thinking of the “adults” and was met with constant skepticism, but in the end, caused the company to change for the better.

Entrepreneurs with a high IQ are the Josh Baskins of the real world. They are forever asking questions that start with: Why? When told something can’t be done – “Why not?” When chastised with “we’ve always done it this way,” they ask, “Why isn’t there a better way?” When told that “everyone does it that way,” they wonder “ Why?” When warned that their ideas will not work – “Why not?”

Entrepreneurs see the status quo as a tyrant to innovation and creativity; a tyranny of oppressive conformity. The entrepreneur is in constant rebellion against the status quo and has pledged allegiance to change. They don’t accept the answer to what is known or seek to do what has already been done; rather they strive for the answer to what is not known or search for ways to do what has not been done. What this means is that successful entrepreneurs and effective leaders are inquisitive optimists. They have the curiosity to discover what has not been done and the optimism to ask: Why not?

The mindset of the successful entrepreneur is the personification of the George Bernard Shaw line: “Some men see things as they are and say, why? I dream of things the way they never were and say, why not.” (The line was made famous in Ted Kennedy’s eulogy of his brother Bobby.) This is not an on-again, off-again attitude that applies only to the big visions, but is an everyday approach that creates the ingenuity to solve big and small problems.

Learning from Masters of High IQ

There is an obvious lesson to be learned in the fact that we know the names – or at least the success – of those who demonstrated high entrepreneurial IQ; and that those who don’t are as anonymous as a losing presidential candidate.

The list is long – too long for here – but as representatives for the group of those with a high IQ we can recall:

  • Bill Gates – Why can’t everyone have a computer on their desk? When all the computers that existed at the time were in airplane hangar sized barns.
  • Fred Smith – Why can’t mail be delivered overnight, all across the country? When the only option was the post office.
  • Henry Ford – Why can’t automobiles be made that everyone can afford? Why can’t workers be paid a livable wage so they can buy the cars they make?
  • Walt Disney – Why can’t entertainment be a family event and destination? When the only option was the sleazy carnival.
  • Ray Kroc – Why can’t hamburgers and fries be consistent, served fast and at stores as ubiquitous as a street corner? When the local diner was the opposite.
  • Steve Jobs – Why can’t computers do what we want them to do? When it took a degree in programming to make them do anything.
  • Debbie Fields – Why can’t cookies be made for the world that taste like they were made in my kitchen? When all the store-bought cookies did was crumble.
  • Hugh Hefner – Why can’t women . . . (Never mind)
  • Helen Gurley Brown – Why can’t men . . . (Never mind)

There are hundreds more who did what had not been done, because they were blessed with a high entrepreneurial IQ. They revolted against the tyranny of the status quo and pledged allegiance to change. There are multitudes more that are unknown because while they may have had the optimism of the entrepreneur, they lacked the needed level of IQ and melted on the hot griddle of failure.

Don’t make the assumption that the concept of entrepreneurial IQ applies only to the “big things.” Successful entrepreneurs don’t accept anything – big or small – at face value. This attitude does not come from cynicism, but from an insatiable desire to find a better way; when most accept the status quo as the only way.

There is, however, a downside for the individual with a high entrepreneurial IQ. Like the child who drives parents crazy with inquisitiveness, the individual with a AskWhyhigh entrepreneurial IQ is (at best) an irritant to most others. The truth is that individuals with a high entrepreneurial IQ are not very welcomed or popular with most people they encounter—especially in large organizations. But remember, this is because most have meekly submitted to the oppression of the status quo and those who have not are to be shunned; mostly out of envy and how wimpy it makes them look and feel. This is where the optimism of the entrepreneur joins forces with inquisitiveness in a way that allows the individual to move forward, impervious to and immune from the cynicism and skepticism of the naysayers.

The upside to the cynicism and skepticism the entrepreneur will encounter in response to challenging the status quo and searching to do what has not been done is that these attitudes can be used as a measure to gauge the potential for success. An entrepreneur recognizes that if they are not receiving resistance to their ideas, they are not far enough ahead to make a difference. This is the encouragement that motivates them to continue to ask: Why not?

And the Moral of the Story

If you desire to be a successful entrepreneur or effective leader, it is not only okay, but mandatory to always ask: Why not? Why? Because if you don’t, you never have a chance to find out why.

In America – if not the world – almost everyone seems to have an innate desire to be an entrepreneur. The lure is often to “be your own boss,” or “make a fortune;” and many have the optimism to believe they can be successful. But that is not what true entrepreneurialism is all about. Desire and optimism can get you started, but that is not what will assure success. Why not? Because to meet all the obstacles, challenges and naysayers the entrepreneur will face, you need a high entrepreneurial IQ – Inquisitive Quotient. It is optimism combined with the desire to rebel against the status quo by pledging allegiance to change that allows the entrepreneur to see what others do and ask why and to see what others don’t see and ask: Why not?