Do You Have What it Takes
to Operate a Successful Business?
So you want to start a business. Do you have any idea what is in store for you? The
mortality rate of start-up companies is staggering. About half of all new businesses fail within
the first year and about 85% are gone after five years. But, if you have what it takes, and are
prepared for the challenge ahead, your future can be very exciting and rewarding.
Entrepreneurship is somewhat like climbing a ladder. The best way to get to the top is to
keep going and not look down. However, with courage, determination, planning, and good luck,
you could be one of the successful entrepreneurs who has reached their dream of owning a
What Motivates You?
People go into business for many different reasons. Some have a desire to capitalize on a
perceived business opportunity. In other instances, entrepreneurship represents a chance to
realize a lifelong dream, build a future, make more money, or create something new that hasn’t
existed before. What motivates you? Make sure your answer comes from your goals, not from
what you have heard, read, or been told by other business owners. Entrepreneurship is a very
private thing which is unique to each of us.
Do you have a picture or vision of your business? Do you know the size, depth and breadth,
the customers you want to serve, and how you will measure your success? You won’t know if
you are meeting your own expectations unless you have very clear goals. As with other types of
goal-setting, it helps to put your thoughts in writing.
Common Characteristics of a Good Entrepreneur
Some entrepreneurs envision building an organization with dozens of employees and high
revenues. Others want to create a small, intimate company. Still others decide to become
lifestyle entrepreneurs who work alone and use their skills or talents in unique ways.
Regardless of the type or size of business you plan to create, it’s imperative to possess,
acquire, or hire the necessary management and organizational expertise to turn your vision
into a reality. Most businesses fail because of a lack of management skills. Don’t put yourself
in that position because it can be a very quick and painful ending to what might have been a
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and personalities. Some like to get up
early while others like to sleep late; some are hard-driving while others are easy-going, some
work for the love of what they do, and others focus on profits; some enjoy helping people while
others would rather direct them. Regardless of personality and management style, there are
some characteristics which are common to successful entrepreneurs. Those include:
enthusiasm, ambition, confidence, creativity, self-motivation and a desire to make things
happen. Contrary to most popular beliefs, entrepreneurs are not gamblers who like to take
long shots. Instead, successful entrepreneurs are individuals who take calculated risks—those
with a 50% chance of success—and are willing to leap when it is warranted, generally when
there is a safety net.
If you decide to start a business, you will probably work harder and more hours than you
ever imagined—perhaps 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Business can be very tough
and success is proportionate to efforts expended. Don’t expect to suddenly become a boss and
call all of the shots all of the time. You will have more bosses than you ever imagined, this time
in the form of customers, employees, suppliers, and bankers, since they are your pipeline to
profits. When you are in business, the buck stops with you. You will be responsible for
everything that happens within the company, and you will have to shoulder all of the good, the
bad, and the ugly.
Test Your Tolerance Level
Understanding all of this, if you still want to become an entrepreneur, enjoy a challenge,
and want to create something that didn’t exist before, let’s see if you have what it takes to start
Ask yourself these questions and assess your tolerance levels:
n What if you don’t generate revenues at first? In some instances, it takes a year to show
a profit. Can you tolerate that emotionally, or will you panic if the business doesn’t
take off as expected?
n Do you have organizational ability and managerial experience? If not, are you willing
to hire the expertise required, or find a way to gain those skills?
n How much of a financial cushion will you have? Can you last a month, three months,
six months, or a year without showing a profit?
n Are you passionate, determined and confident about your business idea?
n Are you flexible enough to change directions when necessary, and do you have the
judgment and confidence to try new approaches if the original plan isn’t working?
n Can you take failure and rise above it? Successful business owners often have had
many failures before they hit the big time.
n Do you have a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses?
n Can you take rejection?
n Do you have a clear picture of what success will mean to you?
Among the most important tools for new entrepreneurs are a good reading list and
business contacts. There are a variety of networking groups in the Greater Cleveland area and
also in other cities around the country. You will also find business organizations and trade
groups will give you other business contacts who can help you answer some of the tough
questions you are facing. Take classes, too, in various aspects of business. Gather as much
information as possible, sort through what will work for you, and go to it. Good luck!