By: Steve Tobak May 14, 2015
Every week I hear from people desperately trying to become successful entrepreneurs. They inevitably have loads of basic questions that instantly tell me they’ve taken the plunge prematurely and, as a result, have severely limited their chances of making it on their own. I’m sure that’s not what you want to hear, but if I don’t tell you the truth, then who will? The problem is that’s the wrong way to do it. The hands-down best way to become a successful entrepreneur is to not try to become an entrepreneur in the first place. Wait, what? That doesn’t make any sense. It sounds like a contradiction. Au contraire, it does make complete sense. Not only that, it’s the best advice on entrepreneurship you’ll ever get. The thing is, nobody becomes a successful entrepreneur over the long haul by setting out to become one. It happens organically under certain conditions.
The problem is one of competitive markets. Entrepreneurship is about business, and a business that beats the competition and takes off is not so easy to contrive. For a venture to have even a snowball’s chance in hell of making it, several factors have to come together:
Like it or not, opportunities don’t just pop out of your Mac’s screen and shout, “Here I am!” You have to go out and find them and explore them. Think of opportunities as branches off a tree trunk. You need to get out in the real working world to gain exposure to enough branches. That’s where everything else stems from.
Perhaps the hardest thing about a business is figuring out the right customer problem that needs to be solved. Without that, you’ve got nothing. Usually, that requires significant exposure, expertise, and experience. Otherwise, you’ll never come up with a winning product that beats the competition.
Every successful entrepreneur has some sort of expertise by the time they come up with the product or company that ends up making it. Maybe it was their passion from day one or perhaps they developed it while working for others. Whichever it is, there’s something they can do better than the pack … and BSing isn’t it.
Whether its equity partners with the right mix of talent, investors, adult supervision, or some combination thereof, successful businesses almost always have several key players involved from the start or relatively early on. That requires a network – not an online one, a real network of real people you meet in the real world.
Not to be cliché, but businesses have lots of moving parts and it’s not easy to get everything working together unless you have some sort of business savvy. There are only three places to learn that: from your family, from business mentors, or by working hands-on in the business world.
Notice that the factors overlap. They’re actually all intertwined. That’s why not setting out to become an entrepreneur but getting out in the world and getting your hands dirty working is the easiest way to someday make it on your own. The real business world is where all those conditions come together. And that’s where most successful entrepreneurs find them.
The only caveat is that I assume you’re looking for some sort of breakout success where that becomes your livelihood and you make a very good living at it. Of course, you can slug it out with a gazillion competitors in a number of small businesses or make a go of it as a solopreneur, but that’s not exactly knocking the ball out of the park, if you know what I mean.
Look, I know this might be disappointing for some of you, but trust me when I tell you, if you really want to make it big someday, you’ll be better served by getting out and getting some experience than banging your head against a wall trying to figure out why things aren’t working out for you.