Entrepreneurs who make it beyond their first few “lean and mean” years learn to let the rewards of freedom trump the anxiety of “what if I fail?” They acquire a devotion to the rhythm of riding their vision, unshackled from the slavery of following a conventional schedule.
In the past 30 plus years I have been an entrepreneur, I have been asked hundreds of times by new entrepreneurs and wannabes how to thrive, not just survive, in a “be your own boss” enterprise. I have studied those who win and fail with an eye toward learning the secrets of sustainable success.
But as my entrepreneurial father often said, “Running a successful business is a lot like losing weight; the principles are simple, but the practice is difficult.” Here are my four principles for being a successful entrepreneur. I call them mantras because they bear repeating every single day.
Create a masterpiece daily. Since every day as an entrepreneur is a day you invent, make it a masterpiece. No one cared that Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling for four years in such an awkward position it permanently damaged his health. We simply marvel at the result. Likewise, no one cares about the depth of your inbox, the number of cold calls you made or how many meetings you attended. Only concrete results matter; tireless effort is just the stuff you do to get there. Masterpiece creators do not act as if they are passengers on some cruise ship transporting them to retirement. They assume responsibility for their own destiny, never hiding.
Be a joy carrier to those you serve. Successful entrepreneurs are joy carriers bringing a bold spirit to all they influence. They think positively, assume success, and work with a clear vision of what they want to be, not what just what they have to do. Spirit is not inherited, acquired or borrowed. One chooses spirit much like you choose to introduce yourself to a stranger. Those who opt for an upbeat, positive spirit are happier, healthier, and far more successful. Great entrepreneurs are bold and courageous and their spirit is contagious.
Assume complete accountability for results. Playing the blame game does not get you a “get out of jail free” card. Clients and customers are never moved by hand-ringing excuses nor made more confident by shifting the focus to the supplier who failed to deliver. Being late signals a lack of commitment, regardless of the reason. Being unprepared telegraphs you don’t care about your client or customer, despite the demons you tussled the day before. Winners show up ready to perform and are only interested in efforts that yield a path to achievement.
Be both a doer and marketer. Successful entrepreneurs are both driven and ardent promoters. This means they don’t just focus on their product, service or solution — they also market their work. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.” Ralph made no mention of a better mousetrap, and he clearly had no knowledge of the importance of effective promotion. Great works deserve a spotlight — successful entrepreneurs ensure the focus that enables the marketplace to be influenced.
Being an entrepreneur can extract sweat and tears. It can yield bone-chilling fear and sleepless nights. Following these four mantras can help turn a challenge into adventure and toil into a labor of love. The rewards can extend way beyond a fat bank account or large net worth. They can provide a deep source of pride in making a difference and the sheer joy of creating a masterpiece.