(TedX talk on the secret to being a successful entrepreneur.)
Its easy to an entrepreneur. Quit your job and start a company. Boom! You’re an entrepreneur.
Its also easy to be poor.
Being a entrepreneur is not about quitting your job and starting a company. Its about making money.
Like it or not, the only objective scorecard for entrepreneurial success is your balance sheet.
How much money have you made for yourself?
If the answer is anything other than, “Lots”, then you’re a failed or mediocre entrepreneur.
So the million-dollar question is not “How do I become an entrepreneur?”
The question is “How do I become a successful entrepreneur?”
Three things: Focus. Hard work. Luck.
Hard work is a function of your work ethic, and work ethic is something you either have or you don’t have. Its out of your control.
Luck is also out of your control. Most people agree the harder they work the luckier they get. Work hard and hope for luck.
That leaves “focus” as the only success factor that is within your control.
Focus is easier said than done, especially for the type of people who are naturally inclined to start a business, i.e.: the unemployable.
If you are a hyper-active creative type with a severe case of attention deficit disorder and issues with authority figures, you’re probably going to find it difficult working in a corporate environment.
The question for these folks is, “How do I focus?”
Focus is not a willpower thing, its an environment thing. You need to create an environment that removes distractions.
- Get married, young
This is not a joke.
Marriage simplifies your life. Once you remove the mating urge you’ll find a mountain of freed time.
No more sms’ing, or fantasising, or flirting, or dating.
Fewer hangovers because you no longer have an incentive to get blind drunk every night in the hope of the love of your life finding you attractive in a comatose state.
Fewer hangovers also mean waking up earlier and working harder.
Your overheads shrink. You can share rent. Your spouse can pay the bills whilst you get your business off the ground.
Personally, I would never have been able to succeed had I not been married. My wife paid the bills for the first two years of my first business.
Your spouse will keep you grounded. When I cracked the big time and appeared in Huis Genoot, my wife was there to drag me back to earth and stop me from buying a Ferrari.
Your spouse will pick you up. When I had my biggest setback and was feeling sorry for myself, my wife was there to catch me, telling me to “man up” and reminding me I still matter.
Marriages bring children, the ultimate providers of perspective.
Your spouse is your business advisor. Business is about people, and no one knows how I’ll relate to people like my wife.
Of course, you must marry the right person. But you never know what you’ve married until you’ve married.
Which is why you should marry young.
People make mistakes. Rather make a mistake whilst you’re young and can recover.
It’s a lot harder finding a partner when you’re 40 than when you’re 25.
Rather fail fast. If you married the wrong person, don’t panic. Divorce. Get married again.
- Manage your personal finances conservatively
Financial stress is a killer. If you’re in the trenches, hustling, you don’t want to be worried about your kid’s school fees. The key to avoiding financial stress is to stay out of debt, take calculated risks, keep your overheads low, and not outsource your personal finances.
Many sages will advise you to roll the dice and follow your passion. “Step off the cliff and build wings on the way down.”
That is a load of BS. Warren Buffet has the best advice: Rule No. 1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No. 1.
The first no-no is debt. There is never a scenario where personal debt is sensible. Ever.
Second, take calculated risks. Don’t bet the house. And do your best to hedge your bets to ensure the worst case scenario is that you break-even.
This is not easy. No one said being an entrepreneur is easy. It requires hard work, and above all, a creative brain.
If your brain isn’t up for the job of figuring out how to fund your startup without using your life savings, rather stick to a desk job.
The third factor in managing financial stress is keeping overheads low.
How do you reduce overheads? Simple.
No debt. No fancy car. No expensive wife or husband (see point 1, marry the right person).
This doesn’t mean living the life of a pauper. Renting the house you live in is always a more sensible financial decision that owning it. In South Africa you can rent a R5mil house for R15,000 per month, or you can own in a R2mil house for R15,000 per month.
Do the math.
Driving a 2003 Honda Jazz may not pick up chics but it will get you from A to B just as easily as a Mercedes C-class, without the risk of being hi-jacked.
There are many advantages to living a frugal life. Lower overheads. Lower risk of being robbed.
Most importantly, lower risk of attracting parasites. The trappings of success attract the wrong types of people.
Living the high life makes it difficult to filter people. Lots of folks want to be friends with money.
You will have an endless stream of salesmen at your front door.
Maybe the most dangerous moth that is attracted to the flame of success is the financial advisor.
Which brings me to the fourth factor: taking responsibility for your personal finances. Many entrepreneurs have no financial background and feel that their personal finances should be outsourced to an expert.
Many experts will tell you “Leave your money to me, I’ll take care of it whilst you go make more money.”
Yeah right. There is only one person in the world who will look after your financial future.
If your brain isn’t up for the job of figuring out the opaque world of financial investments, rather stick to a desk job.
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must be able to focus on your business without worrying about your savings. Your children’s education must never be at risk.
The way to freedom from financial stress is to stay out of debt, take calculated risks, keep your overheads low, and take responsibility for your personal finances.
If you do lose a chunk of your fortune, don’t panic. Make more money.
- Find partners you can trust
The only way to grow and scale a business (or many businesses simultaneously) is to have partners you can trust. You can’t move forward if you’re forever looking over your shoulder or micro-managing.
Finding a business partner is a bit like finding a spouse. A crowded bar is probably not the best place. Nor is Tinder.
A girl that wants to have sex within five minutes of meeting will probably give you an STD. The same goes for business partners. Beware overly-eager partners.
To find a business partner you have to make it easy for them to find you. Put yourself out there. Tell people your dream of starting a business. Share your million-dollar idea.
Give potential partners an early opportunity to screw you. That way you can move on quickly, not wasting time with people that you can’t trust.
If you are to find your ideal business partner you will need to follow the advice at the entrance to the Oracle of Delphi, “Know thyself”.
If you don’t know who you are you can’t be yourself. If you can’t be yourself then you can’t attract people that resonate with you.
If you don’t attract your people, your relationships will end badly.
Finding partners starts with finding yourself. Finding yourself starts with taking risks and failing occasionally. And of course, get married.
Your spouse will hold a mirror up for you to see yourself, whether you want to or not.
If you don’t like what you see, don’t panic. Everyone can change. Change.
- Live in the right place
Your geography determines your friends, your ideas, and your lifestyle.
You need to live in a place with minimal distractions.
Stay clear of people that loaf around, or drink, or party all night. Find friends that are focused.
Stay clear of situations that stress you, ie: traffic. Minimise the time you spend in your car every day.
Stay clear of places where its easy to spend money. The easiest way to not spend money is to stay somewhere far from shopping malls, and to have a small house so you can’t fit new stuff in.
If you want to focus, choose the right place to live.
If you find yourself living in the wrong place, don’t panic. Move.
Spouse, finances, partners, town, these are all moving parts.
You must minimise the moving parts. Keep moving until you find what you’re looking for. Then stop.
Life is complicated and distracting enough. Minimise the moving parts.
Find the path that allows you to focus.
That way lies success.
(TedX talk on the secret to being a successful entrepreneur.)