Entrepreneurs: The Backbone of American Economy and Society
The United States of America is a country founded on entrepreneurial principles and innovative ideas. Early American entrepreneurs such as Ben Franklin, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, and Andrew Carnegie have worked to inspire modern innovators such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey. All of these individuals demonstrate the successful entrepreneurial spirit, which has turned the United States into a globally recognized entrepreneurial nation.
Influential entrepreneurs of our time span far beyond the technology industry with powerful business entrepreneurs including Ben and Jerry’s Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Roger Adams for Heelys, Tony Hsieh for Zappos, Fred Smith for FedEx, and John Mackey for Whole Food. Cutting edge social entrepreneurs include Pierre Omidyar for eBay, Muhammad Yunus for Grameen Bank and Wendy Kopp for Teach for America.
Despite entrepreneurialism being a popular trend, it should be noted that being a successful entrepreneur extends beyond merely starting a business. Successful entrepreneurs are determined to accomplish their vision. Entrepreneurs know that they fail only when they stop pursuing their ideas, and they do not let mistakes and uncertain future to deter them from realizing their ideas. Great entrepreneurs also have a passion for learning. And most importantly, they are determined to achieve their visions regardless of circumstances.
Recently, it seems that there are a multitude of reasons that individuals set out to become entrepreneurs. Some feel that if they can’t find a job, they might as well create one for themselves. Some entrepreneurs are money-driven, which, if the sole motivation to start a business, often times leads to failure as entrepreneurs generally do not see profit for the first few years and half of businesses close within 5 years.
While all of these reasons are valid, they seem to be missing one key element that Jobs, Zuckerberg and Gates all possessed: they not only had a vision for improving the world, they were determined to turn this vision into a reality.
For successful entrepreneurs, determination is absolutely key. For example, before Steve Jobs became the business icon that he is known as today, he had to overcome a variety of challenges. In 1993, Jobs was forced out of Apple because the company felt they could do better without him. Yet, Jobs didn’t allow this failure to define him and pushed forward regardless.
“Failure is Part of the Business”
Within the journey of building a business, failure, on some level, will occur. Upon hearing this, some might cringe and claim that they will be the first to transcend failure. While this confidence is excellent, mistakes do happen. The key of successful entrepreneurs is that, like Jobs, they are able to transform what appears to the general public as “failure” into opportunity.
How does this transformation occur? A change in mindset. Entrepreneurs must accept the fact that failure is just apart of the business. With this acceptance, entrepreneurs will be able to look at the big picture beyond failure, and thus be able to identify how to move forward.
Knowledge and Actively Pursuing Ideas
Successful entrepreneurs also share a passion for learning and actively pursuing their ideas. In fact, many entrepreneurial ideas spawn from the desire to truly understand. If hesitant on the idea of learning as a passion, consider how quickly technology and our society are evolving. In order to be key innovators and entrepreneurial leaders, individuals must understand and predict the news and technological trends of the time. To do this, entrepreneurs must read, write, think, discuss, debate. In fact, Bill Gates takes two “Think Weeks” every year in which spends his time alone, reading about current issues then thinking of how to solve them.
Although young entrepreneurs might not have the financial luxury of being able to designate entire weeks solely to learning, they can still implement this passion for learning into their daily lives.
Not Letting Fear Deter Them
While the aforementioned qualities are extremely important for entrepreneurs, not letting fear deter them from their goals might reign supreme. So much of being a successful entrepreneur comes from having the confidence to take bold risks that others might be afraid to make.
For example, when the now multi-billion-dollar company Airbnb first started out, the founders faced a multitude of rejections and lack of progress (take, for instance, that for many months, the company only made around $200 a week). Rather than give up, the three founders did not back down to fear and stuck with their instincts. These instincts certainly paid off, for the three founders are now projected to be worth well over a billion dollars each.
As you can see, there are a number of components to being a successful entrepreneur. Thus, entrepreneurs that want to be successful should make sure that they stay determined and hungry to learn. They should understand that failure is a chance for a new opportunity, and most importantly, they should make sure that when others are afraid, they have the confidence to make the decisions for ultimate success.
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This article was created thanks to the insights of Dr. Shoko Kato, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University. Dr. Kato’s is an expert in strategic management, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurialism, and focuses her research on entrepreneurs’ behavioral strategies during organization emergence.