Getting Off on the Right Foot: Creating a Successful… Whatever!

How-to books, videos, and seminars for budding entrepreneurs number in the thousands.  Successful business owners share tips over coffee and sales figures.  Hacks self-publish get rich quick schemes and late night infomercials tell you how to make millions selling on eBay or flipping properties.  What works, and what doesn’t?

What works is passion.  First and foremost, you have to love your idea.  You have to love it so much that you interrupt yourself in conversations to make notes about it.  You scribble on napkins in diners, bore all your friends to death, and make your spouse give you the look when he or she realizes you’re not really there in the room but off in dreamland. You have to love it that much.  Why?  Because becoming an entrepreneur is not easy.  It requires more time than there are hours in the day, more effort than you ever thought possible, and more money than you – gulp – realized.  Do you want to go through all the hassle and end up doing something you don’t love?

I’m serious, now.  I know personally of some businessmen in my husband’s social circle who have their own stores and they are miserable.  One opened a restaurant because his older brother owns one in another city. He doesn’t like to cook, he hates the odor of food in his clothes, he despises the daily hassle of dealing with the employees,  and, oh yeah, he’s not that fond of the customers either.  Yes, he’s a businessman, but is he successful?  Define success.  He sure isn’t happy.

Once you have the love thing, then you have to move on to the “making this a reality” phase, which is where most entrepreneurial ideas come to a screeching halt.  If you really want to dump the 9 to 5 job and strike out on your own, you have to do more than pull out those scribbled-on napkins.  You have to find out how to make your dream come true.  Chances are, you have at least a vague idea of what you’ll need – a storefront for a retail establishment, a patent for an invention, a supplier for a new product.  Get out a paper and pencil and start writing.  Make it a stack of paper and a bunch of pencils and a pencil sharpener.  You could probably use some coffee, too.  Write down every detail you can think of.  Neatness does not  count but it should be legible at least to you.  What do you have to have?  When do you need to have it?  Do you incorporate, go sole proprietor, register a website, contact a factory in Iowa?  Are there still factories here in the U.S.?  Anyway, you get the idea.  Get it down on paper in extreme detail.  Once you’ve done that, you’ve gotten farther into the process than most people do.  Now you can go on to the next step.

What is the next step?  You might think I’m crazy, but the next step is to do nothing.  Unless time is really of the essence and you know someone is breathing down your neck ready to steal your idea, you have time to let your plans percolate.  Take those papers, put them in a drawer, and walk away.  The notes that are all a-jumble on that legal pad are also all a-jumble in your brain; you need some time to let your synapses sort things out.  It may be a few days, it may be a week or more, but you’ll benefit from walking away from what has occupied most of your waking  hours for the last few days – or weeks, or months.  Go fishing, take a pottery class, watch every Planet of the Apes movie in one sitting.  Chances are, when you come back to your papers you’ll see things you missed before and realize some of what you wrote is just plain silly,  and something you hadn’t considered previously is downright genius.  You can attack it again, review, revise, type it up all nice and make a Powerpoint presentation.  Keep moving forward with your idea and in time you can make that dream a reality.  There are many more steps to go, but if you’ve made it this far, well, you probably have enough sticktoitiveness to succeed while others are still lying on the couch, watching Judge Judy and daydreaming.  Go get ’em, tiger!

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