I wanted to start a little series for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs-to-be that I am calling “Success Factors.” This series will build on itself, and I will release a new factors from time to time. When entrepreneurs find out that I invest in start ups, and have run my own successful start ups, they often ask, “what made you successful?” More often than not, my first answer is “luck.” Being lucky over being good is often a preferred state of being. However, there are certain factors on which an entrepreneur can focus in an effort to maximize their probability of success. When I say “luck” I am saying it glibly, and what happens is that I often then go into a diatribe about the most important factor.
My personal opinion is that in order to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have the right reason to be doing it. A hallmark of a successful entrepreneur is that they have a passion for what it is they are doing. You will hear things like “I want to change the world” and “I want to make things better than they are.” You hear these things because these people are starting their own gig and following their passions for the right reasons. Having the passion for what you do means that you will be really engaged in the work. You will be living the life you are trying to sell, and you will be all the more successful for it. The reason? Your passion will shine through, and you will be eminently more believable. You’re not a phony because you are living what you are selling.
People looking for a new lifestyle are also doing it for the right reasons. Looking for something better than what you currently have is a fantastic motivational tool. Beware, however, as many entrepreneurs believe that starting their own venture is the key to a better life, and that simply starting your own venture is enough to get there. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, and it will cause many stresses. Which brings me back to having the passion for your work. Wanting to have a different lifestyle is a great motivational tool, but without a passion for what it is your are doing could ultimately land you in a situation where you have way more stress associated with getting your business off the ground, the lack of steady income, and the piling expenses.
If you were to ask any person off the street, the most likely response to the question “what’s the primary reason people start their own business,” you would most likely hear “money.” Strangely, it is not the money that drives the successful entrepreneur. In fact, more often than not, most entrepreneurs are taking significant pay cuts when they venture off on their own. I actually have a more heavy handed view on this topic. It is my personal belief that if you are setting off on your own thing primarily for the money, you are in it for the wrong reasons. Money is a source of stress. Just ask any young married couple. If you use money as the primary metric of your success or failure, you will find that even though it is an easily measurable thing, determining how much is enough in order to call oneself successful is often a Quixotic effort.
Does luck factor into a successful entrepreneur? Absolutely. However, you can’t rely on luck to get the job done. In most cases, you are going to have to create your own luck. Unfortunately, luck in entrepreneurship is a lot like luck with the ladies. Some guys have it, some guys don’t. Worse still, you really can’t figure out what the contributing factors are to luck. So don’t rely on it. Just hope for it. As far as money, well, it’s real simple. Do what you love, and the money will eventually follow. Passion is contagious, and you will be successful because people want to buy into your story. Your story is authentic because of your passion. It’s not to say that passion will make the money flow in immediately, but it will make the money flow. To be successful, you have to ensure that you are doing it for the right reasons.