15 years ago, The City of West Palm Beach Florida went through a major change. They turned the crack-infested, abandoned downtown into what is now the thriving metropolis of Down Town West Palm Beach Florida. In order to help do so, they had to bring businesses back to downtown. They were a hotbed for the entrepreneur. They asked me if I would open a community pharmacy there. I had to think about it for all of 30 minutes. My answer was of course. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a serial entrepreneur who jumps at the chance. But, I have also learned from a series of missteps and failures. I invested heavily in a restaurant only to find out that the other investors were convicted of securities fraud and a Ponzi scheme which they failed to disclose. I also created a management company which failed miserably because I failed to do the serious due diligence that I needed to. But, none of this stopped me because I learned from the advice of others and my own mistakes. I also learned that it is not about the quick buck but about building wealth. In this article, I share with you some of the lessons I have learned and hope that they are useful to you budding entrepreneurs.
Taking shortcuts is for losers.
As entrepreneurs, we have that drive to succeed and want to do so quick fast and in a hurry. Following the quick fast and in a hurry route, is the way to fail. I was so excited about the chance to create the ultimate, waterfront restaurant in South Florida, that I dove into it head first without putting in the work to know that I was in a den of thieves. You have to work like you have never ever worked before. Ask yourself whether you are ready, willing and able to do this. If you are not, go work for someone because you are not ready to make it happen. If you are ready to do this, then surround yourself with people who are willing to do the same. I am now the President and CEO of a medical company that includes the pharmacy I started in West Palm Beach. But, in order to get here, I had to deliver medicine, clean the pharmacy, go buy supplies and do all jobs until I got to this point. But, how sweet it is.
If you don’t believe in you, nobody will.
The road to success is littered with excuses. When I agreed to open the pharmacy in West Palm Beach, I was not sure I would be able to pull it off. I knew nothing about the business. I had few contacts in the industry and I did not know how I would get customers. On my walk to the store to buy cleaning supplies so that I could clean the place I was wallowing in self-defeat. But then I said to myself, you are a smart guy. You have drive and ambition. Make it happen or go home. It’s not to say that this was the magic bullet. But, it was the shot in the arm that made me stay in to win.
NO is not an answer.
I can’t tell you the number of time people told me NO. At first, I felt like they were shutting the door in my face and that all is lost. But, then I realized that I should ask the question differently. Perhaps, I should ask for something else from this person. Perhaps, I should understand better what they needed. This change in my approach leads to the people who told me NO eventually being the people who told me yes. My attitude these days is figuring out how to get someone to yes before I ask the question. It requires that I do more upfront work. However, it saves me a lot of NO!
Take off The Rose Colored Glasses.
As entrepreneurs, we sometimes want to believe that the world cannot live without our product or service. My question is how come they have done it up until now? Many of us tend to chase these generic market niches that we think is the best thing since the creation of the sun. Yet, we don’t do the market research to see if this is true. We see what we want to see and forget what is. This way of thinking will cause us to lose the real opportunities. Ask yourself a series of simple questions: Why me? Why my product? Why now? But ask them without your rose colored glasses on.
Distraction is your downfall.
Many of us entrepreneurs are full of ideas and we move from idea to idea to idea. I call it Entrepreneur Curse. We are destined to fail if we do not focus our time, energy and focus. A successful entrepreneur is focused like a laser beam on the end goal. It is tempting to fully explore the many possible facets of your potential business at the start. However, a lack of focus will leave saddled with ideas and nothing to show for it.
You only have 30 seconds to pitch your idea to potential investors.
As an entrepreneur, you never know when you will run into a potential investor. In many of my businesses, I often have conversations with people who may want to invest in my company. These are often at social events and or gatherings. If I can’t explain the business in 30 seconds, I won’t ever get the chance to explain it in a follow-up call or meeting. I keep it simple and impactful. Think less words, more impact.
You won’t get large sums money to start up.
The reality is that no one will give you a largess of cash to get started. Start small, be the jack of all trades, get friends and family to serve in different roles and get it done. Until you have proof of success, large sums of money won’t be coming your way.
Your pants will always be on fire.
Business texts and business plans are awesome tools. I love them. But, they are limited in preparing you to respond to the day to day fires that you have to put out and they alone can never and will never fully prepare you to become a successful entrepreneur. All plans no matter how well researched and thought out are perfect plans. Never do like I did with the restaurant and jump right into to ii without any thought or planning, but don’t spend months or years waiting to execute. You will become a well-rounded entrepreneur when tested under fire. The most important thing you can do is learn from your mistakes–and never make the same mistake twice.
Keep yourself in top physical and mental condition.
The stress of being an entrepreneur will be enough to make you want to scream and shout. Good physical and mental health is a cure for that. Never trade your health and well-being for a quick buck.
Be True to yourself.
Know your core, know your values and know your limitations. Being true to yourself goes a long way to being successful.