In the many years I have provided marketing and management consulting directly to small businesses in the service sector, I have noted five important traits that seem to define an entrepreneur. Business ownership alone does not necessarily make an entrepreneur. There are many entrepreneurs that don’t own a business. There are some business owners that do not naturally have all the traits to be a successful entrepreneur. As author and businessman Robert T. Kiyosaki pointed out in his book “Cashflow Quadrant,” a person can earn money as a business owner or as a self-employed technician.
Before you despair, however, it’s critical to remember that you can still take advantage of these five traits with a good, consistent feed of training and consultation. As one develops a sufficient amount of these “entrepreneurial spirits,” it is possible to reach heights they never dreamed of with their business. Let’s touch on these five important traits that separate the entrepreneur from the non-trepreneur.
What’s the Difference Between Business Owner and Entrepreneur?
The majority of service companies are started by used-to-be technicians. This statement might come without a single fact to back it up. But wouldn’t you agree that among the general collection of building, cleaning, automotive, landscape and other service companies, most owners started as technicians for another similar company and decided to become self-employed?
Companies grow due to specific activities and certain behaviors, while others stagnate or fail due to certain detrimental behaviors and/or the lack of growth-generating activities. So the real question for every service company owner, whether a franchise or not, is: “Do you own a company or do you own your own job?” This is usually answered by the bigger, tougher question in the next paragraph.
Are You an Entrepreneur?
I have studied and served countless small business owners across the nation. We can call them entrepreneurs. But are all of them really deserving of that title? I can’t make that decision alone, but I have found a few traits that seem to determine what the future looks like for each of these business owners and whether or not each of them deserves the title “entrepreneur.” Let’s take a closer look at each of these five traits, and what they look like when practiced as a part of business ownership.
I’ve heard it called creativity, energy, drive, and, as one friend of mine puts it, “fire in the belly.” An entrepreneur sees where they are going. They grab onto their dream and shake it like a dog with a toy. They say, “Get out of my way and don’t tell me what I can or can’t do.” Entrepreneurs see challenges only as challenges, rather than brick walls. They hire and rely on many individuals, but they take full, personal responsibility for all areas and outcomes in their business.
A vision is just the start. Whether they head an independent business or part of a franchise, each business owner must have their own vision for where they want to take their company. Nobody else can do this for them. And until this happens, most spend their day simply taking it as it comes and letting the rest of the world dictate the days’ priorities.
Those with vision also tend to be time and money planners. If we dictate how our time will be spent, we will get those things done that are part of our plans. A time plan is done in advance—and is not the same as a planner or appointment reminder. Those without vision lose lots of time waiting and hoping for things to happen, instead of setting their priorities and setting aside time to execute these priorities. I call this comparison of waiting vs. doing as “self-convenience vs. self-discipline.” Procrastinating or waiting for a convenient time to act like an entrepreneur is a critical, but common, error. This error will usually keep a person stuck in the technician position. There will never be a convenient time to start acting like an entrepreneur. Self-discipline is required.
Entrepreneurs must own a yardstick, so to speak. If no measurement takes place, who’s to say whether we are on track or not? As an entrepreneur, you need to plan everything and measure progress regularly. We must set sales goals and keep track of where we are at all times. If we fail at this, how will our activity match the desired outcome? For example—a company that lacks a sales plan usually does very little marketing, fails to set or use a budget to control costs or to systematically save money, and usually creates a constant hand-to-mouth financial situation. Having no written goals toward growth usually equates to little or no recruiting. Tracking is the reminder that management needs to focus on the plan, and usually makes the priorities of a company self-evident.
I have found that when the goal is in focus, almost magically, change is much more acceptable. If we are properly tracking our progress to goals, change isn’t seen as an uncomfortable new skill or change of habit, but rather a tool. Since it usually takes more than a week to get rich, change is inevitable. Entrepreneurs are always seeking a better, faster, more profitable way to do things, so flexibility and change should logically be part of their vocabulary.
5. Knowledge of Management vs. Labor
Part of becoming a successful entrepreneur is recognizing the difference between management and labor. Management has the tasks of planning, staffing, and executing the vision. Management must constantly measure, analyze, evaluate and make decisions.
For example, if you were the owner of a landscaping company, you’d need to understand that:
- Planting a tree is very different than managing tree planters.
- Managing tree planters is very different than negotiating the costs of trees.
- Negotiating the costs of trees is very different than marketing and selling plants and trees.
- Marketing and selling plants and trees is very different than starting a landscape company with a $35 business license.
- Starting a landscape company with that business license is very different than managing and building a successful landscape company.
So how does one get from a $35 business license to having a million dollars in the bank, earned as a successful landscape contractor or other small business? Simple answer: Go backward through these pieces and requirements of our theoretical landscape business. If we try to skip all the steps between getting that $35 license and do nothing more than plant trees, the owner of the so-called company will never graduate beyond tree planter than owns their own job. Without management thinking, systems and development, it becomes quite difficult to jump from tree planter to rich person.
The road to wealth and success as an entrepreneur is much more complicated than just getting some jobs. Just ask the millions of small companies in America that have been in business for years, yet are struggling to grow beyond an employee or two, or make enough progress to see a path to retirement. And ask the successful entrepreneurs in the world just how they did it. They were probably spending their time somewhere other than at the working end of a tool.
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