Are You Meant to be An Entrepreneur?

Since the start of this country one of the most powerful sayings that has motivated people to come to the United States has been “The American Dream”.  The belief that you can start a business and have great financial success for your family.   Unfortunately, while the American Dream is a reality, it is not for everyone.   Some people are meant to work for others, because they do not have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and get to live this wonderful dream.

The purpose of this blog is to identify the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs with the hope that aspiring business people will take stock of themselves and determine whether independent business ownership is really for them.    There are lots of routes to success in this country but entrepreneurship, following the paths of such well known people as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others requires a particular type of individual.

Let’s explore the most obvious characteristics of those people who are most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs:

The first is PASSION.  Without a very strong passion for your idea, it is virtually impossible for you to be successful.  You must love your idea like a lifelong spouse and be willing to sacrifice almost anything to make it successful.

The second characteristic is the ability to take RISK.   One of the common characteristics of virtually all entrepreneurs is that they involved a considerable amount of risk to become successful.  The risk could come in a variety of different forms, including such things as financial sacrifices, fear of failure, depreciation in relationships due to the lack of time one can spend to make the idea realize it full potential

The third characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is ENERGY.   You must have the energy to work more hours in a week than you ever did before, and for extended periods of time to be a successful entrepreneur.

The fourth characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is FINANCIAL RESOURCES.   It is very unusual for an entrepreneur to make money quickly with the project to which they have committed.   Many people trying to start their own businesses run out of money before they can give their project time to return profits.  It is not unusual for a new project to go 24-36  months without providing a positive cash flow to the entrepreneur….and often there is also a considerable upfront investment (fixed costs) get the project started.

The fifth characteristic of a successful entrepreneur is the need for a RISK TAKING PERSONALITY.   Unless you have a quick cure for cancer, almost any venture requires significant risk both from a financial and personal perspective.  Specifically, you must be willing to spend and possibly lose considerable money if the effort is not successful.   Further, the risk of failure represents a real threat to some people’s “sense of self” and it is very important that an entrepreneur be able to deal with this possibility or they risk going into a deep depression if things do not go exactly as planned throughout the process.

A sixth characteristic of of a successful entrepreneur is the KNOWLEDGE OF THE BUSINESS in which you are planning to enter.   The single most important reason that new businesses fail is the lack of knowledge of the product category in which they are entering.  It is essential that an individual do whatever research is necessary to fully understand the business they want to enter or they dramatically reduce their chances for success.

Finally a successful entrepreneur will create a network of advisors to whom he or she can talk during the development process, so the idea can be evaluated and reevaluated to ensure that you are on the right path to success.   The SCORE organization is an excellent resource for entrepreneurs, and it is strongly recommended that you get a SCORE counselor who can be your mentor, cheerleader and  advisor throughout the development process.   Go to to find a chapter near you, and then register for counseling.  It might be the best thing you ever do.

Blog for NYC SCORE

Seven Ways to Conduct Marketing Research on A Shoestring

So you are considering introducing a new product and you want to do some research to learn about the market and the possible receptiveness to your idea.  The problem is that you have no money allocated in the budget for any type of market research.  What can you do to get information that will be helpful, without incurring any costs?

The following are five key actions you can take that will result in useful information about your market and the reaction of your buyers to your product….all at no cost to you.

  1.  Take advantage of the services of a good business library.  With the rise of the Internet many of us forget how important the public library can be to provide us with information that can be extremely useful.  For example, some of the larger business libraries such as SIBL (Science, Industry & Business Library) in New York City have very knowledgeable reference librarians that can help you research your product category extensively.   SIBL also retains copies of business plans for hundreds of different product categories, so you can see what others have written about similar product categories.
  2. Take full advantage of what is available on the Internet.  One obvious way to do this is to utilize Google to learn as much as possible about your product or service.  The wealth of information you can get is extensive if you are willing to dig into the data that comes up from your searches.    In addition on the Internet you can research the websites of your potential competitors to see what they are doing, and importantly how they are promoting their product or service.
  3. Utilize the resources available from industry trade organizations.  Most product and service categories have some type of trade association and/or trade magazine.  Often these resources can be very useful if approached correctly, as they like to promote their industry and are very interested in new members.  Further it is very common for trade magazines to run helpful articles or conduct surveys that might be very useful.

    Also, many industries have trade shows you might be able to attend to gather still more information.

  4. Talk to your people in your planned product or service area in non competitive markets.    Most small businesses expect to remain relatively local, so if you contact a similar business in another area of the country, often they will give you lots of good information.  For example , if you are going to open a consulting business for NY City clients, talking to a similar consultant in San Francisco would not be competitive and you could learn some very helpful information.
  5. Go into your local market and learn what you can from existing similar businesses.  For example if you are planning to open a pizza parlor and need information about how much space you require, what type of ovens you need or how many employees you would require, you could learn much of this simply by observing how other places operate.
  6. Utilize free survey tools to gather information.   There is a research tool called Survey Monkey in which you can gather some basic market research information at no cost to you.   It is a very useful tool for obtaining quantitative data from the marketplace at no cost to you.
  7. Utilize “Man on the Street” interviews to obtain inputs about your product or service.    Occasionally you can gain some insights about a product or idea by simply asking others in the community who do not know you ( and thus are more likely to be honest with an answer) about their reactions to the idea.   This is not a very reliable source of inputs but it sometimes will result in some useful information.

    In summary there are many things the small business person can do to conduct research about their product or service.   This blog provides an overview of only a few of them.   The totality of tools available to conduct Marketing Research on a Shoestring are limited only by the imagination of the entrepreneur.