1 Aug 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Throughout my career as a business journalist, I have met a number of small business owners who typically are the sole proprietors of struggling enterprises, but rarely do their businesses grow beyond where they started.
That’s because the vast majority of them aren’t entrepreneurs.
It’s not that I don’t have great respect for small businesses. In fact, most of the small business owners, whom I regularly featured in my former newspaper column, were good at their craft whether it was auto repair, dog grooming or web marketing. However, the missing ingredient is that they don’t know how to think like an entrepreneur.
An entrepreneur, according to businessdictionary.com, is someone who exercises initiative by organizing a venture to take benefit of an opportunity and, as the decision maker, decides what, how, and how much of a good or service will be produced.
Essentially, entrepreneurs are vital to economic growth because they find great opportunities, enter into new industries and introduce innovations that fuel the growth of those industries.
Now, more than ever, Americans are engaging in entrepreneurship, research shows. But only those that are opportunity-driven, innovative and growth-oriented will make a major impact on their communities and ultimately, the world.
Many people have the know-how to create and run a thriving business, but they can’t see past the day-to-day operations to figure out how to create a business that can have long-term sustainability, says Leonard Greenhalgh, professor of management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
“Real entrepreneurs come up with the value proposition: It says you should do business with me because I’m low cost, because I’m competitive, because I’m product-oriented,” said Greenhalgh, also Dartmouth’s director of programs for minority-and women-owned business enterprises. “It’s planning for where you’re going with your business from the onset.”
In a recent Inc. magazine article, Michael E. Gerber, author of the New York Times best-selling book, The E-Myth Revisited, and who is considered a true legend of entrepreneurship, wrote that “entrepreneurship is not about information; it’s about perspective.”
It’s starting anew everyday no matter how long you’ve been in business, Gerber continues. You can read more of what he says about the entrepreneurial mindset at: http://www.inc.com/michael-gerber/traits-of-a-truly-entrepreneurial-mindset.html
The entrepreneurial mindset wasn’t an easy proposition for Anthony Burns, president and CEO of Urban Investment Group, a Milwaukee-based real estate development company.
“A lot of people are just self-employed. The wealth is created by the entrepreneur,” said Burns, who is developing retail clothing store for men. “An entrepreneur likes to branch out and create more businesses. An entrepreneur thinks big.”
While entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, it can be a lucrative lifestyle with planning, says Dartmouth’s Greenhalgh.
“You’ve got to be disciplined and realistic,” he said. “You must ask yourself what do I know and can really do?”
Here are a few additional tips to get you started on the journey to thinking like an entrepreneur:
Write a good business plan. This can help you figure out what you’re trying to do and most importantly, it can help you plan your cash flow.
“Half of businesses that fail, fail for cash flow reasons,” said Greenhalgh. “People haven’t done the planning.”
Find a mentor – someone who can serve as a role model for you, and surround yourself with the right people. A mentor can be a sounding board for new ideas and a critic when you need a dose of reality.
“It’s the people you hang around. People can influence you and how you think,” says Burns, of Urban Investment Group. “It’s very powerful.”
So, what about you? Are you ready to think like an entrepreneur?