What Does It Mean to be an Entrepreneur?

Say the name Walt Disney and almost everyone today will recognize it. On July 17, 1955, his dream of owning his own amusement park came true when Disneyland in Anaheim opened its doors for business. During his lifetime, Disney won 22 Academy Awards for his animated films. Currently, his production company has won 32 Oscars and been nominated for 59. His favorite, and first, cartoon character, Mickey Mouse, is still Disney’s brightest star, and Disneyland Paris just this summer celebrated Mickey's 90th birthday.

Even though Disney died in 1966, he arranged for his company, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, to continue its progress. The company now owns 12 theme parks and 52 resorts around the world, with more in the works. It also has four cruise ships with three more to be added by 2023.

Walt Disney did not attain such success without a few setbacks. He began his career as a cartoonist with a Kansas newspaper. It has been rumored that he was fired because the editor thought he had "no good ideas and no imagination." But that did not stop Walt from continuing to pursue his dreams. According to his biography, he had a passion for what he was doing and was determined not to give up. He said, “Money doesn’t excite me. Ideas excite me.” And so, he carried on.

He and his brother then developed their own cartoon company called Laugh-O-Gram—another failure. They had to declare bankruptcy. Undaunted, the brothers moved to California where the film industry was just taking off. It proved to be a good move. Shortly thereafter, Mickey Mouse was born. And, as the saying goes, the rest is history.

As for his setbacks, he gave this advice: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

If you are a budding entrepreneur planning to open your own brick-and-mortar or online business, then the lesson to learn from Walt Disney is that successful entrepreneurs never give up. As Disney noted, the driving force to success is not the pursuit of money, but the excitement you feel about your idea. Entrepreneurs today have the benefit of finding a lot of good advice online just by reading entrepreneurship blogs designed to help them with their ventures.

What Is an Entrepreneur?

Business News Daily defines an entrepreneur as “a person who identifies a need and starts a business to fill that void.” The Daily admits that the definition fails to identify the “character traits and attributes that make a person thrive as an entrepreneur.” Many successful business owners share certain characteristics that they believe are needed to make them successful, including discipline, commitment, and a strong support system.

You Need to be Passionate about Your Business

Having passion for your idea or product is imperative for you to have the patience it takes to get started. But you need to evaluate whether that passion will remain and you will continue to have the drive to make it successful. Running a business doing something you love is great, but do you have the greater vision to take it to the next level?

Dissatisfaction with Your Day Job Is Not Enough

Being dissatisfied with your day job is not a good reason to quit and decide to open your own business. Being your own boss is a nice idea. For one thing, you get to be in charge of how you spend your time. However, on the other hand, you have to be prepared to spend that time working hard. There will be tough days, but you still have to do the work that needs to be done even if you do not feel like it.

You must believe in yourself and your mission. Your commitment to success is what will inspire others to join you as your team members and employees, and what will inspire consumers to buy your product or subscribe to your idea.

Plan Carefully before You Take the Leap

Entrepreneur Brian D. Evans, writing for Inc.com, is concerned that social media has made it look too easy for people to branch out on their own and open their own business. He says it seems “as easy as proclaiming yourself an entrepreneur, building a quick website, and then calling yourself the CEO of something you named five minutes ago.”

A fundamental part of starting a business is planning. Part of planning includes the following:

  • Ask yourself why you want to take this journey. If it is only because it seems like a cool, money-making opportunity, then it is likely that you will lose interest after the excitement of starting your business wears off and you face those months when no money is earned and failure is on the horizon.
  • Have enough financial resources available so that you can take the time necessary to allow your business to succeed.
  • Research ahead of your launch what groundwork you need to do for your specific idea or product to be successful.
  • Prepare and refine your business plan.
  • Build a team that cares about your plan and hire people who are dedicated to their work.

Listen to the Advice of Others, But Maintain Confidence in Yourself

What experts tell you about success is important, but you also need to listen to the opinions of your customers and your employees. There are times when you can even learn from your competitors. Be brave enough to make your own decisions after receiving input from others. Your confidence may help you be brave enough to just do whatever it is you believe needs to be done.

You Must Have Perseverance

When you, as an entrepreneur, face bumps in the road, you need to have tenacity and perseverance to continue growing your business. Keep looking ahead and moving forward. You have to be willing to risk failure, accept it if it happens, but keep going. Thomas Edison is often quoted as saying about his invention of the light bulb, “I have not failed. I've just learned 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Henry Ford is another example of an entrepreneur with perseverance. He got funding from a wealthy Michigan business man, William M. Murphy, to begin his project of manufacturing automobiles. This allowed him to open The Detroit Automobile Company. About 18 months later the company went out of business when Murphy lost faith in Ford and withdrew funding.

Ford begged Murphy to give him a second chance, which he did. They opened the Henry Ford Company. When Murphy became upset with Ford and brought in someone to supervise his work, Ford resented this meddling and left the company. Ford was considered a failure. He had been given two chances and had not succeeded. Who would ever give him a third?

Along came a wealthy backer who agreed to give Ford the financial backing he needed on Ford’s terms. The backer agreed not to meddle and so The Ford Motor Company was then established. Ford was allowed to develop an assembly line for manufacturing his automobiles that worked. Soon, the Model A was a success and the company was forced to expand its operations.

Robert Greene, the author of the book Mastery, from which the above book excerpt was taken, used Ford’s experience as an example of the need for an entrepreneur to have a “bold and venturesome spirit.” Be prepared to fail, take the hit, and realize that what you learn from failure shows you how your work must be done.

Forbes' Five Favorable Tips for Entrepreneurs

Forbes published five tips it labels as “must-follow rules” for becoming a successful entrepreneur. It acknowledges that there is “no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone,” but these general tips should be helpful to many people:

  • Work smarter, not harder – Overworking leads to fatigue. Tired people make more mistakes than those who are fresh. Plus, it is impossible for one person to do everything, or to even know how to do everything. The adage of, “If you want something done right, do it yourself,” does not apply. Surround yourself with competent people and learn how to delegate.
  • Hire people who are good at doing things that you are not good at – This allows you to focus on the areas of the business at which you excel. Often, it is a bit scary to think of hiring another person and increasing the payroll when you are just starting your business. But the cost is worth it when the work is done efficiently and you are free to give your attention to other aspects of the business. Consider hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time personnel.
  • Using freelancers and independent contractors is cost-effective – Finding and hiring competent independent contractors can help you get your work done efficiently and economically. You can hire the same person for a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks who will work onsite. Or you may find online workers who can work on certain tasks such as graphic design, website development, blogging, copywriting, and pretty much any other task you might need.
  • Do not be afraid to fail – This seems to be a familiar theme for all start-up entrepreneurs. There are no guarantees. Even if you follow every suggestion ever made by any entrepreneurial site or person, as has already been discussed, businesses fail. If that happens, pick yourself up, learn from the failure, and carry on.
  • Wake up with purpose and be relentless – Be confident. Every day that you wake up, remember your purpose and what you want to accomplish. Be relentless. Push through the difficult times. Remember that every problem has a solution.

Advice from Apple Founder, Steve Jobs

The late Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011 with a net worth of $8.3 billion, experienced a number of failures on his way to success. Putting it succinctly, he dropped out of college, launched a business, got kicked out of it, and later rejoined when it was failing.

His best advice to budding entrepreneurs may have been this oft-quoted passage: “When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That's a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.”