What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? There is such a stigma in our society today about being an entrepreneur. When you think of an entrepreneur, people define it as a person who started their own business. It’s somebody who organizes and manages and assumes the risks of a business. People have all these different definitions of what that meant and what they needed to do for themselves. Some people know and some people don’t know, and some others are just confused. In this episode, Carolyn breaks it down for you as she talks about the things that you have to do and the characteristics that you have to have to be a successful entrepreneur.
Listen to the podcast here:
Tips For Successful Entrepreneurs
I was in Boston doing some workshops on time management and maximizing sales performance. That just sounds like some fabulous content. I love doing those workshops because you get to meet such great people. The one thing I love most is that you can tell when you’re connecting with those people and you feel like when it actually hits for them. You can see that what you’re talking about actually resonates. That is the best thing that I take away from doing the work that I do. It’s those a-ha moments when you see the switch go on in somebody else’s head, and that is fabulous. Have you ever had those moments? Can you think of a time when you actually had those moments when you were talking to somebody and then all of a sudden it clicked? Isn’t that fabulous? Those are the moments that we look for. I remember how those moments made me feel when I was connecting with somebody else. It puts a smile on your face. It makes you feel good. It feels like you learned something new.
That’s what life is all about, learning something new every single day. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing, look for ways to make that happen. I had a great conference. I always walk away learning something new. That’s what I was talking about. Whether you’re the keynote speaker or whether you’re going to a conference, think about what you can take away from that. What things are you going to do differently based on something that you heard? It’s not always that easy. You go to these places and we talk about a lot of things. The key is to focus in on that one thing that you know will resonate with you, will help you to do better and focus on that. The other things, you take your notes, you write them down and you look at them later but find that one thing.
I had a great guest on with me, Francesca Hogi, a fellow Survivor, sister and a love coach. There are so many people who find it difficult to find the right person to spend their life with. In today’s day and age, the process has certainly changed from when I was single back in the day. That’s a very long time ago in high school. It’s not about the process of where you find the perfect person. What we talked about was on a much more personal level. How do you look within yourself to see what other people see? How do you look within yourself to identify the things that may be blocking you? Those things that are standing in your way. We talked about being able to open up our minds and take a look at how we operate ourselves. That’s not always easy. Sometimes we don’t see what other people see. Sometimes we dig our heels in and we become stubborn. It happens to all of us.Nobody expects you to have every single solitary answer. It's impossible. Click To Tweet
What we talked about are those life lessons that all of us need to work on every single day. We need to figure out what is truly important to us in a relationship and most people don’t do that. You have to think about what are those non-negotiables, the things that regardless of who you want to be in a relationship with, they must have. It’s not about the money, the house, whether they have big muscles or small muscles, they’re big or they’re tall. It’s not about that. It’s the things that make up who they are and you have to identify for yourself what you can’t live with. That’s what we talked about and we talked about we may want something but we don’t know or we haven’t figured out what those must-haves are.
The first step that Francesca talked about was figuring out what those must-haves are. The things that regardless of who they are you can’t live without. We all have the power within ourselves to choose how we operate as individuals. The choices that we’re making, are they working for you or against you? Those are the things that Francesca talked about with us and those are the things that you need to think about. It was a great discussion. If you want more information on that topic, just go back to that previous episode. We’re going to talk about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. I came up with this topic because I was talking to some people and it occurred to me that there is this stigma about being an entrepreneur. People have all different definitions of what that meant and what they needed to do for themselves.
Some people knew, some people didn’t know, it’s confusing. I’m going to break it down for you. We’re going to talk about what are the things that you have to do, those characteristics that you have to have to be a successful entrepreneur. I’ve had a few entrepreneurs on my show in the past, women that have built businesses for themselves. Some started young, they continued to follow that path throughout their lives. Others had a different start to being an entrepreneur. They worked in Corporate America like me. For years and years, I’ve worked in Corporate America. If you start in the corporate world and then you choose to build something on the side, you’re doing the toe tap into becoming an entrepreneur. There are all different ways in which you can determine your path but all of them have some things in common.
We’re talking about what are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Whether you started from a child and began your entrepreneurial career or whether you’ve started as a side-job somewhere, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that the characteristics are the same. When you think of an entrepreneur, people defined it as a person who started their own business. The definition is somebody who organizes, manages and assumes the risk of a business. Some of you may have heard someone say, “Sally has a true entrepreneurial spirit.” It means that she operates in that same way, in that entrepreneurial world. That may mean one thing to me and something different to you. I thought, Let’s put it all together. Let’s get on the same page and figure out what we mean.”
One of the characteristics that is crucial to being an entrepreneur is you have to be passionate. You have to be passionate about what you believe in. What does that mean? Entrepreneurs have an idea that they think is fabulous. We all have these fabulous ideas. If you’re an entrepreneur, you create that vision, you think about who would benefit from your idea. You would think about, “How would I get people interested in my idea? What are the benefits that people are going to get when they buy my idea?” Some of you have heard of the show Shark Tank and most people that go on that show are entrepreneurs. They’ve started their own business. They’re looking for ways in which to continue to grow and they’re looking for support from somebody else. The bottom line is during their presentation, they are passionate about their product or service. Whatever it is, they love their product. They put blood, sweat, tears and all the money into creating their vision and bringing it to life.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be 150,000% passionate about your product or your service. Think of it this way. If you aren’t, who will be? No one. You’re the one that has to get people excited about your product or your service. You’re the one who has to get people to buy your idea, buy your product, buy your service. You are the voice of that product or service. Don’t take that lightly and as you think about it that way, you need to be mindful as to how you’re going to talk about your product or service. When you think about it, think about it this way. You are so passionate about what you’re doing, about what you’re selling, about the service that you’re providing that you will do anything it takes to make it a reality.Open-mindedness is being flexible. You should be looking for ways to learn new things. Click To Tweet
For example, if you’ve ever watched the movie about Steve Jobs, he’s an entrepreneur from the word go. He had an idea. He wanted to create the world’s first personal computer, but his journey wasn’t easy. People didn’t initially believe that it would be a success. He was outside of the box thinking he was outside of people’s comfort zones. He was outside of his own comfort zone. He pushed and he pushed and he made it happen. He created the iPod, he created the iPhone and the rest is history. We all have his products and services and then what happened? Other people did the same thing and they created their version of what that was. When you’re an entrepreneur, the journey is not that easy. Some people who would have faced the same obstacles, who had faced the same things that stood in his way might’ve given up but he didn’t.
He had the passion behind his idea and he didn’t take no for an answer. He was willing to do whatever it took to bring his vision to life. He may have been a bit stubborn at times but you get the point right. You have to feel that passionate about your idea so that other people can begin to feel it as well. Think about it. If you’re not psyched about it, nobody else is going to be psyched about it. That passion for not giving up, that passion for getting people on board is unmatched and tied directly to being passionate. You must be goal oriented. What we mean by that is you’ve got to create a plan for yourself with goals. We’ve talked about this in prior shows, the concept of smart goals. The goals that you set for yourself, they have to be SMART goals. What is SMART? That’s that acronym that we put together: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative and Time-bound. They have to be specific enough so that you know exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. They have to be measurable so that you can hold yourself accountable for achieving them and you know whether you did or you didn’t. They have to be attainable because if they’re not, you’re going to give up. You’re going to be like, “This is never going to work. I can never be successful.” They have to be relative to your vision, the goals that you put in place.
When you succeed in achieving them, they have to link back to your vision, to what your passion is all about. The last thing is they have to be time-bound. Meaning that you have to know when they need to be completed by. That’s what we mean by smart goals. When you work for a company, you’re given goals at the beginning of the year. You’re held accountable for achieving them and you have these meetings at the end of the year. When you’re an entrepreneur, there is no one but yourself to hold accountable. It’s easy to push things aside and let them slip but not for entrepreneurs that want to succeed. They hold themselves accountable for their goals every day. They create an environment for themselves that ensures that they stay focused and it links directly to their passion. If you’re not passionate, you’re not going to stay focused. You literally need to write down those goals and make it happen. If you’re going to follow your dream, if you’re going to do something, you have to like what you’re doing. It must be one of those must-haves that we talked about before. You have to be passionate and you have to set these goals and objectives.
Hold Yourself Accountable For Your Goals
You have to hold yourself accountable. We talked about SMART goals. How do you put together a SMART goal? Let’s say you’re an author and you want to sell a thousand books by December 31st, 2019. You have to think about, “What do I need to do? How do I need to break this down so that it’s something smaller, so that maybe I know what to do monthly?” You take your goal and turn it into a monthly goal, “On a monthly basis, I would have to sell 84 books.” That still seems like, “84 books, who am I going to sell them to?” Why don’t we break it down to a weekly goal? Weekly goal would be nineteen. That seems more doable, bite-size chunks. The next step in the process is you’d have to figure out, “What activities do I need to do? Who do I need to call? Where do I need to go to sell these nineteen books per week?” You have to break up your goals into bite-size chunks but at the end of the week, you’ll know whether you’re successful or not. Did I sell nineteen books or did I not sell nineteen books? If you didn’t sell nineteen books, then the next week you’re going to have to sell a little bit more. That’s how you make sure that you achieve your goals by the end of the year.
Be A Risk Taker
The first thing is passion. The second thing is all about breaking down your goals and objectives into bite-size chunks so that it’s doable. You have to make things that are doable for you. The secret sauce to success, and I talk about this all the time is believe, commit, achieve. It links directly to everything we’ve talked about so far. You have to believe in what you’re going after. You have to believe in your passion. You have to commit to it. You’ve got to set those goals, objectives and follow through. When you do that you can achieve and that’s exactly what we’ve been talking about so far. Another characteristic that successful entrepreneurs have to have is that they’re risk takers. They’re not afraid to go for things. That doesn’t mean that they do it haphazardly. They have a plan and they know their risks. They planned for those risks. They make calculated decisions based on the plan that they have put forth.
All entrepreneurs take risks and they must be able to take that step even if it’s scary, even if there’s uncertainty about the outcome. We all take risks throughout our lives. Some people more than others, some people handle the risks a little better than other people. I’m sure you can think about those people that don’t, but true entrepreneurs need to be comfortable taking those risks. I can recall several instances in my life where I took risks. Think about those examples for yourself. Think about what you can do to help your kids feel comfortable taking risks. It starts at a young age and then it continues through your life. I know I’ve told this story before. I took a risk in high school. It started back in the day when I was growing up, there weren’t any real opportunities for girls to participate in sports. The only opportunity was in high school and I loved sports. I went to my brother’s baseball games wishing all the while, “I wish it was me. I want to play. How come I can’t play?” Thank God those days are over. When I went to high school, I was so excited because there was a whole list of sports for girls. I looked at the list. I was excited to see there were so many options.The biggest issue that people have is communication. Click To Tweet
I saw the sport that I was always interested in, which was gymnastics. I wanted to participate in that sport in the worst way but to my surprise, there was only a boys’ gymnastics team and I was upset. I was upset because why wasn’t there a girls’ team? Why do I see something that I want to participate in but yet I can’t do it? I made a decision and I said to myself, “Why can’t I go out for that team because I’m a girl?” I decided that I didn’t care what it said, I was going to try out for that team. I put on my gym clothes afterschool and I walked clear across the school because the boy’s gym was on the other side of the school. I walked in to that boy’s gymnasium and everyone’s head turned. It was like they had whiplash. They’re looking at me like, “Excuse me, what are you doing here?” They began to tell me, “You’re lost. You went to the wrong gym.” I wasn’t lost. I knew exactly where I was and I decided to go for it. I told them, “I’m going to try out for the boys’ gymnastics team.” The coach didn’t know what to do. He looked at me like, “Should I or shouldn’t I?” He decided, “I’ll let her.” He’s like, “She probably won’t stay.”
For the next two weeks, every single day after school I went to tryouts. On the day that the team was to be announced, I got called into the Principal’s Office along with the coach. The principal asked me, “Why should I let you join the team?” With confidence I said, “I’m better than some of the guys trying out. It’s not fair that because I’m a girl that I don’t get to participate.” Obviously, I had balls back then. The bottom line is I pushed them to make a decision and they allowed me to compete. I competed as a boy on that team. The risks you take, they linked back to your vision, tie them directly to the things that are important to you. Know that you have to take risks. I took a risk because I wanted to compete in gymnastics and there wasn’t a girls’ team, so I tried out for the boys’ team. I could have been ridiculed. I could have been told no. I could have been devastated by that. You can’t get what you want if you don’t try.
Another characteristic that you must have if you want to be successful as an entrepreneur is that you have to be open-minded. What does that mean to be open-minded? We all would love to think that we know everything about everything. I’m going to tell you that’s not the case. I hate to break it to you, but you don’t know everything. None of us do. Deal with that for a moment. Deal with the fact that we can all learn new things every day. We should be looking to do that. We should be looking to figure out what is out there? What are the possibilities? What are we missing? What should we be looking for? Knowledge is power. Learning new things is powerful but understanding what you don’t know is as powerful as understanding what you do know.
When you can face the fact that there are things out there that you still need to learn, you can basically put a plan in place to help you learn those things. You can hire experts in areas that are not your strengths. You can be flexible with yourself and be fine with the fact that you don’t have all the answers and that you can ask for help from other people. Some people don’t know how to do that. They don’t know how to ask for help from other people. If that sounds like it’s you, I urge you to take a step back and be fine with it. Some people think it’s a sign of weakness if you don’t have all the answers, it’s not. Nobody expects you to have every single solitary answer. It’s impossible. Successful entrepreneurs realize that they don’t have all the answers and they’re comfortable with that. They’re flexible. They’re open-minded to be able to hear ideas from other people, to learn from other people, to seek out people who can help them. They’re not afraid to ask for help. It’s a mindset that you’ve got to get comfortable with. You must have that mindset. You can’t be rigid. You have to be flexible. Open mindedness is being flexible. You should be looking for ways to learn new things.
Let me tell you, that in no way means that you shouldn’t be known as an expert in your field. You have to be an expert in your field. It doesn’t mean that you have to know every single solitary thing about running a business. Why would people want to do business with you if you weren’t an expert in your field? They want to know that you know what you’re talking about. They want you to know what’s changing in the industry. Whatever industry that you’re in, they want you to be familiar with the things that can potentially affect your business. Those are the non-negotiables. That’s what being an expert is all about. People need to understand that you’re knowledgeable on the things that you need to be that link back to your expertise. You find others who can help you in the other parts of the business. In order to be an expert in your field, you should be finding places to continue to learn and grow. Seek out endless opportunities to learn new things. They exist everywhere. You should have a continuous improvement mindset and sometimes we get stuck in doing what we’re used to do. We like what we do, we know how to do it. We’re comfortable in what we know. When you’re open-minded, you’re not afraid of change.
Most people don’t like change. Entrepreneurs need to be comfortable with uncertainty. I can call myself an entrepreneur because I was on the show Survivor. The only thing that’s constant on the show is that you don’t know what to expect because they’re going to change things when you get comfortable to mess your whole plan up and to mess with your head. That’s what that game is all about and I loved every minute of it. It was crazy. That’s what we mean by being comfortable, open-minded, flexible and being able to change when things change around you. Tied directly to being open minded is knowing how to deal with all different types of people. People are different, they come in all shapes and sizes. They come with different experiences and you’ll never know who you’ll be interacting with. You don’t know what their background is, you don’t know what they’ve dealt with in their lives. Successful entrepreneurs have mastered the art of working with all different types of people. That’s what they have to do and it’s easy working with people who are like us. It’s fun dealing with those types.You've got to step out of your comfort zone. Push that envelope, go after what you believe in. Click To Tweet
We all think we’re fabulous, clearly it’s easy to work with me. We would all like to think that but having the capability to work with people who are different from you, who are different from what we do every single day who have had different experiences, that’s the true gift. Knowing how to empathize with other people is critical. Understanding how you come across to other people is a game changer. How do people perceive you? Ask yourself the following questions. How do other people see me? Think for a minute, how do other people see me? If I were to ask twenty people, “What do you think about Carolyn Rivera?” what would they say? How do you ensure that they’re saying the things that you want them to say? This self-awareness is priceless. It could make or break a huge deal that you might have. People buy from people they like. People buy from people they can relate to. You need to begin to understand what people think of you. It’s a tricky process and some days it can leave you crying because you don’t like the answers that you’re getting.
Think of it this way, at least you’re figuring it out. At least you’re finding out what people think. You have the opportunity to change and I’m speaking from experience. I’ve taken that inward look at myself and outlined areas in my past where I’ve made mistakes, where I would come across maybe as pushy or bossy. That New Yorker in me comes out sometimes. I have to put that in check and those are hard lessons. They’re hard lessons to learn but when you learn them, they can change your life. Game changer, you’ve got to understand how you come across. If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, you have to have those skills. You have to be able to work with all different types of people. Those people skills are critical. You’ve got to be able to connect with people and build relationships and you can’t fake people’s skills. You have to truly want to help other people. You can’t pretend to want to help other people because people can see right through you. People see when you’re being fair. People see that you believe in what you do.
Know How To Communicate
All of those things link to people’s skills. I’ve talked about this before. I’ve talked about communication in prior shows because one of the skills that is important in every aspect of your life is communication. It’s the one skill that most people fall short on. The problem is we all think we’re great communicators. If you take a survey and ask anyone, “What is the biggest issue that people have?” Most people will say communication. The reason is that we all come from different backgrounds. We all experience different things and sometimes we have a hard time relating to other people simply because of that. We want to empathize but we haven’t gone through what they’ve gone through. We don’t understand. If there’s one thing that you take away, it’s that you must work on improving your communication skills. I’m teaching a class called Communicating for Results because companies realize that that is a skill that people struggle with.
The last tip that I wanted to discuss is the ability to differentiate yourself without coming across as cocky or obnoxious. People don’t always like to talk about themselves. We feel weird when you’re trying to sell yourself to somebody else. It sounds sometimes like you’re bragging. You don’t want to brag about yourself but how do you show people that you’re an expert in your field? You want to connect with people but you don’t want to come across as a braggart. How do you do that? You have to begin to look at things through the eyes of the other people that you’re connecting with. We said that’s not easy because you’ve not experienced what they’ve experienced. I’m giving you tips, I didn’t say it was going to be a cakewalk. It’s not easy but it’s something that you can begin to improve upon with yourself if you want to.
The key word there is want. You have to begin to see it as an important skill to have. Think about why people would pick your product or service over someone else’s. Sometimes it’s easier if you have a specific product because the features of the product can solve a problem for somebody. Somebody who’s buying that product, they are buying it for a specific feature like a cell phone. You may choose the iPhone because you want to be able to FaceTime with other people. That’s a feature that’s attached to a specific product or device. It becomes more complicated when you’re differentiating yourself from other people. When it’s a service like for example, my business, there’re plenty of leadership experts around. Why should people come choose me to train their staff or speak at their event? I have real life experiences that link to their business. I have great people skills and connect with all different types of people. I share those examples that are actionable where they can walk away and do something different.
You have to figure out what is your differentiator? Why should I pick you over someone else? You must be able to share that with your potential clients without coming across as cocky or obnoxious. We talked about the tips to be successful as an entrepreneur. Those of us who are entrepreneurs, jot down these tips so you can continuously learn and grow. That’s the message. First, you need to be passionate about what you’re doing and what you’re going after. Remember, if you’re not passionate, how can you expect other people to be passionate? You can’t. You know what they say, no one’s as passionate about your business than the owner. It’s all up to you. That’s your baby, make it happen. You need to be fully engaged in your vision. You have to understand fully what your vision is all about. It has to be so clear that you can be able to communicate it effectively to others. You have to know what the end game looks like. That’s when you can push things forward and ensure that other people can get on board with your idea but that’s not enough.
You’ve got to be goal-oriented, you’ve got to set your goals for yourself. When you’re an entrepreneur, you are the one that holds yourself accountable for those goals, for achieving those goals, for making sure that you have goals. Otherwise, you can be loosey-goosey and you can push off things. You can say, “I’m going to take a rest now. I’m not going to do it.” That’s not the way to make things happen and to get things done. You’ve got to hold yourself accountable for achieving your results. Entrepreneurs are risk takers. You’ve got to step out of your comfort zone. Push that envelope, go after what you believe in like I did when I went out for that boys’ gymnastics team, like I did when I decided to start my own business. You’ve got to be comfortable not knowing always what to expect. You’ve got to have an open mind and be flexible. Don’t be rigid in your thinking. Don’t think that there’s only one way of doing something, your way or the highway. You’ve got to be open to the endless possibilities that are out there. That doesn’t mean you don’t do your homework. It means to be flexible, open your mind and be comfortable with learning something new.
The last thing that I talked about is you’ve got to get along with all different types of people who are different from you, who come from different backgrounds. You don’t need to know everything but you do need to know how to communicate. Many of these skills that we talked about are ones important to all aspects of your life. I talk about them in my book, Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning. You can go to my website at www.CarolynJRivera.com for more information. Next, we’re going to have another great show for you and I have another guest, Angelina Keeley. She’s an entrepreneur focusing on working with young girls in high school and college to help them take the first step to go after things that they may never have thought they were capable of achieving. Follow me on Instagram, @CarolynRivera14, if you’re ready to take that step. My passion is to watch people succeed. Remember, believe, commit, achieve is the secret sauce you’re looking for.