Three Steps to Being a Successful Entrepreneur

by James on June 29, 2010

I often find my self helping people who want to be successful entrepreneurs, people with an “idea.” When we sit down, it comes as a surprise when I tell them having an idea is the easy part. Ideas, they’re a dime a dozen. Lots of them out there. I probably have two or three a day. The hard part is execution. Making the idea real, and making it pay, now that’s hard.

So how does one become a successful entrepreneur?

Step One

Generally, while there are exceptions like Twitter and Foursuqare that have raised $55 million and $26 million respectively without one, to be a successful entrepreneur starts with the business model. How are you going to create value, for the business and for your customers, from your idea? You need to create value for both, the business and the customers, and you then you need to execute your ass off if it’s going to be successful.

Now there are many, many ways to do this, to create value, so pick one and look at it closely. Is there a way to have your idea generate value that’s sustainable and that’s scalable? There is! Great, now write it down. Put it on the wall. Pin it to your computer. Tell your friends. Refer to it often. Focus, focus and then focus some more on your business model. Put it on a single page. Yep, that’s right. Craft it so you can put it all on one page. Here is a great one page business model template from the good folks at Business Model Alchemists.

Step Two

Find your 1,000 True Fans. This is a concepts I first discovered on Big Bright Bulb. It’s a simple, but powerful idea that suggests you focus your efforts on finding and satisfying the 1,000 customers who will buy everything you sell. And I mean everything. Keep your eye on this ball and the rest will follow.

Find the true 1,000 and there will be 10,000 who buy half of what you sell. Make your 1,000 true fans happy and there will be 100,000 who buy 25% of what you sell. Keep your 1,000 true fans coming back and there will bee 1,000,000 customers who buy 10% of what you are selling. Do the math. Is this viable? Probably.

Now, are there 1,000 people who will buy everything you plan to sell? If not, then return to Step One.

Step Three

Learn to say “no.”

A key to success, the key to being a successful entrepreneur is focus. It’s the ability to say no to distractions, no to all the can’t lose opportunities, to the next amazing deal that comes along. This is a lot harder than you think. How do you say no to business that’s knocking on your door?

A long time ago I worked for an entrepreneur in Chicago who owned a direct marketing agency. We were small, 45 people or so, when he brought the management team into his office and told us we would start turning down RFPs worth less than $1 million. We thought he was crazy. Well he followed through and started rejecting small RFPs. Do you know what happened? We started getting $1 million plus RFPs. The office grew from 45 people to 450 people over the next 10 years. Of course, this wasn’t the only thing but it got us focused on what mattered.

As opportunities or situations arise, and they will, assess them against your business model and the needs of your 1,000 true fans. If it doesn’t fit, if there is any wiggle room at all, just say no.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Leon Noone June 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

G’Day James,
very sound advice: may I add a couple of comments based on 32 years’ experience.

Focus, focus, focus: and, as you say, have a crystal clear target market. Learn about marketing. You’ll stand or fall on how well you market—not sell—market.
And, naturally, make sure you have fun.



James June 30, 2010 at 11:27 am

Leon, I included and removed “focus, focus, focus” from the post at least three times. You are so right.

Kim July 1, 2010 at 11:19 am

James, I love the clarity of this and the way one idea moves naturally into the other, so that if it doesn’t, we go back to the beginning and think (and act) our way through again. On my computer the “one page business model” template comes through as so huge that I can’t read it all of it. I don’t know if other people are finding this…from what I’ve seen of it I’d certainly like to see more. Many thanks, Kim

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