By ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business
“Entrepreneur” has caught on as a buzzword and an idealized career, it actually takes an awful lot of work. Some entrepreneurs are lifers, seemingly born with a silver patent in their mouth. For others, arriving at entrepreneurship is an accident, or at least is inadvertent.
Aaron Pool, owner of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups in Phoenix, could be considered one of the lifers. “Growing up, I found myself wanting to make the decision or create things with a certain quality. Some places may say, ‘That’s wrong, you need to do it this way,'” Pool says.
1. Find someone (or something) that will have your back
“You learn that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of having big, unique ideas as long as you have the support system, like W. P. Carey was for me,” Pool says. Four years after graduating from the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU, Pool opened his first Gadzooks location. He now has a second.
“It’s not about being the smartest person in the room. It’s about pulling the best people together and helping them become successful in their own right. So, while I’m very proud to be the captain of the ship, does my name personally account for our success? I hope not. If that’s the case, I haven’t created a sustainable team.” – Christopher Myers, (B.S. finance ’06), founder, BodeTree LLC
2. Cut some things from your life
You’re not superhuman, no matter how much kombucha you drink. If you’re trying to launch a product or business, odds are it’s a side hustle. Odds also are that you can’t manage a career, a passion project, family commitments, and a bunch of other obligations. So identify your priorities accordingly.
3. Make sure your business model is solid
One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make is living in the “what if” of their product or business. Just because you dreamed it up doesn’t make it won’t live in reality. Make sure you have an airtight case for what you’re trying to do.
“It takes a lot of the risk out of it. You actually have a plan.”
4. Ask for help
“Do your research and ask good questions of experts you trust. Some things might feel like good ideas, but the more you dig, the more you find out they’re not,” says Tim Haitaian, who was an audit associate at KPMG before co-founding Redshelf, which delivers and distributes e-books, e–textbooks, and other digital learning materials to publishers, institutions, and campus bookstores. He helped launch Redshelf in 2011, and today it serves more than 500 college campuses in the U.S. But Haitaian never could have reached his goals without a sounding board.
5. Develop routines
It’s easy to get caught up in the creation and ideation that play such a big part in entrepreneurship. But believe it or not, you’re probably better off thinking about your process and the product lifestyle than you are standing at a whiteboard waiting for the inspiration to strike. By giving yourself parameters, you allow creativity to flow in the natural course of things, and when it’s required, not just when you want to feel inspired.
6. Learn how to say no
“Don’t say no to all opportunities,” cautions Haitaian. “Say no to the ones that take you away from your primary goal.”
7. You can pay your bills and fund the company for at least six months
This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many aspiring entrepreneurs don’t think this far ahead. The reality is, no matter how good your idea is, you will almost certainly start with some lean times. From turning on the lights to a new space to paying contractors to not having more money coming in, if you can’t float yourself for a while, not only will your venture suffer, you might, too. Don’t sacrifice the basic needs of existence to create the next widget.
8. It’s a team effort
Entrepreneurs have a reputation for going it alone, but lasting success with any endeavor can only happen with the right team. “It’s not about being the smartest person in the room. It’s about pulling the best people together and helping them become successful in their own right,” says Myers, founder of BodeTree. “So, while I’m very proud to be the captain of the ship, does my name personally account for our success? I hope not. If that’s the case, I haven’t created a sustainable team.”
9. Learn to sell well
This one seems obvious, but if you can’t make the product, the pitch, your company, or yourself seem worth the investment, it won’t be.
10. Get over yourself
There was only one Steve Jobs. That doesn’t work for everybody. “Egos get in the way,” says Haitaian. “You’ll gain more respect, you’ll get further, by sacrificing your ego for the right decision than for trying to hold on to some essence of ‘I want to be the one with the right answer.'”
Feature Image: Entrepreneurs have a reputation for going it alone, but lasting success with any endeavor can only happen with the right team. Hoxton/Tom Merton