MONEY Small Business

The 4 Essential Traits You Need to Build Your Own Business

It's not enough to want to be your own boss. The founder of an advertising company explains the key qualities that go into being a successful entrepreneur.

Many people aspire to become entrepreneurs, but it’s not something that just anyone can do. To actually succeed you need more than a desire to make money or be your own boss. You need certain qualities.

Soon after I started my own business, Fortune Cookie Advertising, I began to identify crucial qualities that were fundamental if I wanted to succeed. While I had all of these four traits to some degree at the outset, I also had to consciously develop them over time.

1. A Clear Vision

This is the foundation of your business. Your vision may be based on a product, a service, or simply the desire to solve a problem for your customers. This is the “why” of your endeavor, and it must be relevant to the people you will be serving.

That’s why it’s not enough to want to be independent—your customers or clients don’t care about this. They care about your vision, which could be anything from wanting to build the most advanced computer operating system to wanting to find a fast way to deliver flowers around the globe.

Your vision may change, expand, or narrow over time, but you need to have one when you start. In my business, I started with the vision of being able to provide advertisers with an innovative way to get their message out.

2. The Ability to (Quickly) Pitch Your Business

If your business is straightforward, like selling books or changing the oil in people’s cars, it’s easy to explain. But some products and services are more technical or abstract. No matter what kind of business you decide to run, however, you should be able to describe it to prospective customers, investors, or even friends and family members in a few short sentences.

If this isn’t your strong suit, you might want to study the art of the pitch in terms of the movies. A screenwriter must be able to sell his or her idea to a busy and skeptical producer in a few minutes. Any new business owner should have the same ability. It shows that you not only know your business well, but can convince others of its value in language they can easily understand.

3. Persistence

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs in history failed at their first (and in some cases second, third, or more) businesses. Notable examples include Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, and even Bill Gates.

But perhaps the most famous example in history is Thomas Edison and his many attempts to design the light bulb. The quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” is often attributed to him. Hopefully, you won’t have to be quite as persistent as Edison, but the principle is the same. Many new ventures fail or experience setbacks, but you cannot let this stop you from trying over and over again until you devise the formula that works—you won’t get paid if you don’t.

At one point in our business, a computer failure resulted in the loss of hundreds of names of contacts, including customers and prospects. This data, of course, should have been backed up, but I had not gotten around to doing this. So my team and I had to manually rebuild the entire list. It was a painstaking process, but we recovered everything, and I learned a valuable lesson: Always back up!

4. Focus

This last quality is one that entrepreneurs need in abundant supply. You need to be able to see a project from inception to completion while overcoming distractions. You must be able to prioritize, set your own schedule, and meet your own deadlines. For people accustomed to having their tasks assigned to them by employers, parents, drill sergeants, or professors, this is a big change.

When I first started my business, it took me a few months to understand this. At first, I made elaborate schedules and to-do lists to keep myself on track. I still do that to some extent, but now it’s more internalized as I’ve gotten comfortable in the role of entrepreneur.

Almost everyone like the idea of being independent—in theory. The freedom to be one’s own boss is one of the most desirable things about starting a business. But only you can decide if you are focused enough to do it.

Shawn Porat is the CEO of Fortune Cookie Advertising, a media placement company selling advertising space within fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants throughout the United States.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

More from the YEC:

MONEY working in retirement

It’s Never Too Late For A Second Act

Baby boomer entrepreneurs in bakery
Small business owners working in bakery together. John Lund/Marc Romanelli—Getty Images/Blend Images

Do you have what it takes to be a boomer entrepreneur? Get ready: you're likely to change gears in unexpected ways.

Heading toward retirement, but you want to keep working? The best move is to find another job in your field, perhaps part-time or or as a consultant—right?

Maybe not. Sure, you’ve amassed tons of expertise in your industry after working in it for the past decade or two. But there’s a wider world out there. Many older Americans are opting for a completely different career after they leave their former jobs, according to a new Merrill Lynch survey on work and retirement.

Nearly 50% of retirees say they either have, or intend to, stay employed during their retirement, according to the survey. Not a surprise, given today’s meager 401(k) balances. But what’s striking is how many people ended up with brand new careers.Nearly 60% of working retirees are in jobs that are completely different from their pre-retirement work, with many in education and white-collar jobs, according to demographers Age Wave, who contributed to the study.

Working retirees also tend to be entrepreneurs. They are three times more likely than other workers age 50 and older to own their own business or be self-employed, according to the study, which gathered data on nearly 7,000 pre-retirees and retirees, both working and non-working. “Retirees often make for the best entrepreneurs. Many have decades of experience, business contacts and the financial means to start a successful business,” says Bill Hunter, director of personal retirement strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

While some retirees are working primarily for the income, more report doing it to stay busy and involved: 62% of working retirees say they work to stay mentally active, compared with 31% who say money is the top reason.

Busting another myth, most older entrepreneurs say age discrimination didn’t drive them to work for themselves: 82% of these “retire-preneurs” as Merrill Lynch is branding them, say they started their own business because they wanted to work on their own terms. Only 14% reported that they had to start their own company because they otherwise couldn’t find work.

“Working in retirement is often a chance to try something new or pursue a dream,” says Mary Beth Izard, a start-up consultant and author of BoomerPreneurs. If a brand-new second act appeals to you, start developing your plans now. Taking on a new career challenge in your retirement years isn’t easy, and a start-up venture can drain your nest egg fast.

Lay the groundwork in the five years before you plan to retire, says Izard. If you want to go into a new career, begin by taking classes, as well as working part-time or or as a volunteer for an organization involved in the field you are interested in. And if you go the entrepreneur route, starting researching the costs and income potential of that new business well before you start sinking money into it.

For more tips on embarking on an entreprenurial second act, click here.

 

TIME Entrepreneurs

Here’s the Real Problem With America’s Educational System

FRANCE-EDUCATION-HIGH SCHOOL
Thomas Samson—AFP/Getty Images

Today’s education is training yesterday’s students

Globalization, the automation and outsourcing of jobs, an economy changed by the recession: the U.S. economic landscape is shifting. By necessity, the Millennial workforce is shifting with it to become more entrepreneurial. One example of this is that, according to the annual 2014 Youth Entrepreneurship Study conducted by my company YEC and Buzz Marketing Group, 25 percent of young entrepreneurs started their companies as a result of being unemployed — up from 21 percent in 2011.

Entrepreneurship offers value, especially in this recovering economy. So why aren’t we doing more to support this generation of entrepreneurially minded individuals — 82 percent of whom are interested in starting their own business someday — with more targeted resources, training and practical education that would help them thrive? Whether they are building businesses or working alongside startups, many Millennials still lack the skillsets they need to flourish.

We must prepare Millennials, both at a private and public level, for the intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship opportunities required for success in our changed economy. Based on the results of our survey, the following are some ways we must support this growing trend of people who, out of necessity, desperation or pure desire, are creating companies or becoming leaders in the next generation of business.

Build Public/Private Partnerships

The Internet fundamentally changed business as we know it, and starting a business — or landing a coveted job in any industry — requires that young people have an entirely new set of skills.In order to keep up with the demand for experienced personnel, organizations in the private and public sector must work together to fix the deficit of technical skills and knowledge. However, this is clearly not happening rapidly enough, as evidenced by the 79 percent of our survey respondents who wished they’d been offered a class in coding but never were.

One example of a program successfully filling this gap is P-TECH, the IBM-backed school that helps high school students earn technical associate’s degrees. In districts where public schools alone aren’t ableto offer competitive training in technical skills — such that students are knowledgeable enough to manage, work with, or be on development teams — public-private partnerships like this one are important to better train the next generation of our workforce.

Offer Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship Education at a Younger Age

Eighty-seven percent of young people expressed their desire to pursue entrepreneurship at some point in their career, according to our survey; however, our K-12 curriculum isn’t currently designed to teach financial literacy or business skills. While organizations like Junior Achievement (JA) educate students in work readiness and provide hands-on experience in financial planning for kids K-12,many of these programs are underfunded, and find it difficult to work within current infrastructures — even in situations where traditional system cannot offer other alternatives.

Eighty-one percent of Millennials admire those their own age who have started businesses, which is whyYEC partnered with JA to institute a national peer-to-peer mentorship initiative matching successful Millennials with high school students in JA’s programs across the U.S. Making entrepreneurship more accessible to students, through mentorship or practical courses, offers them invaluable insight and support.School districts and administrations must work to build consensus among local stakeholders to make programs like JA’s a more widely available reality for students across the board.

Invest in Practical Training

Upon graduating from college, every student should have the skills to freelance or build a business in their field — either because they want to, or because it might be the only job option available. To prepare students for this reality, we need to make entrepreneurship education at the collegiate level successful. It’s clear that people want it — an overwhelming 97 percent of our survey respondents believe that entrepreneurship education is important — yet, of the mere 38 percent that were offered a class, 62 percent said that it wasn’t adequate enough to start a new business post-graduation.

We need to structure those classes, in schools, to be more experiential by utilizing ideas like the ones already working atBabson, where students start a business on day one. A Babson degree is practical and vocational as much as it is about the core pillars of a collegiate liberal arts education. Additionally, we must create opportunities for community colleges to better build long-term, viable ecosystems by finding people to teach trades applicable to local industries.

Get Grads Into Startups

Young Americans don’t just look up to Mark Zuckerberg — they want to work for him: 88 percent said they would like to work for an entrepreneur. Not everyone needs to found a startup, but everyone must be able to think flexibly, creatively and entrepreneurially to succeed in their careers in 2014. Instead, many of our highest caliber students are funneled directly into saturated markets like finance and law.

It’s difficult for startups to recruit the way large firms do, which is why colleges and private organizations must play a role in onboarding their best and brightest into startup opportunities. Initiatives likeVenture for America, which places top grads in startups around the country, are connecting grads to these networks. As VfA founder Andrew Yang says in his bookSmart People Should Build Things, there are hundreds of intelligent and enterprising grads who should be training to create value. We need to give real-world training, and help startups find and cultivate talent, to create an entrepreneurial workforce equipped with real, tangible skills.

The Economy Has Shifted — Education Must Follow or Fall Further Behind

Whether we’re training the next generation of entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially minded individuals, we must ensure our support systems catch up to the current-day needs of America’s workforce — or risk losing our standing as innovators. The rest of the world isn’t going to wait for us to figure that out.

Scott Gerber is a serial entrepreneur, author (Never Get a ‘Real’ Job), TV commentator and founder of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. @scottgerber

MONEY Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship sprouts among older ex-execs

Dream of capping off your career with a startup venture? Join the crowd.

Last year 5.5% of jobless managers and executives launched a business, up 31% from 2012 and the highest level since 2009, says outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

Confidence in the economy and access to individual health insurance via Obamacare help fuel the trend, says CEO John Challenger.

Age has its advantages. People 45 and older started 48% of firms in one Kauffman Foundation study, but ran 64% of firms surviving four years.

That’s likely because older entrepreneurs often have more experience, contacts, and financial resources, says Kauffman researcher Dane Stangler.

To keep costs low, he suggests taking advantage of the` explosion in freelance help available online; clearinghouses oDesk and eLance, which are merging, list 8 million professionals, up from 900,000 in 2009.

You can use crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, he adds, not just to raise money, but also to gauge demand for your product or service.

TIME Small Business

12 Ways to Get Pretty Much Anything You Want

Make your boss happy by demonstrating enthusiasm, gratitude, and respect, among other things.
Alex and Laila—Getty Images

Simple steps for anybody


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources, and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Margie Blanchard, Ph.D. has been a driving force behind The Ken Blanchard Companies’ growth as a premier management consulting firm. She heads up their Office of the Future, a study of emerging trends in the workplace.

When I interviewed Margie a few years ago, I was taken by her keen insights and profound reflections. During our discussion, she shared her perspective after she and Ken lost their beloved home in a San Diego fire. She said, “Everything I had held onto I lost, and everything I ever gave away I still had.” Hmm. Think about that.

Our society emphasizes accumulation of wealth, possessions, power, recognition, etc. In truth, our lives were meant to give away.

So, here are twelve behaviors just about every leader wants more of and twelve simple way to get them.

1. Want enthusiasm? Give it.
2. Want change? Become the change.
3. Want forgiveness? Give it.
4. Want more autonomy? Give it.
5. Want to be heard? Lend an ear.
6. Want recognition? Give it.
7. Want respect? Show it.
8. Want consideration? Give it.
9. Want help? Offer yours.
10. Want gratitude? Express it.
11. Want leadership? Be the leader.
12. Want more? Give more.

Read More from Inc.com:

MONEY

More Money Wednesday Roundup: Whoopi Goldberg’s Wisdom & Investing’s Next Bubble

Personal finance from around the Web:

  • Who on television is a surprisingly prolific dispenser of wise personal finance advice? You won’t, ahem, view her on the investing channels — it’s Whoopi Goldberg. [WalletPop]
  • Can’t get any credit? It’s not because you don’t have “Rockefeller” as a surname. Even America’s affluent business owners and entrepreneurs are having a hard time wrangling money from traditional lenders. [The Wall Street Journal]
  • LifeLock, the identity-theft-protection company whose CEO has famously publicized his social security number in its advertising, is paying a whopping $12 million to settle deceptive-advertising accusations made by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC alleged “scare tactics” and “false claims” by LifeLock. [CreditBloggers]
  • Chances are your real estate isn’t worth what it used to be. But there are other ways to milk some money out of your property. Try these tips on tax write-offs. [Wise Bread]

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