Should You Be an Entrepreneur?

Book_page Every other week an agency or a brand copies Conversation Agent.

If I were to make an educated guess, I'd say it's because they are hoping to ride on the coat tails of the work that went into building equity in the name as associated with a new way of talking the walk, and marketing that makes business sense.

This is without question the most competitive time ever in the market. For each service or product I learn about there are another dozen plus being launched in the same week.

Technology is making it easier to start businesses.

Choices and options are good for buyers, of course, unless they become so many that we have no idea how to vet the good ones from the less than stellar experiences before we hit 'purchase'.

And historically, there has been no screening process for entrepreneurship, making it possible for all kinds of people to start their own venture.

It is really difficult to make a business succeed. Carol Roth delivers a much-needed reality check on the conversation about entrepreneurship. In The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Starting Your Own Business (Amazon affiliate link), she challenges the accepted assumption and offers a helpful guide to figuring out if you should run a business.

The lie in the question

This is another good case of just because you can, it doesn't mean you should.

In the book, Roth, who I was fortunate to meet in person at the New York Times Small Business Summit last week, asks a series of smart questions to help you sort out how to decide:

  • Are you going to create a "salable" business, rather than a "jobbie" (a hobby disguised as a business) or a "Job-Business" (a one person business that isn't scalable)? There's a chart on page 39 in the book that breaks this down clearly.
  • How are you with your personal finances? Because if you can't manage your own finances, then "you shouldn't be an entrepreneur trying to manage a business (and implicitly, the business's finances)". This is the flow part of investment.
  • Are you willing to put in a LOT of hard work and practice? The "secret" of success is not just a great idea, a positive attitude, and venture funding. Success is many years in the making. Just because many have said it before me, it doesn't mean it's old advice. 
  • Are you a "Santa or an Elf"? That is, are you better at giving direction, or taking direction? If you are the latter, it will be very, very hard to run a business on your own.
  • Are you "too smart for your own good"? That is, you can't give up control over anything because "nobody can do it better than you"? It turns out, I am too smart for my own good (I know many of you are nodding your head in agreement).

As I wrote up front, more people are starting businesses than ever before. Ironically, we live in a culture where people like to do the least amount possible and don't like to take responsibility for their actions.

Should you run your own business?

Whether you buy Carol Roth's book and do the exercises, or think about it on your own, remember that when you decide to become an entrepreneur, you are in it for the long haul — and you are quite alone. Yes, many others share your challenges, yet how things turn out depends solely on you.

As Roth reminds us — and as I've had the chance to experience — lots of friends often means lots of unfulfilled promises. It's human nature, people want to side with you, in case you are a winner. Yet, the skin in the game is yours.

The Entrepreneur Equation is an easy read on a complex question and is filled with useful exercises.


[Disclosure: I received a copy of The Entrepreneur Guide for attending the NYT Small Business Summit, where I also met Carol Roth trough mutual friends. This review and recommendation is based upon the quality of the material — and not on how I obtained it.]

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0 responses to “Should You Be an Entrepreneur?”

  1. This is a question that’s come up a lot lately. I’m not sure that running your own business and being an entrepreneur are the same thing. According to Roth’s questions, I don’t fit the description. I can (learn to) do many of the required things she asks about to support myself, but would I call myself a textbook entrepreneur? No. The quandary is this: as an artist and writer, how can I survive and thrive without being an entrepreneur? Who will do the ‘business’ stuff of having an arts career if I don’t? The agent/rep and gallery model is phasing out. How about instead of getting stuck with definitions, we consider people who feel like they must strike out on their own, regardless if they fit the description of an entrepreneur or not?

  2. there is a great community that supports artists at The Art of Non Conformity, if you didn’t know about it. I do think Roth addresses the core issue of handling the business — whatever you want to call it. Like getting paid, billing enough to make a living/compare with market rates, etc. In my experience, there are two kinds of striking out on your own, the “want to” because of passion and desire and the “have to” because there are no other options…
    I don’t see her use of “entrepreneur” as a point of contention. Maybe that’s just me.

  3. Thanks, Valeria — Yes, Chris Guillebeau is great, so is Tara Gentile, Abby Kerr, Crafting an MBA, and many more. I agree there are resources for artists and writers out there when there didn’t used to be any before, certainly not in most MFA programs up until recently.
    I guess I’m just not comfortable with entrepreneur and business owner being used interchangeably on the cover. But clearly it raised some questions for me, so there’s food for though there.

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