a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.
Here’s my custom definition that I’ve been developing in an ongoing manner since I started working for myself as an entrepreneur, during my junior year of college in 2004.
You’re a generalist with high capacity to get a lot done in a short period of time. You understand every genre of business (tech, ops, sales, marketing, finance, legal, etc.) enough to do the role at the beginning and hire people smarter than you to lead each genre in the future.
You work hard AND you’ve got talent. Not just one or the other. Working hard got Rudy onto the field for one play. Talent got Ryan Leaf drafted in the first round. Working hard AND possessing talent is how Michael Jordan became the best basketball player of all time.
You take risks for you and your family instead of taking the more secure job that might be out there.
You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself, if you didn’t chase down your dream(s) and do whatever is necessary to make them reality.
You’re constantly pushing growth. Never satisfied.
Passionate about an abstract purpose (the reason your brand exists) that you’ll never fully achieve, but one that becomes a movement that others carry on beyond just you.
You’re rallied with your team around a tangible mission (a huge goal) that will get you closer to your purpose.
And you’re creating a personal income that supports your family, while doing the same for at least one other person and their family too (otherwise you’re a solopreneur).
When you look at a calendar, you think about making payroll. Because that’s where you’re at right now or you at least remember “when you were there.”
Building something great is not supposed to be easy. There’s no manual on how to tailor a great idea into a profiting business model, let alone how to create a big vision that you can scale through an organization you build from nothing.
You figure it out at your own sacrifice of time, money, relationships and emotions. These sacrifices are real and something you’ll battle for the rest of your life. You must choose how you spend each unit of time, money, relationship and emotion very carefully, or else you might “bust out” – which can end in lots of bad ways we don’t have to list in this letter.
This is why most people would rather take a job than create one. And that’s okay! Talented folks who are not interested in stomaching the realities of entrepreneurship are the only reason your vision as the entrepreneur can actually become a reality. These “intrapreneurs” are the leaders that will be game-changers for your brand.
It’s ALL about people. You’ve got to recruit the right people, over-communicate the vision to them and always let them know where they stand.
But it starts with you and it ends with YOU.
If you win, it will be because you’ve built a great organization. If you lose, it will be due to your bad decisions and poor leadership. And you WILL lose. Everyone loses. So embrace the losses and learn from them. That’s where the future wins come from.
Learn and act fast, because timing is everything.
Study relentlessly, because somewhere else, there is somebody trying to do exactly what you’re trying to do. Always improve your craft.
Be patient but urgent, because it takes time to reach success but you should always take massive action.
Be enthusiastic but stoic, because you must be passionate but you can’t let the highs and lows of the roller coaster distract you.
You’re actually not an entrepreneur, you’re a firefighter. Every day, you wake up knowing there will be new fires to put out. But that’s what you do. You put out fires and create more opportunity.
Don’t wake up reactive. Wake up proactive! The fires are coming. Hose up! Get your water and put ’em out with a smile.