During the month of July, I found myself taking some extra time to appreciate and reflect on freedom. The freedom we share as fellow Americans, and even exploring how entrepreneurship can contribute to the sustainability of this freedom in our own lives.
Every year, Guidant surveys small business owners to learn more about those chasing the American dream, the dream to own their own business. The report has found that the top three motivations in 2023 for starting a business include “Ready to Be Your Own Boss, Dissatisfaction with Corporate America, and Wanted to Pursue Your Passion”. Furthermore, 75% OF American Business Owners have a positive outlook on their growth and ability to thrive despite economic downturns.
The harsh reality is, that while starting a business can originate as an exercise of freedom, this dream is met with staggered odds of survival. Only ~ 50% of small businesses will survive 5 years, and only ~ 30% will make it 10 years or longer. Perhaps then, the freedom is found in the opportunity to exercise entrepreneurship.
Whatever your reason, it is with much hope and relentless support in chasing dreams that I share some tips for finding freedom as an entrepreneur. Let’s start by remembering you already have freedom, it is not something you buy or acquire, it is something you realize.
- Define freedom for yourself and stop reading books about how to find it… it’s not in there. Finding freedom begins with knowing yourself, who you are, and defining your passions, strengths, and weaknesses. Businesses ebb and flow, and it’s a heck of a lot more fun when you are griding long hours for a purpose, passion, or because that drives you. It is important to recognize and remember to set boundaries around work and leave time for personal activities, hobbies, family, and self-care. Your business’s well-being is a direct reflection of your well-being!
- Choose the right business model. Explore different models and identify the one that aligns with your version of freedom. For example, you may be a chef, but you might opt for a catering business or meal delivery, instead of a food truck or a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Find the model that fits your lifestyle but always carefully consider the scalability, profitability, and the sustainability of chosen model.
- Business is fundamental, practice the basics and have patience. Everything about business takes time. Business is a formula, not a mystery. The areas of business expertise include management, business planning, marketing, sales, financial, funding, legal, IP, regulatory, operations, product development, supply chain, and innovation. With an Asterix at INNOVATION, because if you make it 5 years, innovation and change are the only way to make it to 10 years and beyond. As a CEO, you have one or possibly two of those areas of expertise. If you know what those are, you can build your freedom by spending 90% of your time there and 10% training, hiring, and developing others to do the rest.
- Have an entrepreneurial vision, again, what the heck do you want this business to be? Many businesses jump right to a product or service, but that’s like trying to make a newborn walk….. businesses are alive, treat them like so, and give them a HEART!! Teach other people your business, every waking opportunity. Your business will grow only through love and respect and figuring out how to give it its lifetime (variable) to mature. If you have a vision, you can develop 5-year, 3-year, 1-year, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals that will give you peace of mind and freedom over feeling overwhelmed like you are trying to start a business every single day you wake up. OH and celebrate the crap out of every milestone along the way because the joy is in the journey!!!
- Always be selling!! Doors will open when you no longer feel like you are knocking on them. The number one reason businesses fail is because they run out of money, so whether you are selling to investors or selling goods, or services, get comfortable selling ALL THE TIME!!
- Never do business alone. Going back to ‘business is fundamental’ don’t allow yourself to get derailed with your thought, ideas, or distractions. A solid team of entrepreneurial peers, coaches, strategic partners, industry mentors, and an ecosystem that wants you to succeed is the BEST way to achieve freedom in your business.
If you didn’t learn anything here you didn’t already know, that would lead me back to one final word and that is DISCIPLINE. Discipline is what sets apart the 30% (of successful businesses) from the 70% (of business failures).
In conclusion, as the most recent hire to the UCF Business Incubation Program, it is with sincere enthusiasm that I welcome anyone reading this article that wants to get involved with entrepreneurship or the greater plan of economic growth and development in central Florida to reach out, learn, grow, prosper, and enjoy the journey with us! There are individuals, programs, investments, and learning opportunities beyond my wildest expectations in this city, county, state, and country that want YOU to succeed!
Courtesy of Kelly Daubach, ACC, RD writing for the University of Central Florida Incubator