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The Entrepreneurial Mindset — Good and Bad Reasons to Start a Business

April 21st, 2010 ::

by Carol Roth

She made a lemonade stand and even though we told her no one would be buying lemonade in November she managed to make $6 in less than an hour on a dead end street. Donald Trump would be proud.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/booleansplit/ / CC BY 2.0

You may wake up one day with an amazing idea for a new business. As the days go by and you realize that you are smarter than your boss, that your co-workers smell like bologna sandwiches and that your desk has gum underneath it circa 1972, you may actually really think about pursuing it.

If you read a magazine or talk to your friends and family members, you may hear some of the hype on entrepreneurship (nobody likes to tell you the dirty little secrets) and you may start to believe one of more of the following:

  • Your idea will get you rich;
  • Your idea will get you rich quickly;
  • You can escape the corporate grind;
  • You can be your own boss and have the freedom to do what you want, when you want;
  • You can work shorter hours and have more free time for your hobbies, families and other passions;
  • You can do more of what you love to do; and/or
  • You will “do it better”

Unfortunately, most of the reasons that people start businesses are myths based on a gross misunderstanding of what it means or what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

So, what are some good reasons to start your own business?

There’s a customer need! We have more products and services available to us than we would ever want or need, which makes today’s entrepreneurial landscape very different than it was just 50 years ago. If there is a gap in the market that customers are desperate for a solution to and willing to pay for, that’s a darn good reason to start a business. Remember, Ray Kroc didn’t start McDonald’s because he was bored or unfulfilled; he did so to meet a customer need!

You are THE person to meet that need. Having a customer need is great, but why the heck are you qualified to meet those needs for your customers? Maybe you have unparalleled industry experience, knowledge and/or contacts that make you the ultimate candidate to make a difference in this market? If so, bingo – you are on the right track! If you don’t have anything to bring to the table, go get something before showing up for dinner, if you catch my drift.

You want to RUN A BUSINESS. Everyone thinks that if you love to do something, you will get to do more of it when you run a business. Wrong-o. When you run a business, you have to do and oversee so many functions, from marketing to accounting to employees to customer service and more, you actually spend less time doing whatever it is you enjoy doing. Your job as an entrepreneur is not to do one thing, it is to run a business. So, if you love to wear multiple hats and are jazzed by the idea of managing all aspects of a business, plus you think that is a good fit for your skills and experience, you are headed in the right direction.

And finally…Is it worth it? Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you should, that you will be successful, or that it is the best choice for you given your goals, circumstances and opportunities. You have to look at the rewards of your opportunity and see if they justify the risks – and I am talking both financial and qualitative risks and rewards here. Far too many people trade their salary and risk their savings for an opportunity where they are making the same or less money, working more hours and have more stress. In the game show world, they call that trade a “zonk”. Don’t get zonked – make sure that the risk/reward tradeoff makes sense for you and that you have the opportunity to significantly improve upon your current situation or do better than other situations that could be available to you.

Carol Roth helps businesses grow and make more money. An investment banker, business strategist and deal maker, she has helped her clients, ranging from solopreneurs to multinational corporations, raise more than $1 billion in capital, complete hundreds of millions of dollars in M&A transactions, secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals and more. Carol is a frequent media contributor on the topics of business and entrepreneurship, including as recurring/featured guest on Pittsburgh Business Radio’s Women Mean Business show. She blogs about issues affecting entrepreneurs and their businesses from her Unsolicited Business Advice blog and is the author of The Entrepreneur Equation, a book about evaluating the realities, risks and rewards of business ownership, coming out late this year. She holds a BS degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.