for success, hard work is non-negotiable

Have you ever met a successful entrepreneur who wasn’t constantly working on his or her business? I can tell you that you haven’t because, like unicorns, they don’t exist. I’ve heard it said that entrepreneurs are people who often leave a job working 40 hours a week for the freedom to work 80 hours a week for half of what they were making at their job. There is a lot of truth to that. Most entrepreneurs starting out have to work twice as hard to make a lot less, especially at the beginning of their venture. So, what sort of people make this leap of faith? And are you one of them? If you have dreams of entrepreneurship, you must be honest with yourself. Do you have the qualities essential to success while working for yourself? Here are some of those qualities that successful entrepreneurs all have in common:

They’re Hard Workers

Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of hard work – like REALLY hard work. Successful entrepreneurs don’t have to have high IQ’s, come from family money, or necessarily even go to college. However, they have a work ethic that can’t be beat. They are the first ones in the office and the last ones to leave, working as many hours as it takes to make their venture work.

They’re Willing to Take Risks

They aren’t afraid to take risks – like REALLY big risks. There are absolutely zero guarantees in being an entrepreneur. No matter how great an idea you think you have, there is a much greater chance of failure than there is for massive success. All kinds of things you didn’t even think about can, and will, go wrong. When entrepreneurs start a venture, they are taking a leap of faith–for some, a much more educated leap of faith than others–but still a leap of faith that the venture will work out. The best entrepreneurs find ways of mitigating that risk so that even if the venture doesn’t work out as planned, their financial future isn’t completely shot. The best entrepreneurs also know their industry inside and out, have done their market and product research, and have lined up enough capital to give the venture the best opportunity for success–but it all still involves taking big risks.

They’re Not Afraid of Failure

They aren’t afraid to fail – like REALLY fail. Failure is absolutely a part of being an entrepreneur. I think entrepreneurs are business scientists. They start with an idea, a thesis, a belief, but no proof. Then they set out experimenting with their idea and, along the way, find out what works–more often what doesn’t–until their business thesis is proven correct and the business is a success, or the thesis is proven incorrect and the business fails. Along the way, entrepreneurs have to be willing to have failures in order to be able to duplicate what works and to abandon what doesn’t. They must always know the difference between the two. However, we humans tend to have an extraordinary fear of failure.  We fear being rejected because we made a mistake, or a series of them. We fear being looked down upon because we aren’t “perfect” or because we might make some seemingly-stupid business decisions. Thus, most people decide not to decide, and therefore–in the immortal words of great philosophers (the band Rush)–we still have made a choice. In other words, we have analysis-paralysis, afraid of making a wrong decision, so we do nothing–which in many cases ends up being the worst business decision possible. Don’t let the perfect (as in “I must know that the decision I’m making is absolutely the right decision or I’m not going to make it”) be the enemy of the good (as in “I am going to make the best decision I can, with the information I have at hand, because I know we have to do something.”) As great a businessman as Steve Jobs was, he made a lot of mistakes. Take a quick read of this Harvard Business Review article about his five biggest ones.

They Love What They Do

Entrepreneurs love their work – like REALLY love it! You can tell how passionate people are about what they do by how they speak to others about it. Get on YouTube and take a look at some speeches by successful startup CEOs. Listen to how passionate they are about their company, the service or product the company offers, the mission statement of the company, the company’s customers, and his or her role as the leader of that company, and how their company is going to change the world for the better.  If you don’t have that passion for the idea you’re about to pursue–for which you will work harder than you’ve ever worked before, for which you will take risks that will cause you to lose sleep, and for which you will likely fail as you’ve never failed before–then don’t do it! Stick with your day job until you find an idea that you are so passionate about that you are willing to do all those things to make it work.

They’re In It For the Long Game

They are willing to sacrifice and invest now for an uncertain return later. Entrepreneurs are people who are willing to sacrifice real things now for something that isn’t real yet, which they hope will be real in the future (but very well may not be.) Entrepreneurs are willing to invest time and money now in hopes that their idea will provide more time and money down the road. I look at it this way: if you have trouble saving money today because you don’t think about tomorrow, being an entrepreneur may not be the best idea for you. You MUST be willing and able to invest time and money now–and tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, etc.–until such time that your idea works (or it doesn’t.) So ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you willing to work twice as hard as you are now, and for the foreseeable future, to make your business a success?
  • If your friends invite you on a special trip, are you willing to say no–to stay back and work on your business instead?
  • If your friends want you to meet up for happy hour, are you willing to say “not this time” because you have so much work to do?
  • If you are used to taking two trips a year with your significant other, are you willing to take zero trips a year for the next few years because you want to use all of your time and resources working to ensure the success of your business?

If you’re not willing to do what it takes, whatever it takes, to make your business successful, then being an entrepreneur may not be for you. Once you start down that path and make a commitment, it can be very hard to turn back. Think long and hard about whether starting a business is right for you and your family. However, if you read these and think “yes, that’s absolutely me” then I wish all the best for you in your endeavor. Entrepreneurs are responsible for many of the greatest innovations and movements of our time, and they’re changing the world every day.