So you want to be an entrepreneur?

Kathie Callahan Brady

There is an ongoing debate exploring whether entrepreneurs are born or molded by their experiences. Some believe the entrepreneurial spirit is a deep-seated innate gene that you either have or you don’t.

Being an entrepreneur means you’re willing and excited at the prospect of jumping into something difficult and risky. I call it Cliff Jumping. Starting your own business is hard, and the odds are stacked against you. A vast majority of people don’t have the financial resources to support them while they build a business and risk losing it all; yet to entrepreneurs, those risks pale in comparison with the potential rewards.

Over years of working with entrepreneurs and evaluating them, I have learned their characteristics. If you’re wondering if you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, here are the three things critical to launching a successful business.

First, you must have grit, fortitude, gumption and a drive to never quit. As you build your business, you will run into hurdle after hurdle, and there will be many nights that you go home wondering if you’ll make it. Most people quit just before they reach the finish line.

In his book “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill refers to a story of a business owner who quit just before he struck gold. The man found a small chunk of gold and went home to gather all the resources he needed, even taking money from friends and family. This owner poured all his resources into finding more gold in the mine, but after months of searching, he gave up and sold the mining equipment. The man who bought his mining equipment was determined that there was gold in the mine, so he called in an expert. His expert determined that the business owner had given up just 3 feet away from a massive gold vein. The individual who purchased the mining equipment was able to reap the riches that the business owner left behind. If the man who owned the mine had utilized his resources better to acquire that information, he would have struck gold. As entrepreneurs, one of the most valuable lessons we can learn is to not give up 3 feet from gold. When I look at the character of entrepreneurs to determine if they possess this trait, I think about the military. The men and women of our military have such discipline and drive in them to never quit. Do you have that level of dedication, or will you give up 3 feet from gold?

Second, you need to have a team of resources around you. The most successful companies have two top-level individuals, or else the founder quickly brings on a second person, as no one person possesses all the needed skills to run a successful business. I think of Henry Ford in this regard. Ford, when questioned on the stand about his level of intellect, put the question back to his inquisitors: “Is it smarter to try to know it all or at the press of a button have the greatest minds at my fingertips to solve the problem?” Do you have the greatest minds at your fingertips available to your business?

Last, I think about focus. It goes hand in hand with self-discipline. Most entrepreneurs never lack in ideas, so staying the course and being focused on the goal without veering off the path is critical to success. You must ask the tough and critical questions to get the answer and have a chance at success. At Frederick Innovation and Technology Center (FITCI), we can help with the team of resources, asking tough questions and making the job of starting your own business easier. We can even help to inspire and motivate you, but the drive to never quit you must possess on your own.

Kathie Callahan Brady is the president and CEO of Frederick Innovation Center Inc. (FITCI). She has owned and run several businesses and recently opened the second FITCI center at ROOTS, 118 N. Market St., Frederick. ROOTS is a County Executive Jan Gardner initiative and sponsored joint business resource center. At ROOTS, there are multiple business resources under one roof: the Frederick County Office of Economic Development, Frederick Chamber of Commerce, Hood College, CREST, SBDC, Women’s Business Center, SCORE and FITCI, all of which can help business owners be successful.

SCORE is a nationwide volunteer network of 330 chapters dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses. SCORE Frederick provides free and confidential business advice and mentoring to startup businesses and to established small businesses in Frederick and Carroll counties. SCORE Frederick also offers workshops for both startups and established businesses. For details, visit http://www.scorefrederick.org or call 240-215-4757.