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7 Things Every New Entrepreneur Must Know

Posted by & filed under Entrepreneurship.

Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart.

1. This job is rough, tough, and most likely not for you.


The vast majority of people I talk to who want to become an entrepreneur are 100% certain they can leave their job, create something out of nothing, and be financially self-reliant within a short time. I, however, am 100% certain they cannot. If you think you are an entrepreneur, most likely you are not.

In 90 days, most of you will be out of business…and 90 days is a stretch. The odds are absolutely stacked against you. If I were a betting man, I would bet that your first attempt would fail. Quickly.

None of this is to say you should not believe in yourself if you want to be an entrepreneur. You should. You must. But believing in yourself without some sort of concept of reality is foolish, and it’s the trap most new entrepreneurs fall into.

Most of the time, people are not in a mental state where they can face rejection and start eating “no’s” for breakfast like I describe in 20,000 Days and Counting right away. If you start out eating 30 “no’s” a day unintentionally, you will get sick! And trust me, there will be a plethora of  “no’s” in the beginning.

2. Don’t be foolish—test your idea.

One of the biggest reasons so many new entrepreneurs fail is because they have an idea they think will work, so they jump into it without actually knowing whether it will work or not.

Test your idea on a small scale before implementing it on a large scale. For example, if you’re an author (and yes, authors absolutely are entrepreneurs), you should always write a book proposal before investing the months or years it might take you to write the manuscript.

See if there is outside interest and the perception of value before you risk your life’s savings. If there is no interest or perception of value you can find…that might be a clue. So many people think they have “THE” idea, when in reality they only have a “so what?” idea.

3. Start by financing your business yourself.

The startup industry is booming right now. There’s so much venture capital out there that everyone thinks their idea is worthy of hundreds of thousands in angel investor dollars.

Everyone seems to think they have a Google- or Facebook-level idea, but what they don’t think about is the fact that those were not overnight successes.

Watch the Facebook movie. They were busting their butts for years! They had already proven their value by the time the cash was rolling in the door.

Don’t wait on outside dollars. Finance it yourself. Remember that you are NOT short money; you ARE only short one idea—so find that one idea to make more money now. Today is critical.

4. You should not quit your day job right away.

This is the most obvious way to finance your entrepreneurship. What it takes to be an entrepreneur does not take full time immediately. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you can test it while still having a full time job.

When I started managing Andy Andrews over 30 years ago, I backed myself up with three part time jobs.

Oh, and if you think you don’t have the time to work a full time job (or several part time jobs) and work on your entrepreneurial dream, then you haven’t read Jon Acuff’s Quitter. Buy it, right now.

5. There is only one number that matters.

When you launch a new business, especially if it’s online, you’re going to be pouring over all sorts of analytics, charts, spreadsheets, etc.

These numbers will seem important, but they’re not. There’s only one number any new entrepreneur needs to dedicate any amount of worry to—this number MUST have a do$$ar sign in front of it.

How much money are you making? Are you impressing your banker? If not, you are either doing something wrong or you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle. Focus all your effort into finding cash NOW.

6. Never assume anything about anyone.

The biggest mistake I’ve made as an entrepreneur is that I once thought other people knew what they were doing. I assumed that if they had the degree or the company that says they knew how to do something…that they actually knew how to do something.

The majority of people you are going to need to help you out, whether it’s website creation, copywriting, branding, or anything else, will say they know what they’re doing, but it’s the minority who actually can deliver on that promise.

Finding an accountant who can count, a graphic designer who can do graphics, and a web person who can make websites is so much more difficult than it sounds.

The harsh reality is that there is no right answer. When you start, trial and error are your two biggest tests. The only semi-reliable quality you can go on is whether the person you are hiring has the “people” quality. Do they leave you with a good impression? Do they know how to communicate? Can they write an email without sounding like a fool?

If you can answer “yes” to those questions, that’s a start.

7. You need to go to bed crying and wake up vomiting.

If this is going to work, everything in your being has to be so intense that these two functions become regular. You have to be so passionate that it feels like your hair is on fire 24/7.

If you walk around casually sipping a cup of coffee every morning, you are not an entrepreneur. A true entrepreneur is running so fast they probably have forgotten to eat breakfast and take a shower. It is impossible to be an entrepreneur and stand around the water cooler with a cup of coffee. It will not happen.

Some of this post may have discouraged a few of you. If so—good! The world needs less passionless entrepreneurs.

However, if you made it through…and you STILL possess a desire to make whatever your venture is work…then I hate to say it, but you should definitely go for it.

Jump right in, but do it with a sense of reality. Keep these seven things in mind, work, work, and then work some more…and you just might make it.

Never lose sight, however, of what makes every business successful—people. You are now officially in the people business. Congratulations!!!

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  • Good stuff! I eat no’s like candy but it has definitely been an acquired taste :))) Looking forward to your interview with me on ATS LIVE!

    • Ha! Acquired taste…I looooove that. Thanks, Shellie, I am very much looking forward to it as well!

  • Loren

    Thanks. I needed this advice.

  • Javier L

    Robert- Thank you for just saying it straight out!! If people are offended, they are not truly an entrepreneur. A big AMEN to your last sentence! I have learned that it all begins with people, is about people and how I can help people fulfill what they are called/purposed to be. If others can’t grasp this concept they have no business being in business.

    • Thanks, Javier! Yes…the “people” concept is probably the best thing you can learn, regardless of the line of work you’re in…it’s all the people business!

  • Welcome to the misery!

    • But it’s the best misery there is, isn’t it Mark? :-)

      • Mark Modesti

        Hoping I’m about to find out. Been in a secure position for 26 years at a Fortune 100 company and moonlighting on a new startup. It’s a complete about face. Do I really need to have my hair on fire and vomit?

  • Great post, Robert. I don’t think I had read ANYTHING about entrepreneurship that is this honest.

    • Thanks, Mike! Coming from you, that is a huuuuge compliment :-)

  • Alejandro Balderas

    I made it, i read the whole post and my stomach was aching…in the positive side I felt a new sense of inspiration. The kind of inspiration that tells you stop day-dreaming and start working NOW, and for that I want to thank you.

    • Thanks, Alejandro! Wishing you all the best on the journey you are about to begin :-)

  • Cindy

    OUCH! Hurts so good, but really important perspectives. This must be why my hubby (who is a business owner) keeps telling me no! lol!

    • I’m glad you read through the hurt, Cindy!

  • Carolyn Mance

    So true! People, passion and persistence THANK YOU for your raw honesty Robert. It’s evidence you care and want to give us a dose of reality.

    Once I told an entrepreneur my business idea and he said, “The difference between you and me is that I’ll make it happen…and twenty years from now you will still be talking about it.” That was twenty years ago. Obviously, I wasn’t that passionate about it and thank God because my competition was Starbucks. I was also busy with an infertility project that took all my tears! Small starts, sweat, tears and a strong stomach and a belief in yourself. Check! Thank you, you are the best.

    • Thank-YOU, Carolyn! So glad you found value in the post. And you’re right about having to believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself and have real passion you give yourself a HUGE head start.

  • Randy Elliott

    Your comment “You have to be so passionate that it feels like your hair is on fire 24/7” made me laugh but your post was so worth reading. Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy. Thanks for the reminder. Love ya man!

    • You too, Randy! Glad I brought a smile to your face.

  • Benjamin Robinson

    Robert, thanks for this! The passion that you speak of is really what it takes to move things forward every single day! What I find is that even with a rigorous schedule designed to empower the execution of a highly focused plan of action created in response to a compelling vision, it is possible to lose passion at certain points of the day and simply begin to go through the motions. Once I begin to go through the motions I may get things done, but I’m not consciously moving things forward. Things will not move on their own; I’ve got to be intentional about moving them, and about moving the members of my team so that they also are intentional about moving things forward as well. Thanks again for the inspiration refuel!

    • Great point, Benjamin! Making sure your mindset passes on to your team members is sooooo critical. That’s something I have to be very intentional about as well.

  • Shelley Hess

    Excellent post, Robert!!! I love the challenge your words present. Great key points made, which amount to ‘the bottom line’!! You make an excellent point about assuming nothing. While we like to ‘think the best of others’, this is not a venue where we can afford to assume a thing! Again, great points, honestly spoken. Entrepreneurship is NOT for the faint hearted, but for the bold, determined, wise, discerning and tenacious who won’t give up on a great idea! That be you, RobertD.!!!

    • Thanks for reading, Shelley!!

  • Very insightful and accurate post Robert, thanks. I especially like #7! A very small percentage of the world is attracted to the life of an entrepreneur, and only a tiny fraction of that population has the stomach and enough tissues to actually make an extraordinary life out of it.

    I wrote an article called 5 Signs that You Might Not Be an Entrepreneur once. Instead of discouraging some, they seemed compelled to tell me I was wrong. I’d love to follow their story and see if I was in fact wrong. So many people paint a bright and rosy picture in an effort to get others to buy their “get rich the quick and easy way” stuff. Most people go into it with no clue of the pain they’re about to endure. Your realistic take on it is refreshing and necessary. And, I’m with you (and I love this line) ~ the world needs less passionless entrepreneurs. Maybe you’ve succeeded in weeding out a few!

    • Jennifer, some of the egos I have witnessed in people who THINK they have “it” have truly been stunning. You’re absolutely right in all you said. Thanks for reading!

  • Mary Graham

    This is FABULOUS….well written and so true. You’re the BEST. Keep writing.

  • I must say this was a very tough read first of all! But I also must say thank you!! This is just what is needed for a young aspiring entrepreneur like myself. I’m not giving up know matter what. I have a vision and a goal and I will see it through. Thank you once again sir!

    • Thanks, Corey! That’s the kind of attitude it takes.

  • Thank you SO MUCH for this post! I’ve posted a link to it on Facebook. Maybe reading it will help some of my Facebook friends “get me” a little better! ;) I’ve finally realized that nothing is going to change in my life until I’m ready to work HARD and take responsibility for my own “stuff”.

    • Thanks for sharing, Carol!

  • Andy Andrews

    Ha! Great job! I love this post and wish folks could hear you rant about this in person…like I have for the last 30 years! And it is all true!

    • Thanks for listening for 30+ years, Fred :-)

  • Wow! Great post Robert. True entrepreneurs will appreciate the truth. Thanks for being candid, it makes entrepreneurship a realistic and practical…

    Ultimately every entrepreneur must forge his way believing that his ultimate goal is worth more than the (very real) challenges he will face…

    • The ultimate goal is what it’s ALL about, Blessing. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Yup, you’re dead on with this Robert. I learned all of these with my first attempt at being an entrepreneur.

    • Keep the attempts coming, Joe!

  • Awesome! When are you going on the road?

  • Totally agree. Good to know I’m doing some things right. :-/

    • Jeff! I definitely agree with that statement :-)

  • markmasonjar

    Thanks for stepping out from behind the curtain Robert D! Totally inspired by your book and your blog. My wife and I just launched a full-time non-profit and wow! This post helped us realize we aren’t going crazy. Thanks for telling it like it is!

    • Thanks, Mark! You are most definitely NOT going crazy.

  • Gene Brett (26,874 & counting!

    RobertD….as always, you are “RIGHT ON” and inspiring. It may be a stretch to say your book “20,000 DAYS AND COUNTING” has changed my life, however, it sure has changed the way I live.
    Thank you for being who you are.

    • Keep counting up, Gene!

  • George K.

    I made it through. I hate myself for having the time to read this. Credits ofc, excellent read.

  • RoryPeebles

    Superb Robert! This helps to explain why my copy of 20,000 Days And Counting has been highlighted galore, post-it’s on every page and I’ve filled the margins with thoughts I had to jot down quickly because my mind hasn’t stopped since I picked up your book! Ripples…..

  • Excellent read! Number 6 is so true and probably the one I’ve struggled terribly with. Even so, the experience has been packed with great lessons…

  • Nice read, so all this is normal. Part of the journey. Thanks for posting I enjoyed the direct approach to reality.

  • Sam Edge

    I like it! I started a Business in 2006 and have done well. I am now completely reinventing myself as a writer – and starting from scratch. This pst is timely in keeping me focused and on track. I am currently on a straight “no” diet. I will be expecting one from you shortly. Cheers

  • sir william

    Such a great and honest assessment of starting a business. This should be a must read for anyone thinking about starting a new business…thanks Roberto!

  • Robert,

    I’m on a plane, headed to UPW in LA. Crewing my first event since 2006. I remember ALLLLL our talks, all the great lessons I learned from you as a tadpole entrepreneur and manager over 10 years ago. I’m reading your blog today going, “yes, Yes, YES!!!”

    I had a radio interviewer tell me once that what I was describing sounded like a lot of work. “Could you break it down for our listeners so it seems a bit easier?”

    “NO!” I said, a little incredulously. “Business is for gladiators! If you don’t want to work hard at this, you need to go find a job!”

    I’m so glad to see you sharing your wisdom with the world. I was reflecting the other day on the top five influences in my life related to growing my business, and you topped the list. Wow, I owe you a debt of gratitude that I will never be able to repay … thank you for believing in me, for slapping me around and for giving me the TRUTH.

    • iGeorgeDK

      Your comment is as inspiring as Robert’s fantastic videos. Brilliant!

  • Great post. The one thing that I don’t think you covered quite hard enough is the TIME you need to invest. If you are just starting out and working full time, then you should be prepared for three and four hours of sleep per night at least two or three nights a week to get up and running well.

  • Debbie S.

    So true! Twenty-three years ago my husband and I went broke because we opened our own business. We didn’t plan for the worst-case scenario – and then it happened! Ouch! With God’s help, we climbed out of the huge hole we dug for ourselves. Today my husband and I are keeping our day jobs and I’m writing a book on the side. We are happier and have much less stress this way.