What it Really Means to Be an Entrepreneur
Deciding to be an entrepreneur, your own boss, sounds great in concept but as I mentioned in my last article, the day-to-day life of operating your own company is far from the glamorous images most imagine or perhaps see on television. I have heard countless times how I must have it made being my own boss, no doubt I must be rich, live in a mansion, have at least five cars in the garage, and/or I must really struggle every day to get out of bed to go work on my golf game. If all this were true I am all but certain everyone would be an entrepreneur! The fact of the matter is starting a company, and being your own boss is the most gut-wrenching experience you can pursue professionally. I enjoy business TV shows such as Shark Tank, The Profit, Restaurant Startup, and The Apprentice when I do actually have a moment to sit down for entertainment. Yet, it still perplexes me today what motivates some people to convert such entertainment into motivation and use it as inspiration to pursue their own journey in life. I truly enjoyed my years working in a K-12 school district, and I definitely loved the people, but at the end of my tenure, one of the main reasons I decided to move on and create Five Star Technology Solutions was because I did not feel challenged every day. I truly believe most of the talented people at Five Star felt the same thing, along with a higher calling, when they decided to join me on this exciting venture to impact K-12 education. I received my higher calling to lead and influence more than a single school district and it is extremely uplifting years later, after all the hard work, to see the tremendous impact we are having on K-12 schools within our home state and beyond.
Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Mark Cuban (for fellow Shark Tank fans), and others make it seem like becoming a self-made millionaire or billionaire is an easy task. You dream up an idea, act on your idea, and you are rich overnight – right? Again, if it truly were this easy I am certain everyone would become an entrepreneur. A wise man once compared starting your own business to the game of football. You fight blood, sweat, and tears to gain advancement (success) by the inch only to be scouted by monstrous defensive linemen looking to push you back. Success, defined differently by all of us, should be measured not by each play but the aggregate of what was accomplished in the game (life). No doubt some days you will lose ground and other days you will gain. However, the goal should remain on verifying the ball advances forward with utmost perseverance because undoubtedly as you continue to grow there will be more challengers looking to push you back. These are the times, and there will be many when you must have persistence and never accept failure as an option. For me personally, I never fail – I either succeed or I learn. Fighting through battles, and triumphing in the face of overwhelming odds is the extreme challenge some people decide to pursue in life to be labeled as an entrepreneur.
What it really means to be an entrepreneur is never-ending days, non-stop thinking about the company or your latest idea, having to remain calm and lead in any situation, continual analysis of the latest market news and conditions, being a quasi-legal expert, identifying and hiring the right people, countless meetings, working to always over-communicate, maintaining an ideal work environment, verifying all business paperwork is filed on time, dealing with situations that arise, keeping business expenses in line, providing employees with healthcare coverage and rewarding fringe benefits, keeping an eye on the financials, verifying business insurance coverage, implementing the correct growth strategy, always making time to get feedback from customers, growing and fostering professional relationships, and the list literally continues on indefinitely including making all the hard decisions that are far from comfortable. However, one thing I always know is tomorrow is a new day. On top of all this, you learn every sense of the word humility, which I believe is a strong differentiator among successful leaders. I have my own hiring and team-building strategies but at the end of the day, I realize I will be working with people much smarter than myself. I have always believed in the saying that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. Fortunately, ego and pride are not my strong traits so this has been more of observation for me over the years than a lesson learned.
Finally, going back to the definition of success, I believe most equate success with money. After all, jumping to the conclusion that every entrepreneur lives in a mansion with five cars means you at least have a couple of dollars in the bank. I have never claimed to be normal, which my wife can likely attest to, but success in my eyes has never been about money. Therefore, I can also confidently state I do not live in a mansion, I do not have five cars, and my golf game always needs help. Another wise man (yes, there have been many in my life) once told me accumulations in life do not go with you when your time here concludes. Accumulations can translate to several things for people, money included, but what I carry with me is the only thing that truly remains is the lasting impact you make on the world. So while the perception is there are piles of money in the bank, and the most difficult thing I do each day is play a round of golf, the truth of the matter is I work extremely hard and I have reinvested nearly everything the company has generated over the years to continue my definition of success of making a lasting impact on the world. The people around me and relationships established over the years mean everything to me, much more valuable than money, as these folks believed in me enough to join my mission of making a real difference in K-12 education. I choose to live a life of purposeful existence and while the picture painted above reflects how chaotic this path in life can be the highlights of being an entrepreneur do allow you to pause for a moment and say “I made a real difference today.”
Written by Jim Benson