Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? Was it a teacher? Your mother? Something you saw on Amazon or Google? Do you even know?
I knew back when I was around 12.
My mother always wanted a doctor in the family and had visions of me becoming one. I had other visions; I hated the sight of blood. When I repeatedly explained that to my mother, she asked about me becoming a lawyer! Nope, still not interested.
My father was an accountant, and I grew up fascinated by the stories he told about his clients, how they built their businesses, bought and sold companies, and how much money they made. His tales were the spark for my interest in entrepreneurship.
I was 15 when I started my first business, Newstar Advertising. I sold store ads on restaurant placemats and provided them for free to restaurants. During my four college summers, I ran an in-ground sprinkler company that was quite successful, and by my fourth summer in business, I had three crews of installers.
I’ve always been a fiercely independent, type A take-charge kind of person. From a young age, I knew two things:
I didn’t want to become a doctor or lawyer, possibly to spite my mother.
I wanted to become an entrepreneur because I was intrigued by business, making deals, forging my path forward and creating wealth.
Upon graduation from university and armed with a newly minted business degree, I started a telecom company in 1991 and ran it for 27 years. My goal at the beginning was to build the company to $1 million in revenue. Once it reached that benchmark, I wasn’t satisfied; I needed to reach $2 million. Then $3 million, and so on.
The first million in revenue was definitely harder than the second and subsequent million-dollar milestones, but more challenging was successfully surpassing various glass ceilings encountered along the way.
I found it particularly challenging to reach the $5 million mark, but once I conquered that threshold and put the right processes in place, I decided to double down and set the next one at $10 million.
Those earnings figures, however, were the company’s, not mine, but I measured my wealth with a similar measuring stick. I saved diligently, expanded my business and wealth strategically, and kept an eye on the prize—financial independence.
Money is the byproduct of doing something you are passionate about, not the other way around. My passion always has been business and the mechanics of building a company. There’s a sense of exhilaration in solving the constant stream of never-ending business challenges and trying to reach the next milestone. That’s what has kept me going for so long.
I’ve always set goals and focused with almost laser-like precision on achieving them, whether they be financial, health or the health and well-being of my family. Of utmost importance though, and something I’ve always prioritized, is my own mental health and well-being.
The only way to successfully conquer all of the challenges of business and life is to have mental clarity and control. You need to look after yourself before you look after your family, staff, and business. Looking after yourself sounds so cliché, but it isn’t. You need to be a pillar of strength so everyone else can lean on you, and count on you to lead them. If you’re not strong mentally and physically, you’ll fall when the weight gets too heavy.
You must prioritize your own interests first. You create success and then share your achievements with your family, friends, staff, and so on. When you’re strong, you can bring everyone else up. There’s a reason the horse pulls the cart and doesn’t push it.
Here’s the secret
When you take care of your mental and physical health and have clear goals, success is within reach.
Each person’s dream is different, of course. Ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Why are you an entrepreneur?
What are you trying to achieve?
What’s your goal?
What’s your dream?
When you envision yourself in 5, 10, 20 years, what do you see? Who do you see?
It’s important that you are clear about the answers to those questions. Being an entrepreneur is extremely difficult work, fraught with financial and personal risk. There is financial risk in your investment, both in dollars and time. Things might not work out.
There’s also a personal risk. You’re going to need to make building your business a priority, and you run the risk of damaging personal relationships along the way. For those reasons, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It is important that you’re clear about what you’re trying to achieve.
Throughout my time as founder and president of the telecom company, I was living the entrepreneurial dream. I worked according to my own schedule, strategized about next steps and moved the business in new and exciting directions. The business gave me a sense of significance, of being the leader and creating opportunities while reaping the financial rewards of my hard work. The financial rewards didn’t come for quite a few years, but as the business grew and became more profitable, wealth followed.
One of my goals, when I was in my early 20s, was to be financially independent by my 50th birthday. So, I sold the majority share of the telecom company in my 49th year and I am currently semi-retired.
Still, I continue to live the entrepreneurial dream. I’m now on a new adventure, and although the dream is quite different, I still think constantly thinking about what’s next about my next and what my new goals and dreams are.
What’s your goal? What’s your dream? And, why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Armed with the answers to those questions and a focus on the outcome, achieving your dream is possible.
In the absence of those answers, you may find yourself chasing an elusive dream you’ll never achieve. After all, as the expression goes, “If you don’t have a dream, you’ll never have a dream come true.”
There are a few blog posts I think you might be interested in reading. My Journey Post Business Sale as I Sail Into a New Harbour