- Have customers. You are not an entrepreneur if you don’t have a customer. You are a person (or a group of people) with an idea. Entrepreneurs create businesses. Anyone can have an idea and, in fact, everyone has ideas all of the time. Ideas are worthless; execution is priceless. Real businesses have real, paying customers who exchange money for the value they receive.
- Build a business. Entrepreneurs build businesses. They focus on creating something sustainable, something with real value. Your product is not a business. The service that you provide to others is not a business. To turn your product or service into a business, you have to acquire enough customers to make it one. You have to scale up. You need to build.
- Care enough about the business to work. Entrepreneurship isn’t a hobby. Bouncing from one idea to the next idea without ever putting in the work necessary to create a real, sustainable business doesn’t make you a serial entrepreneur; it makes you flaky. If you are an entrepreneur, you do the work. If you don’t want to do the work, become an investor.
- Generate a profit. Businesses make money. Well, the ones that survive do. Entrepreneurs know this, and they build models to ensure that they are profitable—and that they can grow the business. No real business tracks their “burn rate.” Real businesses have budgets and goals. Growing a business requires that you find a way to make enough money to invest it back in the business.
- Be stingy with your ownership. Venture capitalist will give money in exchange for part of your business. So will angel investors. Taking investor’s money is the part of “entrepreneurship” that seems glamorous, especially to young entrepreneurs entranced by stories out of San Francisco. Investment money is expensive; it costs you ownership. You can borrow money from a bank and keep your company. If you are giving up a significant piece of the ownership of your business, it ought to be for something more than money—unless the money is the result of selling the successful business you built as a wealth realization event.