Richard Branson for most of us epitomises what it means to be an entrepreneur. He is flamboyant, adventurous, a risk taker and of course incredibly rich.
Unfortunately society tends to focus only on the rich part of being an entrepreneur as a measure of success. Even if that particular entrepreneur is doing a lot of good for society, if they are not rich then they must be doing something wrong.
Most entrepreneurs are not rich
Firstly I guess I should admit that everyone’s definition of being rich or wealthy will be different, however for the purpose of this article rich means that they have enough money to firstly, never have to work again, and secondly, they can purchase any goods and services without giving the price a second thought.
Most entrepreneurs take years just to break even
As an owner of a few businesses I am lucky to have the privilege of teaching a lot of wealthy entrepreneurs how to fly an aircraft. Once they have made enough income many of them can hen finally afford to learn to fly an aircraft. They are often more than happy to share their business experience with me. One of the most common pieces of information they always share with me is that it took them a long time to build a sustainable business.
Sustainable does not mean they are RICH!
The definition of sustainable is the ability to be maintained at a certain level. This basically means that their income was stable. They were not worried week to week about fluctuations in income and expenditure, they might not be rich but they had built a business system that provided regular cash flow.
However for the majority, it took them over five years to get to this point. For the early stages of their business every day was a battle of survival. As a small business owner I know exactly what this feels like. You have to closely watch every cent and you are always concerned about tomorrow’s revenue.
The income for the first few years is always wildly fluctuating. As Richard Branson puts it, in business, one month you’re inundated with cash the next your cash flow dries up live a barren riverbed. This boom to bust cycle of business is more common than not. I once had a very wealthy entrepreneur learning to fly who had ten businesses on the go at once. His reasoning was that he needed that many to iron out the boom and bust cycles of the other businesses.
Every day is a challenge
It’s not how much you earn but what you are creating and contributing that matters as an entrepreneur. Of course more cash flow is always better than less cash flow however this is not the primary reason an Entrepreneur should have to start a business. While cash flow is important for survival it should be secondary to creating something of value. If you put value first then the money will hopefully flow eventually as a by-product of this.
Old word Entrepreneur- More more and more
The old world Entrepreneur was flamboyant and lived a life of excess. Fast cars, large homes and private jets. This larger than life Egoic image of what it means to be an Entrepreneur has to change.
We are now finally starting to learn that more of everything is not the path to happiness or contentment.
The new world entrepreneur – less is more
My good friend and business Mentor Mark Phillips is an excellent example of how the definition of an entrepreneur is changing.
Mark has started numerous companies and currently owns and operates a Business Development and Technology company which assists other businesses to innovate and grow to the next level.
Mark does not believe in home ownership and is not obsessed in any way with material acquisitions. Mark and his partner Linda love to travel and they love to socialise with family and friends. This love of people is evident in his business dealings and how he operates; one of the many reasons he is successful.
Mark may not be the Richard Branson style of entrepreneur, however he is still making a difference to other people’s lives and has created a lifestyle around his purpose. Mark represents a new breed of entrepreneurs who want to make a difference without relentless consumption.
One of my heroes, E F Schumacher, wrote a wonderful book called ‘Small is Beautiful’. He reasoned that small local businesses are more efficient than large corporations. We also feel more connected to other individuals when we keep things small.
When I used to work for a large corporation I at one stage had 70 employees to manage. I did not really enjoy this time of my life. Often one of my staff members would say hello to me in the elevator and sadly I would not know their name or even at times remember if they worked for me or not. When I had a small team of about twelve individuals I found it more rewarding as I could get to know everyone on a deeper level.
The same goes for business. Big is not always the best option. Currently I own two flying schools, a multimedia business and a motivational business and I have one full-time employee and about five subcontractors that work for me on a casual basis.
I know all of them and their partners and consider them all close friends. These small microbusinesses still turn over a healthy profit. I know business owners who have businesses five times the size that turn over the same amount of profit.
My businesses have not made me Rich or wealthy however I have plenty of free time to work on projects I am passionate about.
Don’t let the goal of getting rich get in the way of being an entrepreneur
The main lesson to be learnt here is that don’t make becoming wealthy the main reason for being an entrepreneur or as an indicator of being a successful entrepreneur.
Does your business or idea make a positive difference to the lives of others? Are you still passionate about your business or idea?
Then keep going, the financial rewards may or may not come. If they come eventually then great, if they don’t then at least you are living on Purpose and with passion.
Most entrepreneurs struggle for a very long time before they find some form of financial success and some others never discover financial success.
The question to ask yourself is, would I still be doing this if it was not going to make me rich? If the answer is no then I suggest you will never be satisfied being an entrepreneur.
I own flying schools because I love flying, not because I wanted to become rich. I also wrote this article simply because I have something to say and I want to help other entrepreneurs or would be entrepreneurs overcome thoughts and habits that sabotage their success.
On the other hand if one day one of my businesses leads to great wealth then great, but if not, then that is OK too.
If you want to make a difference in the world create something that matters and makes a positive difference to other people’s lives. That should always be an entrepreneur’s main priority, it is as simple as that!