Truth be told, I started writing this blog post with the intention of discussing the 5 Steps to Successfully Starting a Business. At least that’s what I called it. But as I started writing I became inspired by the success and leadership I have been witness to over the years and felt compelled to write about it. The successful entrepreneur.
The life of an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. What I have seen first hand is that owning a business is all consuming.
But it’s yours. And you can make it whatever you want it to be. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?
A lot of it’s success, at least in the beginning, will all depend on YOU. Isn’t that terrifying?
So what sets successful entrepreneurs apart? Who are they, where do they come from and how do I know so much about them?
All of the entrepreneurs I have worked with or worked for were completely different people. But over the years I started putting together patterns. I noticed despite the numerous things that made them different from one another, their personalities and traits started to show signs of similarity….
My Entrepreneur Clients
Over the years my clients have ranged from small business owners to Founders of Private Companies that recently went public or were sold for a good chunk of cash to CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies. These were men & women, brought up in different parts of the country, young and old and all from varying family upbringings. No two stories the same.
Working with clients, getting to know them and helping them was one of the greatest joys of my career.
No joke. I know working with clients isn’t for everyone – but I genuinely loved it. Why?
Because everyone has a story and if you know me at all, you know I ask a lot of questions. And for the most part I don’t really care if they are deemed “too personal”. I ask with no intention of being nosy and to hear “news” but I like to understand who you are and why. What drives you? How did you go from here to there? What were your struggles? Your story. Your path. Lay it on me.
Perhaps it was because deep down I had the entrepreneurial itch all along. Maybe I was curious and inquisitive because in some ways their story was gearing me up for my own path towards entrepreneurship. Or maybe I just love learning about people, seeing them succeed and living their lives in accordance with exactly what they want to be doing.
It was easily my favorite part of my job…. the opportunity to peel back the layers of an individual with an undeniable passion and entrepreneurial spirit.
The passion for their company, their mission, their purpose was not only inspiring but it was captivating. They would share and pull you into their entrepreneurial journey and take you through the ups and downs and the roller coaster ride of it all. And at the end I was left with goosebumps, a cheesy ass smile on my face and feeling SO proud of this person that I may have just met or have been working with for years.
They couldn’t help themselves even if they tried. They were drawn to their vision. And for some, the passion may have been in leadership, in helping people, in the product or service or in the journey itself. But there was without a doubt, passion.
It was clear to me then and now, that passion and passion alone is the driving force that leads an individual to choose the entrepreneurial path. It pushes you forward through the naysayers and makes you almost blind to the inherent risks associated with being an entrepreneur.
Their stories are never accompanied by unicorns and rainbows or talks of how smooth their journey has been or how they are magically becoming millionaires after selling their company. Well, that was easy….said no entrepreneur. The path is not a linear one and it requires resilience and grit to withstand the many obstacles that come their way.
Their flame and their passion dimmed at times but it never went out.
In the way they built their companies, their teams, their products, their client base, etc. there was a mental toughness that was evident. You knew that nothing was going to get in the way of their long term vision and desire to pursue their passion or dream.
There was grit and resilience. An inability to allow anything be less than what they had imagined. Despite obstacles and failures along the way, their ability to pivot in order to achieve the long term goal or task at hand was impressive to say the least.
Perseverance and grit is what separated a great entrepreneur from a good one.
Be willing to accept what you can’t control and continue to move forward anyways combined with an attitude of I CAN, I WILL. It’s unstoppable.
My Entrepreneur Leaders
Over the last 10+ years, 3 different companies, I worked directly with the Founder of the firm or team. One a founder of a regionally recognized CPA firm. One a co-founder of a Top 25 National CPA Firm. And another, a Founder of the Top Team in the Finance Industry.
They each taught me more about leadership, personal growth and goals then they will ever know because in those times I was with them, they were teaching me the skills to make me successful at my job. Helping me understand the concepts, asking me questions that were both thought provoking and challenging to help me grow in my career.
But what they didn’t know is that I was watching them. That sounds creepy, but I frankly don’t know how else to say it 🙂 I was watching them lead – watching them talk to clients – watching them strategize. I watched how they communicated with people, how they prioritized and carried themselves in a way with confidence and grace. I watched as other people listened to them and were engaged in what they had to say.
What was it? Was their sense of leadership something learned or was it innate within them? What did they show me along the way that convinced me these additional traits reside in every entrepreneur?
A Willingness and Desire to Help Others
One thing I will never forget as a young professional are those leaders’ willingness to help. I would watch hundreds of emails come in to their inbox while they would be sitting with me trying to teach me, explain a concept to me as my eyes glazed over in confusion….they WANTED to see me succeed. They took the time to invest in me.
Time, our most valuable asset. In those years, I saw how busy the life of an entrepreneur and business owner was. How much they worked, how everything seemed to be riding on their shoulders, how the demands for their attention and expertise never wavered. And yet, they made time to teach me, get to know me and ask me what I wanted from my career.
It didn’t just stop with their employees. It was innately how they interacted with everyone around them.
They each had an indisputable impulse to do what was right for the people in their lives. To solve ANY and ALL problems that the client, co-worker, peer may have. I NEVER, not once, heard them say…”I’m sorry that’s just not something we do here.” or “I’m sorry, we can’t help you with that.”
And obviously one could say well of course, they are business owners, why would they turn money away? But it wasn’t that.
You could see it in them, they couldn’t turn away even if they tried because they are do-ers. They learn as they go and believe wholeheartedly that anything is figure-out-able. They simply find joy in solving problems.
I have never met a successful, well respected leader and business owner who has a negative attitude and mindset. Not one.
If you want to lead people, if you want to make a difference in peoples lives – then you need to first look in the mirror and ask yourself, would I want to work for me?
Having a positive attitude has a trickle down effect in any and all environments. As the leader of a team or a solo entrepreneur trying to sell a product or service, people want to work for or buy from someone they like. Likeability, positivity and success are mutually exclusive.
Each and every successful entrepreneur I have worked with or worked for were positive people. Some outwardly so and others more quietly positive. But an optimist and positive thinker. Never dwelling on negativity and leading the people they are with with a positive attitude and outlook.
Forever optimist that things will always work out – somehow, someway. They would make it so.
Having a positive attitude will change your entire life. Your relationships, your career path, your health, your wealth…your LIFE. It’s up to you. It’s a choice.
They have an incredible yearning to be better than they were yesterday. They want to master their craft, their product and service. They want to master leadership and mentorship. They want to master whatever challenge may come their way.
Perhaps in some way the competitive nature within them, but an unquestionable drive to be better and a willingness to learn from others.
There was never an attitude of “I already know enough?” Or “There is a change? I don’t have time to learn that”. Instead, it was how can we learn everything we can about it? How does it impact the people around us? How can we use it to our advantage?
They understood they were great at what they did, but there was always room to be better.
Each and every successful entrepreneur….
I have had the pleasure of working with or working for, had each of these characteristics.
And the last thing I will say is that they are simply the hardest working people I have ever known. Successful entrepreneurs and business owners are a different breed with a work ethic and motor unlike anything I have ever seen before.
A work ethic unlike anything I’ve ever seen before
I think it’s really easy to just look at someone where they are now and say WOW, what a successful person. Must be nice to make all that money, must be nice to be the leader of the team, must be nice to not have to do all the day to day “work”.
But what about their journey to get there? What about the YEARS of work and sacrifice they have had to endure to afford them the opportunity to now lead in a way that they no longer have to be in the weeds? Or to go ride off into the sunset?
This is exactly why I love getting to know their story. Tell me what it was like 20+ years ago. Why did you start? How did it end? What was your favorite part?
Because one of those leaders once told me that the fun, the joy and the pride has been in the journey….not the destination. I had it wrong all along with the desire to have the corner office, CEO title, BOSS, that’s me. I realized that wasn’t my goal after all…I want to have an impact on people’s lives. I want a meaningful, challenging, rewarding journey.
I have NO idea where FinPowered Female will go, but I have grand plans 🙂 And although I did end up leaving each firm, it was with the utmost respect for my past leadership. I simply wanted to build & create something as they did. Because they inspired me.
So to each of my past leaders, I owe you a great amount of thanks and gratitude for giving me the opportunity to learn from you. For it shaped who I am today and I am truly grateful.
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