To demystify entrepreneurship, we have to start with the definition.
What is Entrepreneurship?
In the simplest form ever;
“ENTREPRENEURSHIP is about USING your LIFE to MAKE A DIFFERENCE through a BUSINESS.”
This is my personal definition of entrepreneurship. And in this definition, lies the 3 critical components that are necessary to successfully pursue your entrepreneurial dreams and eventually build a business that MATTERS!
The 3Ps of Entrepreneurship
- The PERSON (who): using your life
- The PURPOSE (why/what): to make a difference
- The PROCESS (how): through a Business
Let’s look at each critical component in more details.
The PERSON (who): using your Life
The entrepreneurial journey is embarked upon by an individual or group of individuals. And to a very large extent, the success or failure of the business to be created is going to be greatly determined by the founder(s).
This is why it’s imperative for us to start the exploration of this subject matter of entrepreneurship from a personal perspective. Because believe it or not, business and life are both sides of the same coin. At the very fundamental level, business is not separate from life, but an extension of life.
So any attempt to separate one from the other, will ultimately compromise the very essence of entrepreneurship.
The Entrepreneur: Who Are You?
Entrepreneurship is the most unusual journey you will ever embark on in your life, so you’ve got to be absolutely certain it’s how you want to live your life and what you want to use your life for.
Entrepreneurship is not complete without you the entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is fulfilled through you; you are the one who gives birth to your business.
Your business is whatever you say it is. Your business can and will only go as far as you want to take it.
You and your business are inextricably linked. Your business derives its purpose from your purpose; your business derives its meaning from your life.
So this leads us to the BIG question every entrepreneur or would be entrepreneur must answer; who are you?
Until you have discovered yourself, every business you start will eventually fail. I know this is hard to believe, so I am going to prove it.
According to Bill Aulet, the professor of entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship; there are primarily 3 ways of starting a new business venture.
Meaning, there are basically 3 ways of becoming an entrepreneur;
- YOU have a breakthrough technology
- YOU have an idea
- YOU have a passion
Did you notice every one of the 3 ways of becoming an entrepreneur started with YOU? From the above, the only constant element is YOU. It takes YOU to create a breakthrough technology; it takes YOU to come up with a viable business idea; and finally, it takes YOU to have passion.
At the epicenter of entrepreneurship is YOU!
YOU will have to decide based on any of these 3 options how YOU want to become an entrepreneur. And your ability to make the right choice will greatly depend on your understanding of yourself as a person.
Knowing who you are; what you like and dislike; your strengths and weaknesses; your interests, abilities and skills; your character, temperament and values; your experiences, challenges, desires and realities; all add up to determine your success or failure as an entrepreneur.
So going into business without first discovering yourself and understanding who you are, is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Why? Because not knowing yourself will hinder your ability to accurately choose the right business that will suit your person.
In the end, you will find yourself in a line of business you are inadequately equipped for and will eventually lack the personal qualities to scale through thereby leading to business failure. You can avoid this by consciously seeking to know yourself better.
Remember, entrepreneurship is about using your life to make a difference through a business. So this is your life you are using up to create and build a business, don’t waste it on the wrong kind of business.
Self Discovery Tools
Here are a few tools that can help you know more about yourself;
16 Personalities – this is a personality discovery tool. Take the test to find out more about your person.
101 Self Discovery Questions – this is a great list of 101 important questions to ask yourself
The PURPOSE (why/what): to make a Difference
The second critical component of entrepreneurship is the purpose. In other words; to what end is your entrepreneurial journey? Or better still; why did you become an entrepreneur? What are you trying to accomplish by becoming an entrepreneur?
This critical component of entrepreneurship is necessary for all existing entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs because it serves as a compass to guide your business activities. Without it, many entrepreneurs have derailed and watched their businesses collapse as a result.
There’s only one true purpose for entrepreneurship; to make a difference in the lives of your customers through the products/services you create and sell to them.
In other words, the purpose of entrepreneurship is to add value for customers and ultimately society. If a business is to succeed, it must aim to add value to customers through continuous innovation and finding new ways of making a difference.
The reason many people go into business and eventually fail is because they didn’t clearly understand the purpose of entrepreneurship. To many in this category, entrepreneurship is about making all the money you can through a business.
Consequently, they go into business with a selfish mentality determined to GET as much money as they can without first considering how much they have to GIVE in exchange for the money they seek.
Entrepreneurs with this selfish mentality fail in business because they have violated the very purpose of entrepreneurship, which is to make a difference through your products/services. Thinking about the money [profit] you will get first rather than the products/services [value] you should create is the recipe for business failure.
In the world of business, there’s only one way to make money; consistently creating and selling products/services that add value to humanity. Death is the eventual outcome of any business that doesn’t make this purpose of entrepreneurship their core guiding principle.
The PROCESS (how): through a Business
Business is the tool entrepreneurs use to make a difference in the lives of their target customers. Without creating a business, entrepreneurs greatly limit their capacity to make a difference. Why? Because you are limited as a person.
As an individual, there’s only so much you can do to satisfy your customers. Sooner or later, you will be overwhelmed by all the different activities required to provide the products/services your customers demand. So don’t attempt to go down that road, you will only entrap yourself.
The process of entrepreneurship is all about building a business and not about doing business. The reason for the failure of most small businesses can be traced back to this mistake of doing rather than building a business.
Building a business is about creating systems that will power the activities required to create and sell products/services to your customers. These systems will involve both people and machines; through them your capacity as an entrepreneur to make a difference is greatly amplified.
There are essentially 5 core inter-related systems you need to create;
- Human Resources [HR] – a specific process of finding, hiring, training, retaining and firing workers
- Finance – a specific process of sourcing, allocating and managing funds
- Marketing – a specific process of attracting, retaining and growing profitable customers
- Production – a specific process of converting resources into finished goods and services
- Distribution – a specific process of delivering products/services to your customers
The process of entrepreneurship is about putting all these things in place in your business. They are the pillars on which you will build your business. The more effective and efficient these core inter-dependent systems are, the quicker your business will grow and the bigger the difference you can make.
Welcome to another edition of the Unusual Entrepreneur Interviews and today I have with me Dave Schneider, a 27 years old Entrepreneur and the co-founder of NinjaOutreach – a content marketing outreach solution for digital marketers, bloggers and small businesses.
In this interview, he shared with us why he decided to abandon a well paying corporate job [$70k+ per year] and launch out on his own to pursue his dreams as an entrepreneur. He also takes us behind the scenes on;
- How to define a price for your product/service, using the tier method
- Why entrepreneurs should only pursue an idea that is large enough to grow into something great
- The essential role mentors play in the life of every entrepreneur and what a mentor will never do for you
- The importance of knowing your limitations as an entrepreneur and being realistic with your available resources when pursuing new business ideas/opportunities
- And many more…
What are you waiting for?
Start digging in!
Interview Questions Part One
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
I am 27 years old from Boston Massachusetts. I graduated from Harvard with a degree in mathematics and worked at Capital One as a business analyst for two years.
Afterwards I left my job and went backpacking around the world for two years with my girlfriend. During that time we started numerous businesses such as buying and selling websites, advertising, and SEO, and were able to replace our previous full time income.
For the last four years I have been developing my skills as a digital marketer, and in June 2014 I partnered with two other digital entrepreneurs and began developing and marketing NinjaOutreach, a blogger outreach software for digital marketers and small businesses interested in growing their presence online.
Previously, this would have required several different tools to find the leads, extract the data, and outreach to them. We do this all in one, and do it much faster. NinjaOutreach collects an immense amount of data from a variety of sources into a searchable database, and allows people to email customized templates from within the platform.
How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
When I started traveling we decided to start a travel blog. This was my foray into online marketing. I learned about blogging, how to generate traffic, how to capture leads, and how to make sales.
Eventually this travel blog hobby spiraled into a fledgling business, and it really opened my eyes that an individual could generate income on his own – without a company paycheck, and have a lot more fun doing it.
Since then I’ve never looked back and it has been my goal to build a sustainable lifestyle business that will allow me to work from anywhere in the world.
When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
When I first started out, I simply had to make money. That was the main driving force. I wanted to show myself and frankly other people as well that I could go a non-traditional path and earn my own living.
Nowadays money is still a factor, but I can be less money driven and more focused on providing value to the end customer. NinjaOutreach is far from a quick buck. Investing in a software startup is a grind and requires patience and years to become successful, but I know it’s a valuable product and will improve the lives of business owners, and that’s what drives us forward.
What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
I agree with this 100%.
When you start a business you’re going to have a lot of ups and downs. Some of the downs are often referred to as the valley of despair.
The more passionate you are about what you’re doing, the more able you are to persevere during these very difficult times.
I have run a business before where I was making quite a bit of money, but had zero passion for it, and eventually I just let it fade out of my own disinterest.
What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
I think there are two end goals.
Teach people – I believe that entrepreneurs have an inner desire to teach people. I’ve always been a teacher. My dad was a teacher. My sister is a teacher. I just want to teach in a field that interests me – entrepreneurship.
Social Good – Although NinjaOutreach is a valuable product that can improve the lives of business owners, I wouldn’t classify it as a social good, like clean tech. Eventually, I want to transition into more of these types of projects, and have a greater impact on humanity.
What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
The purpose of entrepreneurship is to innovate, and therefore allow the world to progress, improving the lives of everyone.
Interview Questions Part Two
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
Finding a good business opportunity is about finding the balance between the size of the pie and the resources required to pull it off. You have to know your own limitations as an entrepreneur and be realistic about what resources you have access to. Of course this has been proven wrong countless times before, where people who came from nothing dreamed big and achieved big – but I do think as a general rule it helps to be realistic.
At the same time you want to be pursuing an idea that is large enough to grow into something great. I see a lot of people wasting time on very small-minded thinking (like building a small niche site), that could never make more than a few thousand dollars a month, at most.
The fact is the amount of effort these things require is not altogether different, so go big, but be conscious of your resources because if you run out, it’s game over.
Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
I have used SCORE as a means of getting one business mentor who I speak with every few months about my business. It helps to be able to speak with someone who is older, wiser, and has been there and can provide hands on advice and support.
That said, most of the day to day activities are between my team and I. Inevitably even with a mentor, you have to be prepared to be the one in the trenches, executing day after day.
How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
Firstly, if there is anything I can outsource, I do. I have assistants, hired off of oDesk usually, who handle a lot of the minute things like online research, organizing, etc. This helps free up my time to do things that only I can do, like this interview.
I try to balance my time between the product and the marketing. Both need attention and both are closely related, and it’s important not to get overly focused on one or the other. So, when my developer is working, I am probably more focused on product and answering his questions. When he is not, I go into marketing mode.
How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
What’s unusual about our method is that our tool is for blogger outreach and lead generation, so we basically use our tool to sell itself.
Of course, it is not direct. There is a channel involved, which is usually email. That said, I use our tool to find bloggers, affiliates, and general influencers who we can partner with. We do a lot of content marketing like guest posts, product reviews, giveaways, and things like that to get in front of other audiences.
Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
I think this comes back to my point about resources. I would be very wary about attacking a problem that depends on funding. NinjaOutreach could benefit from funding, but I believe that it can succeed even as a bootstrapped product, so I know that if we don’t get funding, we’re not going to go belly up tomorrow. We’re aware of our costs and what kind of money we have available to invest in the business, and we know that we have the talent on the team to see it through.
If you are having issues getting funding then you need to further prove the business. If you are having issues proving the business, then it may be that something is wrong with it, or you simply don’t have the help. In that case, consider taking on additional founders or employees and giving them equity, so that you can grow the business to become something that’s investable.
When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
Naturally my recommendation is to look at bloggers and influencers in your niche and try to persuade them to partner with you. They have large audiences and this can really accelerate your growth. If you’re not sure how to work with influencers, consider this case study on LeadPages.
The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
I’m certainly not a pricing expert but I have heard the following principles:
1. Always tier your pricing, because a high proportion of the revenue will come from the high end tier, even though it will likely represent the lowest number of customers.
2. Make the tiers different enough to stand out, something like 1x, 2x, 5x.
Interview Questions Part Three
MISCELLANEOUS: Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for entrepreneurs
Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
So far it remains the travel blogging business I started on the road. This business became around a $20k per month service business, where we were selling advertising on travel blogs to agencies. I ran this with my girlfriend and a few contracted assistants, and we did it while traveling the world full time (over 40 countries). It received zero funding.
What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
Some of my major setbacks were partly external, for example, the aforementioned business had issues with Google and they basically de-indexed a lot of our websites, which cut the legs out from under the business when it was just taking off.
Personally, I’ve attempted some businesses that I think had the potential to be successful, but I got discouraged too early and gave up. This is what i mean when I say you have to be passionate about what you’re doing. I wasn’t passionate about either of those businesses, at least not to the extent that I was willing to see them through hard times and rough starts.
Where there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
Perhaps a question about trends, such as: What’s one trend that really excites you?
I really love the growth in blogging, as well as quality content creation and content promotion. More and more there is quality information being put out there and people are taking their blogs more seriously. As a result brands and businesses are coming around and looking at online audiences as effective markets that they want to tap into. Naturally this trend bodes well for our blogger outreach software.
I’m so convinced you had more than you asked for in this interview. But just in case, he missed out something, what more would you like to know about the unusual Dave Schneider?
You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most? What strategies did you pick up from him?
Dave has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!