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How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur: 10 Practical Tips

Written by John Hall
John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a leading scheduling and productivity app that will change how we manage and invest our time.
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When it comes to figuring out how to be a successful entrepreneur, some people might think that everything hinges on having an extraordinary skill, a revolutionary idea, or just a business degree. While all those things definitely won’t hurt your chances of success, none of them are essential to finding success as an entrepreneur.

There are multiple ways to go about running a business, but some strategies are almost universal in their benefits. In this article, ’ll discuss six techniques and mindsets that can help you achieve the results you want in your business endeavors and be a successful entrepreneur.

What People Get Wrong About Entrepreneurship

When I talk to people about entrepreneurship and how to become an entrepreneur, there are some common misconceptions that always arise.

They are almost always based on stereotypes that have seeped into the culture over time. We see them in movies, television, and even from entrepreneurs themselves. But like all stereotypes, they are overgeneralizations that don’t allow us to see the true, in-depth picture of the entrepreneur. So, here are the most common myths I hear about entrepreneurs.

There Are “Born” Entrepreneurs

It’s true that if you come from a long line of entrepreneurs (as I did), you are more likely to become one, but it’s not genetically inherited. It’s much more a function of having entrepreneurs as role models in your life. After all, colleges and universities have been teaching all kinds of people business skills and entrepreneurship for decades.

Now, that’s not to say that there are no “born into” advantages that can help with entrepreneurship. Money is a great example of this. If you were lucky enough to be born into a family with money, it will make entrepreneurship a much easier proposition. After all, funding is a major part of any start-up.


That being said, most entrepreneurs were not born into money and still became successful. More on how to do that later.

Entrepreneurs Don’t Have a Social Life

This one is pretty common and sometimes perpetuated by the entrepreneurs themselves. There can be a kind of a machismo attached to the image of a workaholic: someone who is single-minded and entirely focused to the exclusion of other things.

While entrepreneurship does take a lot of time, effort, and dedication, entrepreneurs, by necessity, need to be social creatures. No one rises to the top without a wide network of friends and acquaintances.

They Are Extreme Risk-Takers

There’s no getting around taking risks as an entrepreneur. However, successful entrepreneurs are experts at taking calculated risks — carefully exploring all the options as well as the potential ups and downs before making a decision.

The person who is willing to risk it all on a roll of the dice isn’t going to be in business very long.


They Are Super Smart

In fact, only about 26% of entrepreneurs have a college degree[1]. While getting or having an education can’t (or shouldn’t) hurt, it is by no means a prerequisite for becoming a successful entrepreneur.

They Raise Money Through Bank Loans and Venture Capital Firms

My hat’s off to you if you can pull that one off, especially a bank loan. You’ll find that banks are more than willing to lend you money once you’ve become successful, but before then, you’re lucky to get a cup of coffee out of them[2].

No, most new entrepreneurs are raising funds either personally or through friends and family[3].

How to Fund Your Startup as an Entrepreneur

    Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur

    All you need is a great idea and some hard work. After all, if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.

    Sorry, but that’s just not true.

    There is a lot involved in launching a successful startup. Not everyone has the time, ability, or inclination to do it. The truth is, successful entrepreneurs do share some similar traits and habits. We’ll go over those next.

    How to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

    Here’re 10 practicap tips for entrepreneurs:

    1. Develop Your Idea

    It doesn’t have to be a totally unique or groundbreaking business idea in order to be a successful one. The popular rideshare company Lyft was started three years after the introduction of Uber. They took on the business model of Uber and just tweaked it a little.

    Just because there is competition in a field doesn’t mean that you can’t be very successful when you start a business, too.


    Go ahead and use the business model of the most successful competitor, but make it your own by identifying shortcomings and weaknesses that you can exploit for your own success.

    Research, Research, Research

    Research the industry and get to know the players, trade associations, and conventions. Research the products and services involved. It’s not uncommon that the most profitable part of a business isn’t the “main” product, but an ancillary add-on product.

    For example, it’s not uncommon for a restaurant to break even on the food and only make money on the drinks. The reason they can offer a plate full of food for $5.00 is really the $2.00 Coke or $5.00 glass of wine you order with it.

    Finally, research the customer. Things like average age, sex, buying habits, interests, attitudes about health, wealth, social media, and status are all helpful in your targeting and marketing efforts.

    Create a Formal Business Plan

    This step is often overlooked and shouldn’t be. As a one or two-person show, you can probably get along fine without one, but once you start hiring employees, having a formal business plan is essential[4].

    Elements of a Business Plan

      Unfortunately, if you don’t put it in place right away, by the time you need it, you’ll be too busy to create one. It’s always smart to do it up front.


      Test Your Ideas

      Start small, as there’s no way you can predict every possible problem or issue that will arise. You’ll find it’s much easier to address these issues if they’re limited to a few test markets as opposed to a global rollout.

      2. Keep Your Time Organized

      Whether your business is brand new or fully established, entrepreneurs often have many projects and responsibilities going at once. It’s one of the things that make owning your own business so exciting, but it can also lead to stress if your time is overloaded and disorganized.

      This is an area where technology shines. Scheduling apps can help you organize your day and set boundaries around your time. Find a tool that works for you and keeps your days running smoothly. Time-blocking is an effective strategy to use when you are planning out how you can manage your time.[5]

      With the crazy demands of being an entrepreneur, this strategy is valuable to make sure that you get what’s most important done.

      3. Hire Solid Talent and Support Their Success

      When you start a business, it is often just one person or a tiny group handling every aspect of the company’s day-to-day functions. As you possibly expand and prosper, however, stepping back and offloading certain responsibilities is a natural and expected part of the process. Locating and hiring a great team is only half of the equation, and setting them up for success is the other half.

      Keeping lines of communication open, while setting clear expectations, allows your employees to own their positions and create a path to winning for themselves and the business. Investing in supporting resources for your employees can be another way to set them up for success.


      For example, providing access to certain software subscriptions can increase employee productivity in a variety of positions—one, in particular, being sales. The cost of a small number of carefully-selected apps could potentially be matched or exceeded by a single sale generated as a result of an automated program. Not only is it profitable for you, but your employees are also being given the tools they need to excel in their roles.

      4. Avoid Risk and Prepare for the Future

      Hiccups or unforeseen circumstances are going to happen now and again in business. Occasionally going into crisis mode isn’t necessarily a cause for concern. However, if you feel like a large portion of your time is spent putting out proverbial fires rather than operating a well-oiled machine, you might want to place more focus on looking at potential difficulties coming your way and implementing support and processes to avoid them.

      Try to educate yourself first rather than jumping into risky strategies. For example, the metaverse is a major buzzword going around that can be a risk for entrepreneurs. One of the leading innovation experts I’ve worked with in the past and respect is Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief of Innovation. Wong wrote a great article on how you can get excited about the hype of opportunity in the metaverse.[6] However, he also educates on how important planning is to make sure you are educating yourself to avoid risk.

      The future is unknown, but successful planning can help entrepreneurs avoid unnecessary risks.

      5. Be Selective With Your Clientele

      Being selective in your clientele should be the goal of every aspiring entrepreneur. Not only does it indicate stability in your company in that you can afford to turn down paying work, but it also allows you to have much greater control over the overall direction of your business progression.

      For example, one of my friends, Jason Hennessey—who wrote the book, Law Firm SEO: Exposing the Google Algorithm to Help You Get More Cases—was an expert in marketing that found that he had success with law firms. A lot of marketing experts say that they can work with every industry and take on all varieties of clients that aren’t a fit. Hennessey found the niche and dedicated time into owning that niche.

      When first starting out in a new business endeavor, it might be necessary to take almost any client that comes your way to build capital and get your name circulating in your particular industry. Even after a business has reached a point of stable revenue and increasing fee structures, some owners find it difficult to get out of the habit of taking any possible business that comes their way. Having a strategy similar to Hennessey and trying to own what you do best can result in higher margins and happier clients.


      Setting minimum client quality standards has major advantages. Not only are you less likely to overstress your company-wide work capacity, but you can also service higher-paying clients and increase the amount of profit you earn with each project. In addition, you can decline to engage with individuals or businesses that may be high paying but difficult or unpleasant to work with.

      Having the freedom to choose who you work with for your own success and happiness is one of the most attractive aspects of successful entrepreneurship, so make sure you take advantage of it.

      6. Don’t Overlook Branding


      is so much more than just expressing to your team and client who you are as a company and an entrepreneur. Having a strong vision also gives you a clear path for the future, as well as goals to go along with it.

      Some entrepreneurs get lost in the day-to-day slog of keeping processes going, such as practical things like cash flow. Consequently, they neglect to assess and create a plan for their business branding. Do you service high-dollar clientele only? Or are you more accessible to a variety of clients in terms of expense and scope? Do you want to inspire a feeling of cutting-edge modernity or grassroots reliability?

      If your answers to the above questions are “a little bit of everything” or “I don’t know,” a brainstorming session to focus your efforts and explore your business’s direction might be in order. How do you want to present yourself, and what can you do to accomplish this? When you answer those questions, you can be off and running.

      Similar to the Hennessey example, focus on what you can be best at and invest in positioning yourself as an industry leader. If you look at the Venn diagram on owning your industry, you will see that multiple factors contribute to industry ownership.[7]


      Also, don’t be afraid to reassess your branding model regularly either. As you have different experiences in your personal life, your outlook is likely to evolve and change. Businesses can sometimes go through the same process. If the business’s outlook has advanced but the branding has stagnated, a fresh approach can change the course of your presentation in a way that better represents your brand and where you would like to take it in the future.

      7. Seek Expert Guidance

      Most entrepreneurs typically bring a specific skill set to the table. Whether you’re providing a service or a product, it can be assumed you are very talented in—or knowledgeable about—your industry. As very few people are experts in every aspect of business, however, it is recommended to bring in expert assistance when contemplating major changes or new ventures.

      Guidance can be astoundingly useful for a variety of areas, such as finance, advertising, and technology. While it can be tempting to try and keep everything in-house for cost savings or control purposes, investing in a specialist or a team of specialists can be more than worth the investment.

      Starting an advertising campaign is a great example of when it can be useful to elicit assistance to create focus and specify goals and metrics for success. In attempting it alone, you might invest $10,000 to dabble in a variety of advertising strategies. Even if you do see some limited success, you might not know which avenue generated the best results and would not know where to focus your effort in the future.

      Compare this to investing $20,000 with an agency. You may have spent more money upfront, but they should be giving you a company-specific plan and delivering follow-up reports detailing the results of your campaign with supporting metrics.

      8. Build Your Network

      No one can build a successful business on their own. You’ll need investors, attorneys, accountants, bankers, as well as vendors, industry contacts, employees, and a whole host of others.

      Start attending trade shows and conventions, as well as joining trade association and online groups. These are all great networking resources for you.


      9. Turn Early Customers Into Fans

      Another advantage of starting out on a small scale while learning how to become an entrepreneur is that you can develop more personal relationships with customers. Make sure to provide a great experience for these first customers to build up the most effective advertising there is — word of mouth.

      10. Raise Capital and Scale Your Business

      At this point, you should have a proven business model with customers, cash flow, and a plan for expansion. You can now start to raise money through investors, venture capitalists, and banks.

      Take the money raised and use it to scale the business for maximum returns for you, your employees, investors, and early backers.


      Entrepreneurship can be one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of a person’s life. It provides you with the opportunity to take a risk. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to create your own path to success. Also, having good business habits can go a long way toward getting you there.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com


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