How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur

A rocket launching doesn’t take a break while getting into orbit!

by Martin Brossman
Are you thinking of starting a small business, wondering what it takes to be an entrepreneur?  I’ve been self-employed since ‘95.  As a success coach, one thing I know for sure is you have to be driven to be self-employed.  I wake up every morning understanding time is money and time is the one thing you can not get back.

Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean jumping off a cliff hoping a parachute will materialize on the way down — there is no wisdom in reckless gambling — entrepreneurship requires wise choices and financial prudence.  

My approach to grounded, successful entrepreneurship is “bootstrapping,” where you take small financial risks that you can afford, make specific & measurable goals that you believe in wholeheartedly, lean into your business with “sweat equity,” set solid boundaries with family & the other parts of your life and focus in solid blocks of uninterrupted time on your business.

One example of a small but strategic risk is selling stuff on eBay.  Taking carefully calculated steps to make money like this won’t set you back too far if you fail at it, so then you have the financial resources to try something else and you haven’t wasted a lot of time.

When you work for yourself, you’ve got to remember that your time is money.  Most people who work at a job disregard their time.  Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.  This fact may require certain conversations with friends and family and even yourself because this fact will never change.  

Some people start a business then immediately go on vacation, or they take a lot of breaks during their day-to-day operation.  You have to wonder how anything can launch successfully in that kind of atmosphere.

On the other hand, I see plenty of workaholics who are extremely smart & competent but believe everything they do has to be perfect.  The toughest job I have is working with a perfectionist who’s transitioning to self-employment because, for them, nothing is ever good enough.  They let their need to be perfect rob them of too much valuable time.

I like to use the metaphor of a rocket ship.  Imagine the amount of energy it takes to launch a rocket ship into space breaking free of Earth’s gravity.  When you launch a business, if you take a break, the rocket ship explodes.  

A key lesson to learn from perfectionists is the cost of over-preparedness.  I’m not saying it’s wise to jump in unprepared, but there is such a thing as spending too much time and energy on getting prepared.

Before launching a home-based or internet-based business, get clarity on what’s motivating you.  Ask yourself, “what am I here for?” and “where will I go when I get knocked down?” You’ve got to keep your motivation high so you’re ready for massive rejection.

One way to keep your motivation up is to reward yourself once you’ve achieved a goal.  For example, you might give yourself a night off after reaching some sales milestone.  I encourage clients to keep generating rewards constantly to keep their fires burning.

When I’m coaching someone, I think of structures that they can build in their lives that will move them forward so they don’t need me anymore.  I want clients to choose to keep working with me, using me as a catalyst to greater levels of success instead of relying on me out of necessity.  

I like to create structures for clients that box them in, so to speak, so they move forward in calculated ways.  When you’re self-employed, it’s important to set up structures that support your life and your business.  You need two key data points:

  1.  The truth, even when it hurts, and 
  2. The motivation to get out of bed every day.

When you have people and structures in your life that will always tell you the painful truths when you need to hear them and people and structures that motivate you when your energy dips, then you have real power in business.

So, what’s going to get you on fire?  What’s going to get you to lean into your idea, service or product?  What are the constructive ways you can get yourself hungry?

I say that the worst place to stay is your comfort zone.  The best way forward is to play to your strengths then use them to push outside your comfort zone.  What are your strengths and how do you see yourself extending out from them?

I started working with an artist, for example.  During my evaluation of his business, it became clear what was missing was the artist.  When I asked him about it, he said, “that’s outside my comfort zone.”  I replied, “when our work together is finished, that will be your starting place.”  

By playing to your strengths you will eventually make enough money to pay other people to manage your weaknesses.  I have an assistant who manages my time.  Everyone in my life appreciates her influence.  Every time my business breaks down it’s because I tried scheduling something on my own.  She provides an invaluable service for my business.

If you have a skill or a passion, use it!  Use what you have to make money.  I know some artists who make a decent living playing music on the corner.  Lauryn Hill got discovered singing in the subway tunnel in New York.

I know a car enthusiast whose car detailing business failed.  He used to make a living detailing cars, but when the money dried up he started selling parts on eBay.  Now he’s making more money than he was before.

A common sticking point for a lot of people moving from day jobs to self-employment is the belief that they’re not good in sales, or that doing sales is inherently evil.  If you believe that, you need to remove it from your mind or you’ll never be successful.

I used to believe that.  When I was tech support at IBM, they told me I was great with people and asked why I wasn’t in sales.  I was a real smart-ass, I’d say, “I don’t lie and I don’t play golf.”

After I left IBM, I realized I would starve if I didn’t grow up from the little child in me who said, “I don’t do sales.”  I had to re-define sales:  selling is a service, it’s being of service to others, it’s giving value to others and it is a great honor to do ethical sales.

I invite you to share my definition of sales and drop the old one.  The old version allows you to avoid committing to your business and shows a lack of understanding of win-win sales (yes, they do exist!).  That old mindset of sales gives you a way to let yourself off easy.

If you have that attitude, you are dodging responsibility, avoiding maturing and not moving forward with your business.  Everyone has a cross to bear, everyone has a story.  Overcoming your Achilles’ heel brings meaning to your life.   

I’m dyslexic.  I was put in the retarded class in 4th grade.  That was the ugly word we used back then.  It was so easy for me to use that excuse, but now I am proud to say I have 4 books out.  I stopped giving my power away by blaming someone else.  

Lots of people feel justified blaming the pandemic for their failure.  A successful entrepreneur stopped asking, “when do we get back to normal?” a long time ago and started asking, “how do I make money in this world as it is right this minute?”

Listen for demand.  Listen for needs.  Find out where people have a problem that they’re willing to spend money on the solution.  Train your ears to this and you’ll train yourself into a successful niche business.

My niche is finding what it takes to make a person unstoppable & locked into their dreams to the point that they can’t wiggle out of them.  

If you’re considering self-employment, don’t ask, “can I do it,” ask “what will it take to make this work?”  Set time limits on what you’re going to do.  Make a full commitment.  

Here’s an example:  my alma mater’s president got a lot of online complaints regarding the school’s insufficient number of dorm rooms for students.  I said, “why not declare that in 3 years you’ll have this solved?”  Be willing to say, “I don’t know how this will get done, but we’re moving forward to resolve this and I need everyone’s help.”  

Successful entrepreneurs commit in such a way that they’re not afraid to fail.  Successful people know that you can be accountable even when you fail.  Leadership requires the courage to move forward no matter what — courage is built on the willingness to fail.  Courage is the willingness to hit the ground over and over regardless of the outcome.

I see so many young people who have no confidence.  Why?  Because they haven’t been allowed to fail enough.  This is heartbreaking.  Let’s get them out in the world taking calculated risks that will give them confidence.

Entrepreneurship is the greatest personal development course you could ever take. 

Life Begins Outside Your Comfort Zone by Martin Brossman

I’m a success coach, speaker, and author.  I work with small business owners and professionals to amplify their message, their brand, their presence, and their success on the web and on the ground.  Since I left IBM in ‘95, I’ve been helping people become unstoppable, so that no matter what happens in their businesses or in their lives, they keep moving forward.   

I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned from my 25 years of experience about moving forward through adversity and making things happen, whether you’re so busy you can’t think straight or you’re in a slump.

In this context, I’ve observed that people fall into one of two continuums: either everything is going well & they’re operating in their comfort zone, or things are not going well & they’re stuck.  I refer to the first one as a rut, which I define as a casket with the ends kicked out, and the second as a complete breakdown where they’re paralyzed like a stunned deer.  

I believe that life is most fulfilling for the majority of us when we’re leaning into life with a sense of urgency so that it’s more like riding a fun roller coaster than sitting in a boat on a calm pond or floating silently like a lily pad.  My passion is helping people find their way to their own powerful momentum.

Years ago on a tour of Zen monasteries in Japan (in the early 80’s), I asked the guide, who was wearing a professional blazer and carrying a little tour guide flag, about the stacks upon stacks of unopened barrels of Saki I saw there.  Imagine visiting an American church with unopened stacks of barrels of beer!  She explained how they would be opened at the semi-annual celebration.  

Sake Barrels
Sake Barrels

I said, “so the monks meditate about six months up here in the mountains eating very simple food, living very simple lives…then you have a rip-roaring party with the entire town where you run through with giant torches, almost burn the place down & get completely plastered.  Then the monks come back and meditate for another six months?!”  She replied in her very soft, polite voice, “that is correct.”

Japanese Tour Guide
Japanese Tour Guide

For me, it was such an eye-opener because up until then, I believed life was about maintaining the perfect balance. The Japanese monks taught me that life doesn’t come at us in perfect balance. 

Real life is more like a roller coaster than a tranquil pond — those who find a way to enjoy the roller coaster see it as an adventure.  Of course, life is rife with danger, but with a slight adjustment in our perception, we can reframe our fear and turn that energy into fuel for our business.

Back in 2008 when the market collapsed, I asked expert Realtor Linda Craft what she planned to do.  She said, “the same thing I did in 2001 — I asked myself, ‘how do we succeed now and how do we make money now?’”  At that moment I remember thinking that complacency can be as dangerous to a business and to a person as a national disaster.

The key to avoiding the danger of either kind is to check where you are on the continuum on a regular basis.  How do we do that?  We put safeguards in place for when disaster strikes —  we need to do the same to avoid complacency.  What do we do to keep ourselves on our edge, invigorated & excited?

I was honored with an invitation to speak at my university’s senior business class about entrepreneurship, where I gave the students an assortment of quotations that I wrote.  The one that grabbed most of their attention was, “If your life is boring it’s because you are boring — life begins outside your comfort zone,” which illustrates the importance of pushing beyond normal, everyday routines. 

T-Shirt (Available on Amazon)

What do you do to push yourself outside your comfort zone?  What do you do to keep yourself on your edge?   

Ham Radio is my hobby; I recently passed my advanced amateur radio license exam and began trying to learn Morse Code, for which I have no aptitude, but I got a lot out of trying.  Find something you’d love to master then give yourself time to practice and permission to fail.  Failure is the fertile ground where confidence is born.  

I’ve observed too many young people whose parents didn’t give them enough opportunities to fail and get up afterward, which is the best doorway to self-confidence.  If you always win, you don’t understand boundaries, you don’t know your real strengths, you can’t grasp the meaning of a win.  If you win all the time then you never build trust in yourself or in the natural process of life.  Failure teaches us what our gift to the world is.  Adversity teaches us what we’re made of, so to speak.    

What are the barriers to staying on our edge?  Being busy, for one; letting constant activity pass for purposeful action.  Another is letting your focus veer off your mission by asking the wrong question of yourself.  In my experience, the successful person asks themselves “what will it take for me to make it?” and the unsuccessful person asks, “am I going to make it?”

During my years of coaching, it’s been fascinating to find that most people stop themselves even though success is within their reach. The most common obstacle to success can also be the most effective resource, depending on the person’s mindset.

What will it take?  First, you must start challenging your beliefs about what you can & can’t do.  But I don’t mean forget the laws of gravity or physics!  For example, if you have a child with special needs, you may not be able to suddenly quit a job with health insurance benefits; you may take a longer path to make sure that the child’s needs are met.  You can stay focused on your dream and stay grounded in reality.

Start exploring what you would really like to do, then look into what it would take to get there.  You might find that it morphs into a fulfilling hobby on the side while you keep your primary job, or you might discover a different position in a similar field.  No matter where you go, you will grow from the experience of standing in new possibilities while keeping your feet on the ground.  By moving forward like this, step by step you will stimulate your creative juices and develop discipline at the same time.

Many years ago while I worked for IBM I practiced coaching with some co-op students.  I worked with one named Sanford Tally who wanted to have his own radio station.  After a few years passed I found out that he didn’t get what he’d wanted despite all the planning we had done.  I was concerned that we were not successful.  

When I asked him about it Sanford said that through our work together he realized he did not want all the responsibility and hassles of a radio station, he really wanted the autonomy that he thought at first a radio station would give him. This realization led him to create his own technology security business that he still enjoys today. 

I had a co-worker named Tyler at IBM who was also a talented guitarist.  At the time I didn’t know much about playing music but I appreciated his gift for playing and he generously helped me build my coaching skills.  He replied, “well, I haven’t really thought about it but sure, let’s go for it.”  Tyler knew he wanted to help fellow musicians but he had no idea in what way.  We filled a big whiteboard with a map of his dream of owning a studio where small bands could practice and perform.  

Sadly, years later Tyler died in a motorcycle accident.  As I sat at his funeral, I listened to his loved ones describe his accomplishments.  What I heard matched what we had put on that whiteboard!  I choked up, realizing the significance of asking him the question, “what do you really want?”  Even though Tyler’s life was cut short, he got to do the thing he wanted most.  We should all be so lucky.  Expressing gratitude moves us forward no matter where we are.

We can either transform our relationship with (or shift our perception of) adversity or be enslaved by it.  We can either stay in our comfort zones or go for what really rings our bells.  Plenty of people have regrets; regardless of the outcome. Most people regret the chances they let pass them by. Very few regret the chances they’ve taken.  

My mission with success coaching, speaking, training, and the social media management certificate program is to help people lead such meaningful lives that on their own deathbed they will be moved to tears by the life they’ve lived.  Whether I’m helping a doctor become more likable with his patients and increase his practice, or I’m helping a sales coach exceed his quota so he can spend more time with his family, we’re focusing on playing a bigger game & living a larger life, a life full of vitality & excitement.

My coaching practice is based on referrals; I take on a limited number of clients at one time.  In addition, I post a lot of free content; if you’re interested, Google me and check out my website Martin Brossman & Associates LLC | Supporting individuals ….

To schedule Success Coaching with Martin Brossman call 919-847-4757 and select option 1.

Link to T-Shirt “If your life is boring, it’s because you’re boring”