6 Rules of Entrepreneurship from Founders in the Trenches

Entrepreneurship is easier said than done. As with most things in life, it has its own set of rules. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, whether you have venture funding or whether you are using your own savings. The rules still apply. Here are six rules of entrepreneurship that should remind you of the wonderful ride that entrepreneurship really is.

You will learn more from these six stories of entrepreneurial struggle than you would from six different books written on entrepreneurship. We’ll start with big stories first.

Rules of Entrepreneurship

Ray Kroc, Founder of McDonalds: “I shall persist”

rules of entrepreneurship

[Image: McDonalds]

Persistence is the missing word in entrepreneurship. Ray Kroc is a testimony to persistence. A kitchen wares sales man with health issues at aged 52 took a risk in 1954 and bought out a family-run restaurant. And in doing so created one of the most iconic brands in the world. The menu was limited and the service was quick. It was fast food that really was fast for a change. The idea was simple, yet elegant at the time. Though somewhat boring compared to today’s tech startups, it comes with a valuable lesson.

Lesson: Run with your imagination. Take that idea and turn it into something great. In short, disrupt.

Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group: “Screw it, let’s do it”

rules of entrepreneurship

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No, we aren’t talking about Branson’s book here. We are talking instead about the very psyche of Sir Richard Branson, a billionaire worth at least two billion dollars and the founder of companies involved in everything from air travel to space tourism. We all know him to be a shrewd businessman with the style of a newbie rock star. He’s charming, social, and completely unpredictable. And his personality seeps through his business. He is a man of action, a relentless entrepreneur, if you will.

His first endeavor was a magazine that never took off. He later found a new way for people to enjoy music — lounging around and listening to records before buying. The retail venture become Virgin Records. Serial entrepreneur that he is, he went on to create even more businesses. Some failed. Some rocked. Either way, he never sat there wondering what happened. He just moved on.

Lesson: Get up and do something about that idea. Dreams are nothing if you don’t sweat towards them. Screw it. Just do it. No matter what happens.

Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple: “I’ll go on and do my best, no matter what you do to me.”

rules of entrepreneurship

[Image: Wikipedia]

The founder of one of the most popular brands in the tech industry didn’t have an easy path. From humble beginning, Jobs navigated through some huge challenges and a major setback to achieve his ambitious goals. Apple started as a small startup, grew into a small but profitable enterprise, and went public, only to have an internal power struggle for control of Apple drive Jobs from the very company he founded.

Most entrepreneurs would have simply quit or turned their backs on the past and simply started a new company. Jobs, however, made Apple come to him. He started another business called Next which Apple bought and meanwhile, also founding another successful company, Pixar Studios (now, Disney-Pixar). For Jobs, it was always about design, beautiful rendition of products, and extreme value poured into everything his company makes.

Apple does it. Pixar does it.

Lesson: Staying true to the quality of the products and services you provide will see you through the toughest times. Don’t give up. No matter what the obstacle.

Lewis Howes, American author, consultant and speaker: “Nothing stops me. Not even the lack of a product to sell.”

rules of entrepreneurship[Image: Lewis Howes]

Lewis Howes was a professional athlete. But a broken wrist ended his athletic career. Instead of lamenting, Howes simply started another career for himself. Though at the time he says he didn’t have a dime to his name.

The problem was he had no product to market. But by attending webinars and educating himself about the combination of ideas and action needed to build a successful company, Howes was able to build up a level of expertise he could then share with others trying to do the same.

Lessons: Not having a product to sell is an excuse. When you don’t have products, you have services. When you don’t have the time or resources for providing services, you can teach or train like Lewis does. Entrepreneurship is more about creation, innovation, and making things happen than about finding the right inventory.

Brian Morgan of Adventure Life: “Have $3000, passion, and guts? Will start!”

rules of entrepreneurship

[Image: Adventure Life]

Of course, you can start with much less too but we want to introduce you to Brian Morgan of Adventure Life. An adventure junkie, traveler, and business owner Morgan started his company in 1998 with just $3000 in his pocket. By 2008, the company had earned $11 million in revenue and had 16 employees.

Adventure Life is a travel company that specializes in “inspired and authentic” experiences for the travel enthusiast. The passion of its employees has become a unique component in the excursions they now offer all over the world.

Lesson: You can turn your hobby into a business. Just bring passion, an idea, and the right execution to make it a success.

Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup.com: “You don’t have to do it all.”

rules of entrepreneurship

[Image: Wikipedia]

Entrepreneurs suffer from control issues, including an inability to let go and to trust others. Yet, Scott Heiferman, who runs Meetup.com, a global “meeting engine” with more than 15 million members and 136,047 groups across 196 countries is an expert at doing just that.

In an interview with Chris Dixon at TechCrunch.com, he offered this advice: divide and conquer. Do what you are best at and let others take care of the rest. Each founder should focus on his or her strengths.

Lesson: Outsource. Hire. Pick the best brains in the business. It comes at a price but it’s a pittance compared to the profits you make. Learn the art of delegation. Meetup.com run its business and lets groups all over the world with a passion to meet do the rest.

What entrepreneur lessons can you share with us?


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

16 Reactions
  1. Of all of the advice or mentoring any of these people could give, the one piece of advice that stands true no matter what dream we are pursuing is that we don’t have to do it all. There are many resources out there that we can use to help make our businesses succeed and make our lives the stuff dreams are made of.

  2. Simply inspiring. I can summarize everything in three words: action, delegation and persistence. If you have an idea, you have to take action. If you cannot do it, delegate it. And then keep on pushing even if the times get tough. That’s the key to success.

  3. I really like Richard Branson; he is quirky, different, experimental, and has bags of personality. It’s nice to see someone so successful be like that.

    I would have liked to have seen some women included.

  4. There is no doubt in my mind that one of the greatest attributes of a successful entrepreneur is sheer persistence. You may have a good idea, a sound business knowledge, good people around you, good communication skills but all of that would count for nothing if you let the business fold the first time you get knocked back.

    Self belief and dogged persistence. Can’t beat it.

  5. Anita:

    Thanks for the inspiring post. I am listening to Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing right now. I can hear the same sentiments in Robert Kyosaki’s description of the “E” quadrant as Lewis Howes:

    “Nothing stops me. Not even the lack of a product to sell.”

    In this period of time, did you know that Meetup.com came as a reaction after 9/11?

    I want to paraphrase Winston Churchill with saying: “a true entrepreneur is never, ever giving up.” Do you know if you could find books applying W.C’s thoughts on business?

  6. “Screw it, let’s do it!” – Now THAT is an inspirational and motivational slogan. Throw caution to the wind! I want that on a poster to hang next to my desk. 🙂

  7. I am glad that the successful founders speak about perseverance and possessing the strong will to pursue entrepreneurship, but I also agree with taking things one at a time. Being passionate sure takes a lot out of you, that’s why you mustn’t forget that you also need human support. I encourage outsourcing your tasks to reliable companies, especially when it comes to business to business lead generation and appointment setting.

  8. Great post, Anita!

    One guess on which amazing entrepreneur is my personal favorite.

    Pretty cool group of people.

    Amazing people.

    The Franchise King®

  9. Reminds me of a great quote I heard from Craig Walker (founder of GrandCentral which is now Google Voice) at StartUpCamp just a few weeks ago…

    “Entrepreneurship requires equal parts patience and impatience.” -Craig Walker

    Impatience is what gets you started, but patience will take you all the way.

  10. How’s this?

    “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
    – Mark Twain

  11. My aycronym created while mid way thru my 20 yrs in Telecomm and built around Bill Esrey the then president of Sprint corp which I was heavily involved at the time in building their digital wireless networks.

    E.S.R.E. – Evaluate, Strategy, Resources, Execute