Photo of girl holding a bright lightbulb with a big idea

6 Keys To Successful Entrepreneurship

Photo of girl holding a bright lightbulb with a big idea

Do you dream of owning your own business or starting a company with some partners?

If so, listen up! I am going to share the recipe to become a successful entrepreneur.

This recipe comes from my years of experience as a successful entrepreneur as well many other highly successful entrepreneurs who I have paid close attention to.

Ready? This is big stuff. Write it down. Share it. Memorize it. Live it!

    1. Spend a crazy amount of time figuring out what business you want to be in. Develop an idea you’ll enjoy, not just one that can make you money. Also, pick one that you understand or can learn to understand thru hard work.


Tip: Some sort of tech/internet play is a good choice as they are low-cost, high growth, and often present good exit opportunities.

    1. Don’t raise money or worry about an exit strategy. Use credit cards if you have, but always look for free ways to get your business going. Spend barely enough to survive and make your investment thru sweat, learning, effort, borrowing expertise, reading and just duct taping things together to see if you can gain any traction at all.


Tip: Take a look into a small line of credit or an SBA loan.

    1. Get customers early. Why? Two reasons: The first reason is to generate some revenue. The second is so that they can help you build your product or service into something they’d buy more of or pay more for later. Customers build great products for you if you engage them and listen to them.


    1. Work your ass off! It’s the only way to do it. It doesn’t mean you can can’t have fun, or that you should forsake your family, or anything else. It means be SuperMan and just do it all. It’s been done by others time and again, and now it’s your turn.


    1. Commit. Stick with what you are doing and go all in. Don’t get scared and back out at the first sign of difficulty. Fail fast if you are going to fail, otherwise, stick with it thru good times and bad. There will be both on your way to success.


  1. Get some great partners and people smarter than you are on board. Do it quick. Do it early. Check your ego at the door and realize that a smaller piece of something big is much more valuable than a large piece of something small.

Repeat these steps, sometimes in a different order, again and again until the following happens:

    1. You have enough customers, revenue and traction to legitimately pitch for an investment. Don’t make an idiot of yourself and pitch too soon. Unless you have a lot of previous success in a related area, ideas do not get funded 99% of the time. Ideas that have shown some execution and traction have a higher likelihood of getting funded.


    1. Keep betting. Double down. Don’t find a little success and rat hole it. Put it on the table, let it ride! Entrepreneurs are, after all, risk takers. Calculated risk takers, but risk takers nonetheless. Now is not the time to take the cheap way out. Go all in!


  1. Get a big bank loan, sign some big customers, and funnel all of this cash into growth. Again, double down! It’s not time to even think about selling yet.

Successful entrepreneur stories happen all the time. How do they do it? Do they have certain entrepreneurial characteristics? Yes, but the biggest key is that they follow a recipe that works!

This entrepreneur recipe is tried and true. It’s worked for me and others many times.

Do you have anything to add? Let’s hear about it…

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About Alex Lawrence

Alex has been a successful entrepreneur for 20+ years. His current venture Lendio ranks #34 on the Inc. 500 list. Alex earned a BS degree at the University of Utah and his MBA at Weber State University, where he is Vice Provost and Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. If you want to talk with Alex about business and entrepreneurship (or other questions), email him (alex AT startupflavor DOT com), or you can find him on Twitter @_AlexLawrence.
  • Alex,

    Great post.

    Might I add also. “Cross that bridge when you come to it.” Don’t get caught up in wasting time preparing for something you ‘might’ need down the road. Take it one day at a time and create what you need when you need it. Keeping it easy and light will make it so you can adjust and turn quickly.

    Again, nice list Alex.

    • Alex Lawrence

      Ross – thank you very much. Thanks for your suggestion as well, I think it is a good one. Being able to make decisions and change quickly are a must.

      Thanks for commenting and reading. Stay connected!

    • Devin Day

      Ross I agree. I have been guilty of this myself causing me to delay things that shouldn’t be delayed. “Let’s cross that bridge when we get there” is something that I often have to tell myself and others.

      Though I should mention this does not include knowing where your headed or the goals you want to achieve. Just details along the way that are so easy to get caught up in when they don’t matter till down the road.

  • So, you hear that most businesses fail in the first three years.

    You also hear that it takes time to turn a profit.

    The question is, how much time, on average?

    I wonder if most of these businesses that folded in the first three years just had out-of-touch expectations for when they should start to see a profit.

    • Alex Lawrence

      John – most businesses fail because they are under-capitalized. Under-capitalized can be solved by getting more sales 🙂

  • @John I think you’re right on when talking about why they fold in the first 3 years! I’m still juggling through that myself, but I think I’m finally onto something (after nearly 18 months of mistakes).

    @Ross SO true on the point of the “might need” items. I’m a visionary/plan-ahead kind of guy, so I struggle with waiting for things… I think working on something a little ahead can be a good thing if you’ve got things already visible on the horizon, but I think a lot of entrepreneurs (read: me) get caught up in those things that don’t quite matter at an early stage.

    For example: I should have focused more on sales and less on my business plan (which I later realized was pretty fruitless for someone bootstrapping instead of getting a loan or raising funding). A written strategic plan: yes, but not a full business plan. A 3-4 page strategic plan in a flexible working document with written objectives (and I think that is important!) will help a business owner stay focused.

    That being said: a startup needs to be able to shift quickly (just in case Google comes out with a new product for free and takes 40% market share in a week), so they need to be open to new ideas and new thinking. I think that’s where they get stuck (back to John’s comment): they are so dead-set on their own ideas, they just bulldoze straight ahead without listening to the market.

    Wow, that was a long comment. Sorry for filling up the page. 🙂 Great article Alex!

  • Devin Day

    I definitely feel #1 is very critical. A lot of entrepreneurs love to “create”, but often become bored when it becomes work.

    Thus, it’s soooo important that you spend the time to pick something you will love through all phases of the business. If you can’t wake up excited and eager to work on the business then your in real trouble.

  • Great list! I am just starting a business with a few friends and it turns out, without even knowing it, we have been following your list pretty closely 🙂 In a way that makes me feel better. We all have never owned a business before and that sort of confirms that we’re doing something right.

    Since we are still in the early stages of our start-up, it’s all fresh for us and I’d like to add a suggestion: The devil is in the details! Yes, you have to work hard. Yes, your idea is great. We all want to move on faster and faster and see results. But you can’t skip over the details. So, while deciding in a website template and discussing for the umpteenth time how it’s supposed to look will get boring, stick with it. I am sure it’ll pay off in the long run.

    • Alex Lawrence

      Hi Christina – thanks! I’m glad the list resonated with you. You’ll have to keep us posted here on your progress. Also, regarding your suggestion I both agree and disagree. While it is important to get into the “details” and iterate a lot, you don’t want to get stuck. There is no such thing as a perfect product or a perfect launch. Get something good out there and then have your customers help you make it great.

  • Pingback: Life and Work; Why I Get It Wrong Sometimes()

  • Susan

    Great list, many people who want to start a new business choose a business that they think will make them money rather than what they are passionate about. I am all for free ways to promote and fund the business but I also think people should try and have at least 6 mos. cushion in the bank.

  • Nick_Smith

    Great tips! Most businesses fail because of poor controls in financials and production.

    Another key to successful entrepreneurship is by having the right tools and resources for your business. Starting a business and running your own company can be tough if you don’t have the right tools, especially when it comes to things like scheduling, project management, and communication.

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