By Cliff Ennico 

“I was laid off from a corporate job a while back. I’m in outplacement, and the people here are telling me there are no jobs anywhere in corporate America for anyone with my experience. I’ve thought about doing something entrepreneurial — doing some consulting, maybe, or making some money out of some of my hobbies — but I’m really not sure I’ve got what it takes to make it. I’m seeing a lot of ex-corporate people starting businesses of their own, and most of them aren’t making it, which scares the dickens out of me. What are some of the secrets that separate the winners from the losers, and will help me beat the odds in a tough, competitive climate?”

No doubt about it — if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you have to grow a new skin. Or, more precisely, a new way of looking at the world. The attitudes that helped you survive in a large corporation will often get you killed when you start a business of your own. Here are some key ways successful entrepreneurs look at the world differently than successful corporate executives:

• Successful Entrepreneurs Focus on Results, Not Process. Corporate executives often spend too much time worrying about process, protocol and getting team consensus when undertaking projects. Entrepreneurs are all about performance, production and getting results. Executives excel at planning; entrepreneurs excel at execution.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Are Not Perfectionists. Corporate executives often cross every “T,” dot every “I,” and cover their rears 10 ways 'til Tuesday before making a decision, risking “paralysis by analysis.” Entrepreneurs realize that market opportunities don’t wait — by the time you’ve gotten all the information you need to make a decision, the opportunity has passed. Successful entrepreneurs leap through the window as soon as they realize there’s a good chance of surviving the fall, even though the landing may be a bit sloppy and some messes may have to be cleaned up in version 2.0.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Know How to Sell. Many corporate executives are good at finance, human resources, information technology, “strategic marketing” and other disciplines but have never had to sell a thing in their lives. Successful entrepreneurs are, almost always, terrific salespeople, and realize that marketing and selling yourself, your products and services is Job No. 1. If you’re not spending at least one-third of your business time networking for leads, making sales calls and getting your message across to current and potential customers, sooner or later your sales pipeline will dry up and your business will fail. I guarantee it.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Care About “Whys and Wherefores.” Corporate executives, being highly educated folks and “A students” by temperament, often base their decisions on ideas originating in their heads. They rationalize and defend these decisions using theories, models and “deductive reasoning.” Successful entrepreneurs, while extremely intelligent, use their five senses instead, soaking up information from the real world around them and using “inductive reasoning” to base their decisions on what they see going on there. They believe that it isn’t always necessary to know why something works, as long as it does.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Are Flexible. Corporate executives often become overly dependent on a single model of doing business and adapt to changing circumstances slowly and carefully, if at all. Entrepreneurs know that if something doesn’t work, you do something else, and quickly. If you’re offering a service at $10,000 and nobody’s biting, try offering a “no-frills” $2,000 service and see what happens. If customers like it, they may be willing to upgrade to a higher-priced service once they see what you can do.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Are (Often) Neurotic. Corporate executives frequently get too complacent about their jobs, their markets, their products or services, and their future success. Successful entrepreneurs — increasingly, outcasts from corporate America — have tasted failure and know they can be there again in a heartbeat. As a result, fear becomes their best friend — it keeps them focused, sharpens their five senses and motivates them to keep looking for new problems, threats and opportunities after all others have accepted the status quo.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Are Not Always Nice People. Corporate executives often worry too much about what people think of them and believe strongly in the motto “to get along one must go along.” Successful entrepreneurs, under incredible pressure to get results, often have to take actions that are direct, in-your-face and (sometimes) unpleasant to the people around them — ask any entrepreneur who has to fire a longtime associate and close friend who isn’t cutting the mustard anymore.

• Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Become “Prisoners of Their Resumes.” Corporate executives often become trapped by their resumes — if something isn’t listed on it, then it’s something they cannot or shouldn’t undertake (or so they think). Successful entrepreneurs do not let a lack of knowledge, experience or talent get in the way of their success — when a good opportunity strikes, they say yes, learn on the job and grab the business before their more experienced competitors even find out about it.

Cliff Ennico ( is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series “Money Hunt.”


Pin It