The term “entrepreneur” has evolved recently into this mushy catch-all phrase that can really mean several different things- especially in the Age of the Internet where many of the barriers to entry have come down in an unprecedented way. But while many people may be proudly claiming this title, very few can claim it successfully. The truth is that those barriers still exist- even online. You may be able to start certain businesses more easily these days, but you’ll still have a heck of a time making any money from them.

businessmanSo, I wanted to write this post to help set the record straight. Depending on where you are holding you’ll either be inspired to push forward knowing that you probably have what it takes to be a successful business owner, or you’ll back off to re-evaluate your career path. I’ve found that most “traits of successful entrepreneurs” articles generally leave these kinds of things off the list, or they don’t do them enough justice. The result being that people go in with a false sense of security. Don’t be fooled! Take a look at the list below and see how these signs apply to you:

1. You’re not exactly clear what you want to do. Obviously, if you are starting out, there will be some unknowns and some things you’re going to have to learn along the way. I’m not talking about that. I mean that you don’t know the basics: who your target market is, what need you are filling, what your value proposition is and what separates you from the competition.

2. You are doubtful or cautious about your business -especially when things are slow. You need passion because your desire to succeed will carry you through all the downs along the way. This is especially true if you are doing business online where the rules change very rapidly. For this reason it’s extremely important that you have people to turn to for advice and support- especially if this is your first attempt to start a business.

3. You’re doing this entirely alone…or relying on some guru’s advice. Following on the heels of the point above… Ever see a start-up team of one? It’s very rare, and even when it does happen, the business owner will typically receive advice from a team of trusted, knowledgeable people. Just one caveat here: be very careful about who you turn to for advice. Ideally, you want to work with someone familiar with your business, your industry, and you. If that is not possible, then make an extra effort to find those experts who can bring real value to your start-up process and operational stages.

4. You can’t make long term decisions because you are too dependent on short-term gain. When it comes to successfully running a business you have to be able to “think long.” This means a few things:

  • You can’t be too financially dependent on your business’ early revenues since it may cause you to make decisions that will result in a short-term financial gain at the expense of a bigger, more stable gain in the future.
  • You have to be able to step back and look at the big picture of where your business is going. If that is a challenge for you, then you must align yourself with others who can help you with the process or else you’ll get lost and confused in the day-to-day details.
  • Lastly, while there are definitely benefits to being frugal with your business and looking for ways to save money, at the same time, there are places where money just needs to be spent in order for the business to grow and develop in the way in needs to. In other words: running a business costs money.

5. You’re not open to feedback and learning. Get this clear: even for veteran entrepreneurs, each new business that you try to start will involve a learning process. You may have to learn about new market segments, technological advancements, and trends related to both your industry as well as your market and the economy as a whole. You also need to be open to learning through feedback. It doesn’t mean that you have to follow or act on everything that people tell you- whether it’s your customers, business partners, or concerned friends and family. But you can’t shut off the possibility of consideration either. A business is a dynamic entity, and if you don’t have your ear to the road, then the opportunity for real progress will pass you by, and you won’t even know it.

So, where do you stand with this list? If you are struggling with any of the five things mentioned above, then get a move on to fix it. It could make all the difference between the success and failure of your new business.