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Power Your Dreams

by Hilary Coman

July 8,2009

I write this on a bright, sunny afternoon in lovely Chicago, Illinois, having spent the last three days at the National Association of Women Business Owners National Conference, surrounded by female entrepreneurs of all ages. One could not help but be inspired and gratified by their stories. Appropriately, the conference was held under the rubric “Power Your Dreams.” And certainly a number of the female business owners who attended considered their dreams and how they have and are fulfilling them.

Entrepreneurship is an odd thing. Chambers and cities like to promote it (or think they’re promoting it), magazine articles and books detail how-to become an entrepreneur, and schools offer courses in it, but the most basic question is whether an individual is suited for it. Alas, not every new business is another Google. Most entrepreneurs toil for years to achieve even a faint glimmer of what Messrs. Page and Brim achieved at a very early age. In the rough and tumble of the business world, a business owner must be able not only to take risks but also to believe enough in themselves to battle through the doubts, the uncertainties and the inevitable cash flow problems to reach the success they seek. You can call it tenacity, obstinacy, even idiocy, but an entrepreneur has to have enormous faith in him or herself to grow their business and achieve their goals.

The discussion begs the obvious question. Are entrepreneurs then born or made? Is there an entrepreneurial gene? Or is simple hard work enough? I like to think the answer (a good consulting riposte) is a mixture. I’ve observed that individual personalities do greatly impact business start-ups and successes. I like to look at my own family -- my grandfather and namesake, Hilary, had his own lumber company, my father John owned an architectural design business, and my two brothers own a publishing company and a home inspection business, respectively. Let’s just say it was no surprise when I started my company, even though I was deemed the likeliest “corporate” member of the family. Yet still, I remember an occasion when we had to talk in school about what our fathers did and that I was really quite annoyed when I had to explain what an entrepreneur was. Explaining that your Dad was a lawyer or doctor or banker just seemed so much easier.

A good entrepreneur must leverage gut instinct and the right processes and systems to make his/her business a success. Seemingly simple activities like maintaining good financial records can help build a successful business. Conceiving and writing a strategic plan helps businesses know where they want to go and what they need to do to get there. In other words, a business owner should develop a clear idea of how to define the success he/she seeks. Knowing how to put together a statement of cash flows and an income statement gives owners a snapshot of their business operations. Each of these skills can be taught, contributing to the making of entrepreneurs.

Yes, there are clearly defined steps toward success – things anyone in business has to do if their efforts are to bear fruit. But the intangibles count just as much. The entrepreneur must be able to recognize opportunity and be prepared to take advantage of it. Do you see yourself as a winner or a loser? Taking the plunge into self-employment or a business start-up requires courage and persistence. Can you make a plan and stick to it, despite the occasional temptation to deviate? Do you know the competition? Do you understand the dynamics of the business sector you want to be a part of? Above all, do you truly believe that you have something to offer that someone else will be willing to pay for?

The pitfalls are numerous and all too common. Business is a constant challenge. The entrepreneur must be aware that mistakes will be made and have the gumption to get past them. The entrepreneur must be honest with himself or herself and with others. Skill, preparation, character, and yes, even luck are all components of successful entrepreneurship. It is not an undertaking for the faint of heart. Yet for those entrepreneurs born and shaped, you really do power your dreams.

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