What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart from Wantrepreneurs
To our readers: This is the first of an occasional series by GoodCall® writer Marisa Sanfilippo on entrepreneurs. Today’s topic concerns the steps wantrepreneurs need to take to become entrepreneurs.
The word wantrepreneur just may have been coined by ABC’s hit Shark Tank – or at least it did not become popular until the show. Wantrepreneurs are people who have not made it to the full-fledged status of entrepreneurs. They either have an idea and want it to be a business or have a product that is not quite a brand.
Bottom line, they want to be successful entrepreneurs but until their product or service is making enough money for them to live off it comfortably, they are just wantrepreneurs or maybe taking part in the “gig economy.”
Inc. reports the U.S. has 27 million entrepreneurs starting or running a business, with a growing number considering entrepreneurship as an attractive career option. One caution amid all the excitement: Forbes reports eight out of 10 entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months.
The entrepreneurs vs. the wantrepreneurs
Matt Ham, president and owner of Computer Repair Doctor, is part of the good statistic 0f people who have reached entrepreneur status. He built his business from scratch a little less than four years ago and now operates eight locations. “Turning an idea into a business is all about finding a way to execute. A lot of people have ideas, but entrepreneurs find a way to execute an idea. Businesses come in all shapes and sizes and there’s no single way to accomplish execution – you just need to find a way to get it done,” he says.
Entrepreneurs, Ham adds, “make it happen.”
“This can mean quitting a job and taking a leap of faith. This can mean being backed against a wall and having no other recourse than success. This can mean starting your own business while you keep your current job,” he continues. “It’s the same question as how do some people stop smoking and others can’t? Willpower, support, effort, etc. Some just find a way that works for them and they quit. Others give excuses why they weren’t able to quit.”
Entrepreneurs are committed.
Nineteen years ago, Louis Altman founded satellite phone and service provider GlobaFone. Altman says entrepreneurs can be defined in one word: commitment. To him, commitment means “being in the office at 9:30 p.m. on a Friday while your friends are out having fun or you spouse is home or home with the kids. It means your weekends are taken up by bookkeeping or other admin tasks instead of hiking of sitting on the beach. Commitment also means spending your time reading up on your industry to become the expert instead of watching sports games. You have a demanding baby and you call it ‘my company.'”
He believes commitment – or the lack thereof – is what sets the wannabes apart from the real thing.
His journey toward entrepreneurship began between April 1997 and January 1998 at a time when he lost his job, father, and wife. “In November my father was diagnosed with cancer and on January 1 he passed. Two weeks later my ex-wife left me because I was, ‘making our kids feel bad for me.’ On April 1, I blew out the IRA, gathered every dollar I could find and opened a bank account with the name GlobaFone on it,” he says. Following that, he bought a fax list and went into action, renting cellphones that worked all over the world.
“I soon learned of two satellite networks that were promising mobile phone service anywhere on earth. I shifted toward that segment and we’ve been here since. We now hold several major contracts and service some of the premier agencies in federal government.”
Entrepreneurs are fearless and focused.
A real entrepreneur is not afraid and has laser focus, offers Peter Vekselman, a serial entrepreneur who owns a multimillion dollar real estate business in Atlanta. To elaborate, Vekselman says:
“The real entrepreneur is not afraid to get going and jumps in with both feet. They are confident in their ability to get something done and are willing to make the commitment. This can include putting in the long hours necessary to get the company off of the scratch pad and into reality. …
“The real entrepreneur has a laser like focus and does not let negative talk from family or friends slow them down. Sure not everyone business venture will be successful, but the largest companies in world started with a vision and a commitment from its founder. Some failed once or twice before they found the winning formula.
“Wantrepreneurs are like Monday Morning Quarterbacks who talk and act like
they can play in the NFL, yet never went out for their high school or college
team. In the end they will never realize the joys and fruits of building a great business from scratch unless they make the commitment and jump in from
When to safely remove the ‘want’ and replace it with the ‘entre’
While success is a matter of opinion as Ham points out, he sees success as scale. “While we’ve had tremendous growth and we’ve grown a lot, success to me is about always setting the bar higher and striving for more. We’ve had milestones like a financial breakeven point, opening multiple stores, etc. After I was able to support my family from the first location, I thought wow, I’ve done something right. By the time we opened our second and now eighth location, I knew I really made it.”
Altman says he first realized his company was success when the former security chief at a major client called him to New York so he could personally introduce him to his successor.
“The fact that someone who is retiring would take the time to personally
recommend us spoke volumes of our business model (which I borrowed from Dilbert): thrilled loyal clients, make money, and have fun.”