The world is full of entrepreneurs. They are the innovators, the risk-takers, the opportunity seekers and the limit pushers. Their goal is to build a business, make a profit, and perhaps more importantly, make a difference in the lives of others.
But out of the millions of entrepreneurs that exist in the world today, only a small handful of them manage to become ultra successful, often achieving billionaire status in the process. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerburg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Jeff Bezos, just to name a few.
To be fair, not every entrepreneur strives to build an empire that earns billions, serves millions and employs tens of thousands of people or more. Most entrepreneurs have a vision for their company that is much more modest. For most entrepreneurs, the goal is simply to keep surviving.
But for those of you that do want to someday make an appearance on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, here are seven warning signs that your goal of making it big might just be a pipedream, and you should probably re-evaluate the size of the vision you have for your business:
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1. You are afraid to challenge the status quo
The first sign that you will never make it big in business is that you are afraid to challenge the status quo. You prefer to work within the confines of your comfort zone (aka familiarity). You are only willing to do what has already been tested and proven. You aren’t creating anything new. You aren’t revolutionizing your industry. You aren’t testing the limits of what is possible.
The world’s most successful entrepreneurs are all innovators. They are the catalysts for major changes in the marketplace. They have the foresight to see where the world is going, and more importantly, they know how to adapt. Organizations that resist major change are at the mercy of the ones that create those changes. The fall of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix is just one example.
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs
2. You don’t know how to build a brand
A brand a so much more than a logo. It’s a symbol. It’s a story. It’s a reputation. The most successful entrepreneurs are intentional about the brand they create for their business, and they will go to great lengths to protect it.
Branding is about perception. As an individual and as a business, your brand is what people think of when they think of you. What do they perceive you to stand for? Do you stand for quality? Status? Affordability? Convenience? Innovation? These are just a few of the many words used to describe some of the brands that exist in the marketplace today. You were probably able to think of 1 or 2 brands that you associate with each of those terms. That association didn’t happen by accident.
Successful entrepreneurs envision their brand before they build their business. Then know what they want their business to stand for, and they know what they want it to stand against. They ensure all of their marketing, communication, and interaction with the marketplace reinforces that brand. This serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps to attract customers that share similar beliefs and values (or as Seth Godin would say: it helps you build your tribe). Secondly, it helps to detract the people who are not your ideal customers.
“Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company. And vice-versa.” – Jay Baer
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3. You aren’t willing to take a risk
Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have been called great risk takers. When you consider the fact that the majority of startup companies fail within a few years, it is understandable that many people think starting a business is a big risk.
Successful entrepreneurs know that in life and in business there are no guarantees. There are only opportunities. And while seizing opportunities may pose some risk (financial or otherwise), succeeding in business is about managing risk, not avoiding it. It’s about making strategic decisions, not blind leaps of faith.
Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald’s into the world’s most successful fast food operation, once took out a loan against his own life insurance policy to fund the growth of his business. Some would say he took a big risk, but Kroc likely would have argued that his commitment to his vision, belief in his eventual success, and his strategy for execution far outweighed the risk of not being able to repay the loan.
“If you decide that you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” – Jeff Bezos
4. You don’t reinvest your profits back into your business
In the early stages of building your business, it is vitally important to re-invest as much of your profits as possible back into your business. Don’t make the mistake of spending your profits on satisfying personal indulgences rather than using that capital to fuel more growth.
Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are known to have not even paid themselves a salary when they first started their business. They re-invested every possible dollar back into growing their business in order to build the momentum required to become a major player in their industry.
“My philosophy is that if I have any money I invest it in new ventures and not have it sitting around.” – Richard Branson
5. You build the wrong team
Despite what you may have heard, there are no self-made entrepreneurs. Every entrepreneur requires the talents, skills, and resources of other individuals in order to succeed. You can’t possibly become a master of everything. It takes a team of great people to build a great company.
Successful entrepreneurs take the time to find the right people to execute their vision. They align themselves with people who have more expertise than they do in each of the specific areas their business consists of, and they have the leadership skills to create synergy among their team.
“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and the self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” – Theodore Roosevelt
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6. You are easily stopped by obstacles
Regardless of which industry you build your business in, you will certainly face obstacles. One of the keys to succeeding is to view every obstacle as a challenge to be overcome, and not as a roadblock that stops you. Know that for each obstacle you face, your competitors are likely facing a similar, if not the same, obstacle. Let this motivate you.
Every obstacle you overcome carries you one step ahead of each of your competitors who are stopped by that same obstacle. Successful entrepreneurs are not successful because they find an easy path. They are successful because they become highly skilled at overcoming the obstacles they are presented with.
“Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.” – Jim Rohn
7. Your business can’t be scaled to serve to millions
One thing all of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs have in common is that their business serves millions (and in some cases, like McDonald’s, they serve billions). Of course, no business starts out by immediately serving millions, but the question to ask is, could your business eventually serve millions? Would millions of people benefit from being your customer?
A business that serves only a small segment of the marketplace is unlikely to eventually have millions of customers or be valued at billions of dollars. Even if your business has the potential to serve millions of people, the question becomes: will you have the people, systems, resources, and infrastructure to actually do it?
In his book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael E. Gerber discusses the importance of creating systems in your business. Systems enable the entrepreneur to work on their business instead of in it. To focus on strategic objectives rather than day-to-day operational activities. Once an efficient and duplicable system is established, the business can then expand to serve more markets and more people.
“You will be paid in direct proportion to the value you create in the marketplace.” – T. Harv Eker