Celebrity entrepreneurs are nothing new. We hear about them all the time, especially in the tech world with names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Each inspires awe and emulation (in part) because of the news they generate and the exciting lifestyles they lead. In fact, successful and famous business leaders are often admired for exceeding superstar athletes and movie stars in terms of popularity. Who wouldn’t want to jump at the opportunity to become a famous entrepreneur? Shark Or Shark Bait?
The reality, of course, is that most entrepreneurs will not become rich celebrities. They won’t appear on Shark Tank or be on the cover of every tech magazine. Although some business founders will be quite successful, most of their ventures will start small and stay small. And along the way, they will face seemingly insurmountable odds just to survive.
Tech entrepreneurs like the ones I’ve mentioned are certainly worthy of emulation, but if their wealth and fame are the only things inspiring you to launch a company, take a closer look at what’s really needed to succeed before you leap. Don’t underestimate how tough the journey will be -- otherwise, you’re more likely to become shark bait than the next shark. If you think your first few years in business will be a rollercoaster ride of fun and thrills, think again. You’ll probably work 18-hour days (seven days a week) just to keep your firm alive.
So before joining the game, you need to ask yourself these four questions to see if you have what it takes to be a successful tech entrepreneur:
1. Do you have the passion? Many people are motivated to start a business simply to escape a job they don’t like. They feel trapped in their cubicles, but they aren’t inspired by any new product or service ideas. If this describes you, don’t quit your day job. You need to have a true sense of passion -- an unshakeable belief that your product or service will be something that people want. And you need to be totally committed to making these ideas a reality. If you launch a business for which you don’t have a passion, it will show. Customers will sense it, and the company will never get off the ground.
2. Can you handle the actual entrepreneurial lifestyle? Many people think the entrepreneur’s lifestyle is about driving a Lamborghini and owning a 50,000-square-foot mansion. It’s not -- at least not for most businesspeople and almost never at the start. The real lifestyle is one that affords you very limited time with your family -- a family that you’ll still want to be supportive. It’s a lifestyle that requires that you work crazy-long hours and give up your vacations and most weekends. Do you have the ability to grind through the long hours and tough times? That’s what the real entrepreneurial lifestyle is about. Do you have the mindset and the physical stamina to work that hard? Do you have a supportive family behind you to make it happen?
3. Can you be the “lead singer”? Can you be the person who will go out there and sell that product? If you can’t sell, you’ll have a hard time succeeding -- unless/until you can afford to hire a sales force, which many tech startups cannot. One of the key skills you need to develop is the ability to sell. No matter how awesome the product, you’ll never go anywhere if nobody buys it. You have to embrace the role of lead singer for that product. You have to embody it and display a genuine passion for it.
4. Do you have the ability to persevere? Do you have staying power? If you’re someone with low energy and not much enthusiasm, success will not come easily. You need energy and enthusiasm to persevere against daunting odds. There will be failures, and you’ll have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward even when things seem bleak. To paraphrase Rudyard Kipling: Can you keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you? Can you trust yourself when everyone else doubts you?
Remember, the road may not be easy, but life's greatest achievements never are. If you have what it takes, you’ll put yourself in the best position to succeed and tilt the odds in your favor.
Originally published in Forbes