In tech hubs around the world, a “successful entrepreneur” label is synonymous with building something from the ground up, following a passion, and funding the business on credit card debt until that first round of venture capital is wired into the bank.
In the tech world, the glory story is about entrepreneurs who bet the farm and win the day, or sometimes lose it all.
The narrative is that if you don’t have super growth and a compelling founding story, well then you aren’t a successful entrepreneur. I see it differently.
Every entrepreneur starts as a small business owner. A tiny percentage of these businesses scale and become multi-million dollar juggernauts, but most won’t, and that’s fine. For some, success is about monthly revenue growth and a growing bank balance. Others say success is about the freedom to control their destiny, where just enough is plenty.
For some, it means flexible hours or choosing their customers. Small business owners have told me it’s about working a non-standard schedule. It always
pulls me out of the echo chamber of “grow grow grow” when a business owner tells me that she isn’t taking on any more customers because she’s already big enough.
Invoice2go recently asked Australian small businesses what success means to them. Their responses were broad, but perhaps most interestingly, less than a quarter (23%) said money was the most significant indicator of success.
No country or region has a monopoly on entrepreneurship. The tour guide in Agra who waits at the train station to sell guided tours is an entrepreneur. The Salvadoran surf guide who drives clients to a “secret spot” and paddles out to make sure they are sitting in the right place is running a travel business. And the Australian carpenter who spends each day in service to his customers building
custom furniture, while training his son in the trade, is building a family business.
Building and running a successful business means something different to everyone, but I have seen the same patterns and values again and again when working with small business owners.
Intelligence and raw talent are a good head start, but in my experience, these aren’t the critical ingredients to building a successful business.
The consistent characteristic is an entrepreneur’s ability to tolerate risk and be persistent. Running a small business is fraught with uncertainty. Small businesses have the lowest survival rate of all businesses in Australia.
Building a business is about having the courage to make something, and the persistence to keep going through the good and the bad. Persistence is underrated because people think it’s obvious when starting something.
The reality is that most people give up early, so it usually comes down to the last person standing. Success is about having the courage and grit to build a sustainable business that gives you fulfillment and is also in service to something bigger than you.
In service to your family, your customers, or your employees. Customer growth, positive cash flow, and revenue are a direct result of showing up every day, and staying true to why you started building in the first place.
- Mark Bartels is CFO of Australian-founded invoicing platform Invoice2go.