Editor’s note: Dr. Stephen C. Harper is an entrepreneurship professor at UNC-Wilmington and the author of “Extraordinary Entrepreneurship: The Professional’s Guide to Starting an Exceptional Enterprise.” This is the latest in a series of guest columns for LTW from the membership of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED).
WILIMINGTON,”To create the child — easy; To raise the child — difficult.”
This Chinese proverb applies very well to the challenges entrepreneurs face who are able to traverse the startup minefield. So much time and attention is directed to the process of starting a business that entrepreneurs are often blindsided or overwhelmed by the constant stream of challenges that follow startup. Entrepreneurs frequently ask, “When will all the trials and tribulations end?” They also ask, “When will I get a chance to catch my breath?”
First-time entrepreneurs tend to be very naÃ¯ve when it comes to the challenges they will face and how their responsibilities change as soon as they get their firms up and running. Most first-time entrepreneurs do not recognize that they go from being an entrepreneur to chief executive officer the moment their ventures are created.
Some entrepreneurs rise to the occasion and make the transition fairly smoothly. They are able to lead their firms and create an environment that fosters continued growth and success. Unfortunately, many first-time entrepreneurs are ill prepared for the multitude of different challenges they will face. To make matters worse, many either fail to recognize how their role has changed or they do not step aside when it is clear that they may be jeopardizing their venture’s future or even its very survival.
Most entrepreneurs who encounter major problems tend to blame the surprises and setbacks on external factors such as increasing competition, government regulations, tight capital markets, unmotivated workers, and a litany of other factors.
The bottom line is that the entrepreneur is the most important factor in determining an emerging venture’s success.
So much for the sermon. What can be done to increase the probability entrepreneurs lead their ventures rather than contribute to their downfall? The first thing to recognize is that as the venture’s CEO your job is to prepare your firm for the future. Entrepreneurs must be able to differentiate the issues that must be addressed right now for the firm to succeed in the next three to five years.
Entrepreneurs also need to focus on the things that may not be pressing, but will also have a dramatic impact on the firm’s future. Too many entrepreneurs fall prey to the “tyranny of the urgent.” They spend so much time putting out fires that could have been prevented with more foresight and discipline that they never have the time to prepare the firm for a very different tomorrow. Instead of sensing and seizing opportunities, they spend their time just trying to get through the day.
Here are a few tips for entrepreneurs who want to lead their ventures:
Dr. Stephen C, Harper is the Progress Energy/Betty Cameron Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Harper is president of Harper and Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm. He is an award-winning professor and best selling author. His latest book “Extraordinary Entrepreneurship: The Professional’s Guide to Starting an Exceptional Enterprise” (John Wiley & Sons), leads entrepreneurs through a 14-step process on identifying and evaluating market opportunities, developing a business plan, and securing appropriate funding. The book incorporates a number of interviews of entrepreneurs in the Triangle. The foreword was written by serial entrepreneur Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor. For more information on his book visit: www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471697192.html or email Harper directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.