Elements of The Entrepreneurial Mindset Series Element #12: Remember Why You Became an Entrepreneur in the First Place

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 20, Issue No. 20a
January 1, 2023

By Dan Coughlin


Remember Why You Became an Entrepreneur in the First Place

I’ll be honest, entrepreneurship is hard. It doesn’t matter whether you have 500 or zero employees. It’s hard to get up every day knowing you do not have a guaranteed income. Every day you have to hustle to find work because you do need to make a living. And when a great customer stops being a customer for reasons that are way beyond your control, it can really take the wind out of your sails. When a Great Recession hits or you get sick and sales go plummeting, it can take a lot of resilience to hang in there and keep your shingle outside your door.

The Key to Going Forward is to Go Backward

In order to persevere long enough to go forward as a business, you will need to go back and remember why you wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place.

In your mind go back to five years before you started your business. What was driving you in a positive or negative way to want to start your own business? Write down what you can remember. Really put yourself in those situations that were creating the itch to start your own thing.

Were you dissatisfied with a boss or co-workers?

Were you inspired by watching an entrepreneur?

Did you simply want the freedom to make your own decisions?

Was there a purpose that you weren’t able to fulfill unless you went out on your own?

Keep digging for all the reasons that led you to the decision to become an entrepreneur.

And then look at your current situation. Look at what is frustrating you and causing you to reconsider owning your own business. Are the reasons you got into business for yourself stronger than your reasons for wanting to get out?

On September 11, 2001, the world changed. I had been in my own business for 3 years and 8 months at that point. Everything was going well, and then suddenly there was no new business at all. The dot-com bubble had crashed and now terrorists were attacking the U.S. I poured money into marketing and didn’t get a single phone call.

In October 2008, the Great Recession spread across the world. For three years I got almost no business at all.

In both cases it made almost no logical sense to keep working for myself. It was a quick path to nowhere, or so it seemed. The only thing that kept me going was remembering why I got into business in the first place. I wanted to help other people achieve whatever they wanted to achieve. I wanted the freedom to teach and advise people on what I felt was most important, and I wanted to do it in the way that I wanted to do it. And then little by little the business grew back to being bigger than before.

And now when various irritations happen in running my business, I go back to why I wanted to be an entrepreneur in the first place. That approach has carried me for 25 years.

I encourage you to really go back in your mind to the five years leading up to when you became an entrepreneur. Really think about why you became an entrepreneur. My hunch is that those reasons are still very valid for you, and those reasons can help you regain the enthusiasm you once had for running your own business.

That enthusiasm is crucial for you to go forward and succeed as an entrepreneur.

I recommend the film, The Fabelmans, as a great example of a great performer, Steven Spielberg, looking backward to reconnect with why he became a filmmaker in the first place.

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at dan@thecoughlincompany.com with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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