POST WRITTEN BY,
Amy Osmond Cook
In the first nine months of 2017, 10 prominent startups crashed, driving a collective $1.7 billion into the ground. Meanwhile, large and small companies that started with no cash saw growth, signaling that entrepreneurs don’t need huge coffers to capitalize on big ideas.
Statistics show that 90% of new ventures fail — well funded or not. Yet, each day delivers a new lineup of entrepreneurs with big ideas and high hopes of joining the successful 10%. Not all of them start out with lots of cash.
As it turns out, starting capital is the least instrumental factor in determining a venture’s success.
In 2010, I started Osmond Marketing on $5,000 from a tax return out of necessity after Lehman Brothers collapsed, taking my husband’s full-time employment with it. This month, Osmond Marketing was honored as one of Utah’s Top 20 Fastest Growing Companies. Our business was one of many successful businesses born from the aftermath of the financial collapse.
Another one of these, Nelson Brothers, has achieved sizable growth in the student housing market, recently ranking No. 4 for real estate on the 2017 Inc 5000 list. I interviewed Nelson Brothers CEO Pat Nelson — a client of Osmond Marketing — about how entrepreneurs can achieve success, regardless of their financing or the industry’s financial outlook.
If you’re in it for the money, you’re going to lose.
Being an entrepreneur means putting every ounce of yourself into your venture. It takes an immense amount of self-direction and hard work. It also requires an immense risk tolerance threshold. Are you pioneering for the sake of influencing progress or are you only in it to ride a trend wave in hopes the tide will turn lucrative?
Nelson was a cash-strapped shoe salesman and had done other jobs to make ends meet when he ventured into the student housing niche of real estate. In 2007, he and his younger brother, Brian, began a joint collaboration and started running Nelson Brothers from their apartment — the company’s official headquarters at the time. Their sister was their first hire, and the company grew with their vision.
“We could have quit after the first $1 million or $2 million, but we kept on trailblazing,” Nelson said. “We work because we love what we do. Our vision is what helps us succeed.”
A recent article by Forbes contributor and CEO of Simplus, Ryan Westwood, supports this. In an anonymous survey, 2,631 executives of companies with at least $1 million in annual revenue commented on the top qualities an entrepreneur needed to succeed. A single quality — vision — rose to the top, as 61% of respondents listed it as the most important quality of a successful entrepreneur.
I have found this to be true as well. I enjoy fulfilling the needs and exceeding the expectations of my clients. And this vision, this passion, is why I work.
Be your own competition — and teach your coworkers the same.
When you’re setting out on the trail, it’s easy to lose focus on the only thing over which you have control: yourself. This means that the quicker you’re able to bounce back from losses and move forward with those valuable lessons, the further ahead you’ll get.
Nelson paid for his own college education by investing in stocks before the online trading era. At his apex, while pursuing an MBA in entrepreneurship at Utah State University, he had gone from having zero in his bank account to having hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“Then on March 17, 2000, I had to pull out a bag to breathe into after watching the market tank overnight,” he said. “I went from having $170,000 in my account to owing $10,000 overnight because I was trading options on margins. And I can give you five other stories like that.”
Rather than allowing the loss to cripple his ambition, Nelson ended up devoting two years to the development of a hedge fund, Titan, to mitigate market-swing risk.
Moving forward is a key lesson that every successful startup must learn. In the very early stages of our company, we suffered a stinging loss as one of our vendors sent us thousands of books with broken bindings. I thought our business was over before it even began. But after a good cry, I picked myself back up, reordered the books with better bindings and chalked the loss up to an expensive lesson learned. Since then, we have become known for delivering superior content and well-made print materials, including books. We would not have focused so much on quality if it had not been for that early defeat.
The best opportunities are often in the least popular industries.
With the tech sector booming, it’s easy to forget the many other industries driving the global economy. Weaknesses in those industries present enormous opportunities for success.
Nelson grew up in the shadow of his family’s real estate investment company, seeing firsthand how volatile the market could be. “Brian and I weren’t going to do real estate because we hated the feast-or-famine cycles,” Nelson said. “But then we discovered student housing, which bucks the trend.”
As the Nelson Brothers realized, sometimes a solid examination of an industry you have overlooked can yield immense opportunities. For example, my family spent five decades entrenched in the entertainment industry. I dreaded the media as I watched the tabloid magazines gleefully splatter unflattering pictures of my aunt, uncles and dad across their pages. As I got older, I began to see the good that the media could do to educate and inform the public. I vowed to be the kind of PR professional who would be authentic, honest, and use the media to benefit the lives of others. I have found much satisfaction in this industry because I took a second look.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. It carries an immense amount of risk and requires a heady combination of grit, fortitude, resilience and self-drive. But with the right focus — which should always be how to better your best performance moment-to-moment — you’ll find that the path isn’t as risky as you feared and that there’s much more to success than a sizeable bank statement.
Article originally published Here.