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A Day in the Life of a Entrepreneur

An entrepreneur risks his own capital, services, and skills in a company (or in several companies). Entrepreneurs exemplify the American dream—working without a boss and using their own hands to build a livelihood. Successful entrepreneurs seem to have a number of similar qualities. First, they know business, either from their own experience or through extensive research. Second, they are extremely motivated. The average number of working hours per week of a successful starting entrepreneur is seventy. This catches the typical American dreamer by surprise. Third, successful entrepreneurs become obsessed with—or at least fascinated by—all parts of their chosen area of expertise. No aspect of the business is too large or too small to consider. The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that they control their own destinies to a greater extent than if they were working for someone else. Unlike working for someone else who judges their work and assigns a value to their services, every stitch of work they do goes toward their betterment. This puts immense pressure on the entrepreneurs, but it can also be the source of immense pleasure. The most important entrepreneurial concerns should be thought about long before the person starts her own business. She must know how to run the company and when to reassess management strategies. She must be on top of issues of cash flow, expansion (or consolidation), liquidity, and corporate governance. Over three-fifths of new businesses and franchises fail within eighteen months of opening their doors. Many of the factors leading to failure are uncontrollable by the entrepreneur. If she’s trying to sell widgets, and a widgets superstore opens down the street, she may be sunk. Being an entrepreneur means thinking about the business all the time, accepting its responsibilities and its failures. But being one’s own boss, owning a business, and reaping all the rewards are powerful enough forces to attract people in droves.
Jim Koch, Founder and Brewmaster, Samuel Adams Brewery
Best Entry-Level Job: Boston Beer Company

Paying Your Dues

If you feel capable of running a business, and you have the capital, initiative, money, creativity, and nerves of steel, you may want to become an entrepreneur. A background in finance helps; those who don’t have one should take on a (trustworthy) partner who does. Entrepreneurs should know their product, their market, and their competitors. Research in the field is a must. Access to capital is crucial to the fledgling entrepreneur. Some people can go to a bank and use their knowledge of the field with a solid business plan to request a loan. Certain loan programs are available through the federal government for small businesses. Municipalities, small business associations, and private organizations also offer financial assistance and planning. Contact your local chamber of commerce for information.

Present and Future

Private ownership and personal control is more than just an American phenomenon, but American history has been linked closely with this ideal. The notion that the U.S. has no entrenched class system but operates purely on a merit-based system is the foundation for the Horatio Alger story, in which anyone can move from “rags to riches,” and the idea that opportunity is available to all. Any observer of American life knows that this American dream is largely a myth, but successful entrepreneurs prove that the myth is not entirely groundless. Entrepreneurs make their own opportunities, and they will continue to do so. The franchising trend—people purchasing the exclusive rights to one of a nationally recognized chain of stores—peaked in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Franchises are in decline, and more and more people are choosing to undertake only one part of an entrepreneurial venture: providing expertise, financing, or managing. With three or more individuals involved in the same project, issues of corporate governance are more complicated, but areas of responsibility become more clearly delineated.

Quality of Life


Entrepreneurs are most likely to fail during the first two years, but their failure generally doesn’t come about from lack of effort. Many spend the majority of their waking hours working, trying to promote support. Still, there is no substitute for experience and reputation. Those who’ve lasted two years have learned an enormous amount about how to run a business. Even many of the successful ones earn just enough to support themselves.


Five-year entrepreneurial survivors have established business plans, expanded when necessary, and restructured according to common sense. Many engage in long-term financing relationships at this point, as they have established a track record of being able to maintain a financially viable company. Many are earning significant incomes from their business, and they must make a key decision: Do they remain in the profession, or do they sell out and cease to be an entrepreneur? Perhaps they should seek out new businesses for profit? Most entrepreneurs begin their businesses to sell a chosen product, so they usually chose to remain.


Those who’ve remained in the same business for ten years cannot really be considered entrepreneurs anymore; they are truly businessmen of their chosen field. Many still apply the mindset of expansion, growth, and profit to their corporations or partnerships, but this in no way distinguishes them from the CEOs of hundreds of other non-entrepreneurial companies. Hours remain high, but survivors have gained immeasurable financial, managerial, and interpersonal expertise.