Many of the entrepreneurs and new business owners I advise have a primary vision of becoming millionaires or greater, per the model of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and many others. They don’t realize that achieving this dream involves far more than having a great idea and making it happen. In fact, much of the success will have nothing to do with money.
In my experience and the view of most experts, the journey has to begin with the right mindset, attitude, people skills, cash management, and other good habits. I saw a good summary of these requirements in a new book, “What Self-Made Millionaires Do That Most People Don’t,” by Ann Marie Sabath, who interviewed dozens of real millionaires to better understand their practices.
While her focus was not specifically on entrepreneurs, I have highlighted a subset of her identified priorities for creating your own success that I have found to be particularly relevant and most often overlooked by aspiring self-made business millionaires:
- Think bigger, and begin with a memorable end in mind. Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to hear too many “great” ideas in the realm of finding the nearest bar via a smart-phone app, or a dating site for your pets. Self-made millionaires tend to start with a solution to a painful problem that can change the world, with a billion dollar opportunity.
Force yourself to think bigger by scheduling some uninterrupted thinking time and overtly stepping outside your comfort zone to entertain the impossible. It helps to start by writing down initial goals and objectives, and then reading them with a critical eye for impact.
- Develop a business from what you know and love to do. I often hear aspiring entrepreneurs determined to start their own business just because they don’t like working for someone else. These people are not likely to become self-made millionaires. What I want to hear is a business you enjoy doing so much that you wouldn’t even call it work.
- Set purposeful goals and take full control of your destiny. I don’t know any self-made millionaires who don’t know where they are going or play the perennial victim. For you to have any chance of creating and achieving goals, you need to identify your strengths, have a positive sense of self, and avoid “analysis paralysis.” Don’t be afraid to start.
- Take calculated risks, and persevere through failures. Taking a calculated risk implies going that extra mile to evaluate the costs versus reward probabilities before jumping in with both feet. In addition, many startups fail simply because the entrepreneur fails to persevere and gives up too soon. Failures are the best learning experiences.
- Maintain a thirst for knowledge, and be a lifelong learner. The learning curve for successful business people actually has been shown to go up after formal schooling, rather than flattening. They do things like scheduling time every day for thinking, using downtime while driving for podcast updates, and building new relationships with experts.
- Develop effective listening and questioning skills. It’s hard to learn anything while you are talking. With all the distractions at our fingertips today, the art of listening and asking good questions is on the decline. Tips for more effective listening include staying in the moment, using positive body language, and waiting to be asked for advice.
- Develop relationships with like-minded and smart people. Self-made millionaire entrepreneurs make a point of surrounding themselves with people smarter than they are, and with people they aspire to be like. They hire help, rather than helpers. They build teams of smart people to solve problems, rather than making every decision themselves.
- Be more innovative and embrace change. Successful business people know they have to reinvent themselves and their business on a regular basis as the market and technology changes. Rather than resisting every change, they figure out what caused it and move forward by creating a solution that capitalizes on the new opportunity.
- Stay in control of your financial destiny. The first rule for a successful business is managing cash flow personally. Too many entrepreneurs I know leave these decisions to their staff, who focus only on their own expenses and purchases. Self-made millionaires don’t forget to pay themselves first, build an emergency fund, and pre-plan purchases.
- Enjoy the journey as much as the destination. The best entrepreneurs live for the problem-solving challenges of growing a business, and enjoy their ability to support a favorite social cause or improve the world environment. Of course, they enjoy the money that comes with success, but that is secondary to their passion for their work and impact.
The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with making money – in fact, it’s a necessary, but not sufficient result, for any business to thrive. The same is personally true for every entrepreneur and business owner.
Now is the time to take a hard look at your own priorities, relative to the strategies presented here. With all of these, you may be able to skip over millionaires directly to billionaire status, like Bill Gates and the other 2000 people already there. Wouldn’t that be exciting?