Shattering the myths about entrepreneurs
We’ve all heard what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. It can be daunting, and budding business owners often ask themselves, “Have I got what it takes?” Marnie Walker, Founder* of Student Express Limited,a start-up company in 1990 currently generating over $10-million in revenue, believes there are a number of misconceptions about successfully running your own business. Speaking at a recent Rotman Women in Management Breakfast, sponsored by RBC Capital Markets, Marnie – a 2004 Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year recipient – dispelled some of the myths about entrepreneurs:
Myth 1 : To start a business, you need money, you need security, you need a great support system and basically, you need all your ducks in a row.
Reality : To start a business, what you need is an opportunity and an order (a sale). And you need a passion: you must want to do it. You also must do your homework so that you’re sure it’s going to succeed. Marnie’s opportunity came when she discovered, through relationships at large school boards, that they had difficulty getting transportation for special needs children because large corporations were not geared to providing individualized transportation. “It’s very difficult to get financing for a proposal and a dream,” so, prior to seeking financing, she obtained a contract from the York District School Board to provide eight buses to transport special needs children.
Myth 2: Entrepreneurs do it alone; their energy and hard work hold the company together and drive it.
Reality: “I admit you’ll do absolutely anything and everything you can to make your business a success, but I believe a successful entrepreneur understands that it’s the people and the team that will build the company.” Your job: provide the leadership, hire the right people, give them the tools to do the job, then let them do it. The hardest is when you try to do everything…and think that you can.
Myth 3 : Entrepreneurs are born.
Reality : Entrepreneurs are like musicians. They must want to play the instrument; they must like playing; and they must practise to do it well. Marnie believes that successful entrepreneurs need to learn all they can about business, and then practise.
Myth 4: Entrepreneurs are risk takers.
Reality : “I believe successful entrepreneurs are conservative.” They do their homework, they work hard, they’re very focused and they’re not afraid to follow their own instincts even if it leads into uncharted waters. “I’m always looking for new challenges, but before I commit to something, I do my homework.”
*Having recently sold Student Express, Marnie is pursuing her next business.