10 Things to Learn to Become a Successful Entrepreneur


What is one thing to learn in order to become a successful entrepreneur? 

To help potential and just-starting-out entrepreneurs become successful in their endeavors, we asked established entrepreneurs and CEOs this question for their best recommendations. From developing your passion to learning how to fail fast to learn from mistakes, there are several pieces of advice that may help you along your journey of entrepreneurship. 

Here are ten tips to help entrepreneurs become successful:  

  • Know Your Business, Inside And Out

  • Develop Your Passion

  • Empathy and An Analytical Approach

  • Master The Art Of Selling

  • Understand Your Cash Positions

  • Fail Fast To Learn From Mistakes

  • Working With Numbers

  • Research Financial Options

  • Adapting to Change Is Key

  • Be Open To Change & Innovation

Know Your Business, Inside And Out

Having a passion for your idea is not enough. You need to know your business area inside out. If you plan to open a restaurant, then work in the restaurant industry for several months. Think of it as paid training and as the best way to ensure this is the right track for you to pursue.

Mark Peterson, Senior Lecturer at Eller College

Develop Your Passion

Many people misunderstand what passion is. They confuse interest with passion, but passion is the addition of interest and skills. It’s great that you are interested in something, but for your interest to become a passion, you need to have or acquire the skills you need. Sometimes acquiring those skills may be painful, and you may lose interest. However, if you persevere and still maintain interest, that interest plus skills become part of your passion.

Once you have developed a passion, you want to put it to use to create impact. While passions, with interest and skill, are inward-focused, the impact is outward-focused. The nature of that positive impact that your passion can make for others may then become your purpose.

Carlos Alsua, McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, Senior Lecturer at Eller College

Empathy And An Analytical Approach

I think empathy and an analytical approach to decisions are key to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Connecting with people and making them understand your decisions is another important aspect. At last, stay truthful, focused, and ambitious.

Rahul Mitra ’21 MBA (Corporate Finance) ’21 MS (MIS), University of Arizona

Master The Art Of Selling

You are always selling as an entrepreneur. If you’re lucky, most of your time is spent selling a product or service in big, meaningful deals with customers or venture capitalists. But you’re also selling candidates to join your company, and you’re selling employees on the vision to stay motivated at your company. You might find yourself having to sell your spouse on the purpose behind late nights and early mornings, or your kids on providing you with a minute to unwind after a long day. Sometimes you’re even selling yourself on the meaning and purpose of your efforts to keep yourself going! To be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to develop your own sense of salesmanship, and perfect the approach. 

Brett Farmiloe ’06 BSBA (Accounting), CEO and Founder of Markitors

Understand Your Cash Positions

Understanding your cash position at all times is a big part of becoming a successful entrepreneur as you may encounter a challenge that requires you to seek out debt financing. By understanding your business’s finances, you can better establish a long-lasting partnership with a financial institution. At AVANA Capital, we are passionate about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses find success with the right debt financing solution. Our client-centric partnerships also allow our team to provide our clients with valuable financial guidance.

Sanat Patel, AVANA Capital 

Fail Fast To Learn From Mistakes

Don’t be afraid to fail. Too many entrepreneurs have great business ideas, but they never take the leap because they are afraid to fail. In today’s economic climate, it makes sense why so many feel uncertain about the future, but if you never take the steps towards your dream, it will never happen. You need to be able to embrace that fear and take the leap!

Kristy Bach ’87 BS (Marketing), COO of BestCompaniesAZ

Working With Numbers

The number one thing entrepreneurs need to understand is how they will make money. More specifically, entrepreneurs should calculate what to anticipate in terms of revenues and expenses once they start their business versus just having the general belief that customers will want to pay them for their product or service. In order to do that, an entrepreneur needs to be comfortable putting on their financial hat and getting out the calculator. There are a lot of financial planning tasks associated with running a business such as setting pricing, creating forecasts, managing cash flow, developing a compensation plan (yes - even for a company of one) and preparing taxes, so being able to understand and work with numbers is a vital skill for everyone wanting to start their own business.

Amy Zwagerman ’94 BSBA (Marketing), Founder and CMO, The Launch Box

Research Financial Options

Entrepreneurs need a solid understanding of how financing options can help fuel the launch and growth of their venture. By understanding the differences between secured versus an unsecured business loan, entrepreneurs can better evaluate which financing route opens up the right options to support their business strategy. Speak with experts. Ask questions. Do your research. The only thing an entrepreneur should rush into is education, not a business loan with terms that can cripple long-term growth. 

Craig Johnson, Unsecured Funding Source

Adapting To Change Is Key

Being able to adapt to change is essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur. It's important to be able to adjust to the changing needs of the business so you can continue to grow and build your business. Being able to adapt to changing needs in the industry, changing needs for our clients, and the changes in marketing has allowed us to continue to grow and stay more relevant in our industry. Always be nimble and open to the fact that things may not go according to plan.

Elyse Flynn Meyer ’07 BSBA (Marketing and International Business), President and Founder of Prism Global Marketing Solutions

Be Open To Change & Innovation

Often, people in business get used to processes that have always been done one way. I have learned to be open to change and innovation. Though people are now coming out of the pandemic, many companies are deciding to continue operating remotely. Utilizing enterprise collaboration software and workflow automation to optimize your digital workplace is the kind of innovation that will help attract more success as your business grows. Another thing I have learned is that everything is a matter of balance. Trying to create a balanced operational strategy by combining people, technology and processes is the point that will make you unique and stand out. 

Spiros Skolarikis, Comidor

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