Many of the young entrepreneurs I work with have the goal of becoming serial entrepreneurs. They want a career that includes starting many new ventures.
However, what many of them fail to recognize is that becoming a successful serial entrepreneur means that they must be able to be a successful entrepreneur many times over.
The ability to start a new business does not make an entrepreneur successful. In many ways starting the business is one of the easiest parts of the entrepreneurial process. Building and growing it into a sustainable venture is the hard part. But, it is also what determines true entrepreneurial success.
I often use the metaphor of a baby for a new business.
The process of bringing a new baby into the world is a joyous time for young couples.
Before the baby is born the couple picks out a name, attends baby showers, and sets up the nursery.
After the baby is born they have the fun of announcing the baby’s birth to friends and family. Then comes the excitement of bringing the baby home for the first time.
Similarly, most entrepreneurs will tell you that the early stages of starting a new business are a fun and exciting times.
Developing the business model and plan, naming the business, finding the space to house the business, and selling to the first few customers are all part of the thrill of the start-up.
As a child starts to grow up, there are more and more challenges — the “terrible twos”, managing more and more complex schedules of activities, living with an adolescent, the worries of a teenage driver, adjusting to the empty nest. Although each stage can be rewarding for the parent, each stage takes patience and hard work.
Again, just like raising a child, managing a growth brings on many challenges as you navigate each stage of your business’s development. Creating systems, building a structure, hiring staff, raising money, managing cash flow, growing revenues, also take patience and hard work. Although it may not be as fun and rewarding as the startup for many entrepreneurs, it is the key to building a successful venture.
So how do investors and bankers judge the “resume” of a serial entrepreneur?
It is not by how many businesses they start.
Instead, it is by looking at their track record of building businesses.
Keep in mind that they do not expect all of the businesses to have been wildly successful. In fact, investors like to see that an entrepreneur has had experience with a failure. Investors value the lessons the entrepreneur gains from such an experience.
Young entrepreneurs of the Millennial Generation face specific challenges in building successful careers as serial entrepreneurs.
The Millennials are a generation that has been insulated from failure. This generation has grown up during a time when everyone gets a trophy. They have helicopter parents ready to swoop in to rescue them if they face the slightest adversity. They have be “bubble wrapped” to protect them from failing. And yet, failure is often part of journey when becoming a successful serial entrepreneur.
Being a serial entrepreneur requires patience. Each successive deal builds from the last. However, Millennials want to live the good life that their parents have achieved, and they want it now. Financial success does not come quickly for most serial entrepreneurs – it is built over successive deals over many years.
Persistence goes hand-in-hand with patience for successful serial entrepreneurs. I have seen several Millennial entrepreneurs walk away from a promising new venture citing a loss of passion as their reason for giving up. True passion is part of what drives entrepreneurs to persevere to overcome the obstacles, frustrations, and setbacks that are part of the entrepreneurial journey.
Even with all of the challenges facing Millennial entrepreneurs, I remain cautiously optimistic that with the maturity that comes from age and experience the they can become a generation of successful serial entrepreneurs. I do hope this is true, because we desperately need them to lead the way in revitalizing American’s entrepreneurial spirit and to help rebuild our economy.