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What is it really like to be an entrepreneur?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
What characteristics are needed to be successful?
It’s the greatest job in the world.

In all seriousness, I think great entrepreneurship is one of the best and most creative endeavors one can engage in, because you not only get the full fruits of your labor, you also help deliver great products, services, solutions or answers that help make other people's lives better.

That said, you do need to be sure you are selling what the market wants -- and not what you think it wants. You need to have a very clear vision about your outcome, as well as the drive and persistence to make it happen.

You also need to know the numbers of the business and the industry you are going into. Why? Those numbers will be your guide to your own pricing, margins, inventory and activities you will need to succeed.

The numbers will also tell you if there truly is a market for your venture, and will help you determine how you will position yourself in that market. You also need complete honesty about your product or service and the market. If the numbers show little cashflow or profit, simply move on.

A good entrepreneur looks to minimize risk and wants to only go into markets where there is sustainable growth, high demand for a new product, solution or approach and where customers have the desire (as well as the dollars) to spend.

So do as much research as you can upfront before making the entrepreneurial plunge. But once you are in, work smart, work with a good mentor or coach, focus on cash flow first, and find ways to systemize your process of getting both qualified leads into your businessand repeat business from them once they become your customers.

There are no shortcuts to success, but there are no mysteries either, so learn from the best and apply that knowledge to your operations -- you'll automatically be ahead of most of your competition.

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