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What Do Ya Wanna Be?

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneurial superstar?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the April 2001 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Remember when you dreamed of becoming a rock star? Sure, you played great air guitar in your bedroom, but the fantasy pretty much started and ended there. Now your wanna-be dreams center on becoming a different kind of star: a wealthy entrepreneur with a fast-track tech company that will last longer than the leftovers from the grand-opening party. Frankly, that may be as likely as becoming the warm-up act for Madonna, according to Rob Ryan, founder of Entrepreneur America, a Hamilton, Montana-based business development program for select entrepreneurs, and author of Entre-preneur America: Lessons From Inside Rob Ryan's High -Tech Boot Camp (Harper- Business). He says only a small percentage of aspiring entrepreneurs have the combination of heart and brains so essential for success in the brutal high-tech industry.

Ryan reveals the characteristics of the most common types of wanna-bes:

Quickies have lots of get-rich-quick business models with no clear-cut application or value to customers.
Wonderful, wacky MBAs love charts and market reports but overlook crucial data, such as who their customers are.
Send moneys believe once they have a big VC check, the rest will automatically fall into place.
Dreamers love to gas about their grand ideas but are unable to make the all-important leap to reality.
One-stripe zebras have a single-function product with a market too narrow to support a company.
Technoids are smart about technology but clueless about running a business.
Guts & brains have done all their homework and have the intestinal fortitude and IQ points to make it in the dog-eat-dog business world. They're willing to eat beans and rice and face rejection day in and day out during their businesses' difficult early stages. Few entrepreneurs are capable of transforming into Guts & Brains, Ryan says. The key to making the big leap is doing what so few others manage to do: Use common sense. Offer a product or service of value; talk to customers about it; don't try to raise capital before you've laid a strong foundation. And don't spend any money before you've earned it. Says Ryan, "Ninety-nine percent of the people I see make the same simple mistakes over and over.'

Wanna Be Worksheet

  • Is your company "vision' intergalactic in scope-vague and unable to be patented?

  • Are you afraid customers will steal your idea?

  • Do you have to explain your business idea in excruciating detail so others understand it?

  • If you answered yes to these, you're a "Dreamer," and your prospects for real success are dim.
  • Does your management team include experienced engineers and a skilled marketer?

  • Does your team have years of experience in the chosen field?

  • Are you testing your business hypothesis on potential customers?

  • Has your team built a demo or prototype to show customers?

  • If you answered yes to these, congratulations! You're a "Guts & Brains." Now make it happen!

Pamela Rohland writes about the joys and tribulations of entrepreneurship for a variety of regional and national business publications.

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