So you want to be an entrepreneur? You aren’t alone! In a 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor U.S. report issued by Babson and Baruch Colleges, the percentage of adults involved in startups hit 13 percent in 2012, a record high since Babson began tracking entrepreneurship rates in 1999. Optimism is also on the rise, with a hefty 43 percent of Americans reporting that they believe there are good opportunities for entrepreneurship, up by more than 20 percent since 2011.
Yet, despite the plethora of amazing ideas and good intentions behind many of these startups, history tells us that the majority of them will eventually fail. As an entrepreneur who has spent the past two decades working in the hospice industry – and more recently, in the area of motivational leadership – I’ve been involved in a dozen startup businesses. Along the way, I’ve developed a wide-eyed curiosity at what causes some entrepreneurs to thrive and others to fail. What’s different about the people who make it? What tips the scale in their favor? While a few folks get lucky or stumble upon a revolutionary concept (think Facebook® or Google®), I’ve discovered that the majority of successful entrepreneurs have several key elements in common.
No one is born an entrepreneur. You have to amass knowledge before you can apply it. That means taking classes, earning degrees, devouring books and industry publications, seeking out mentors, and digging deep to make sure that you know everything there is to know about your chosen field or subject matter. Successful entrepreneurs are smart. They know their stuff!I earned my master’s degree in hospital administration when I was in my twenties. I was also fortunate to have several mentors who took me under their wings and shared their wisdom. Thateducation launched my career and stirred my intellectual juices. It opened up my thinking about what was possible.
While a successful startup might appear to be an overnight success, that’s rarely the case. The mastermindsbehind these startups have usually spent significant time honing their craft, skills, or knowledge. They are hungry for ways to do their jobs better, cheaper, and more efficiently. They ask questions, often starting with “why.” Entrepreneurs see opportunities that no one else does because they intricately studyproducts andservices or remain on the lookout for emerging trends. They become experts. I spent 10 years working in hospital administration in four different cities. The more I learned about health care, the more I became convinced that hospice care was the wave of the future. So, I began studying the advantages of hospice care, amassing all the information I could find out about it. Then, I took the finance and operations experience I had gleaned on my jobs in hospital administration and used that to start a hospice company.
Entrepreneurs don’t try, they do. They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. They don’t daydream, they implement. They take concept to concrete reality. In my case, I sat down and put together a solid written business plan for a company I eventually named Dignita Hospice Care. I outlined a specific mission, goals and objectives. I met with investors. I analyzed the marketplace. I consulted with physicians, nurses, case workers, and other potential clients to make sure I had their buy-in and support. I was determined that my hospice company would offer the best possible service to patients facing end-of-life care. I had a clear vision of what that entailed. And, then I took a huge leap of faith, and opened the doors for business. I executed my plan down to the tiniest detail.
To sustain a startup business, you need to be passionate about it. Entrepreneurs don’t have a 9-to-5 work schedule! It takes a lot of hustle and energy to start a business. You must have mental and physical fortitude, along with an unwavering belief in the product or service you are selling. I was convinced in my heart and soul that my hospice company offered superior service to the competition. I was driven to tell patients and families about my hospice company because I knew it would make a significant difference in their lives. I called our inpatient hospice homes “vortexes of love” because I wanted to create a place where patients could get state-of-the-art medical care in a warm, dignified, loving environment.
In the May 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review,Vincent Onyemah, Martha Rivera Pesquera, and Abdul Ali penned an interesting article titled, “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong.” They write, “Salesmanship is central to the success of any young company, and entrepreneurs ignore this at their peril.” I agree wholeheartedly. Much of my success in business has come from forging close relationships with customers and referral sources. You can offer the best product or service in the world, but to be successful you have to reach out over and over again to the people who need it and share your passion and vision. I attribute so much of my success to the support network I’ve built through the years that I decided to write a book, Selling Healthcare: 5 Strategies to Create High-Return Relationships in Healthcare Sales (Que Publishing). In it, I teach how to convert sales prospects into loyal customers and build an entourage of people around you who bolster your success.
Growing a business is hard work. It’s also fun! The most successful entrepreneurs never stop being entrepreneurs. I spent five years building and growing Dignita Hospice Care with operations in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., and San Diego, Calif. Then, I founded Hospice Properties, LLC, to build inpatient homes in Mesa, Peoria, and Tucson, Ariz. Eventually, I sold these operations in an asset purchase to Odyssey Healthcare. What to do next? I founded another hospice company, Solari Hospice Care, along with a nonprofit organization that sponsors bereavement camps for kids, Solari Hospice Foundation. I built more inpatients homes, this time in Las Vegas and Houston. Two years ago, after realizing that I wanted to pass along what I’d learned to other entrepreneurs, salespeople and business professionals, I started Apex Lifestyle Design. Now, I’m writing books! The fun never ends!
About the Author: Gary W. Polsky is President and CEO of Solari Hospice Care, with headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. He recently authored Selling Healthcare: 5 Strategies to Create High-Return Relationships in Healthcare Sales, and is the creator of the Apex Lifestyle Design program at www.apexlifestyledesign.com. He has decades of experience as a healthcare CEO/owner. Gary lives in Scottsdale and in San Diego, Calif. Visit Gary’s author page at http://sellinghealthcare.net.