A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

How Self Made Millionaires Succeed–Are You Making One of These Mistakes?


Self-Made MillionairesErica’s note: This is a guest post from Jaime Tardy, who blogs at EventualMillionaire.com. I thought it would be interesting to get some perspectives from other people who have had success, both online and off, so I invited Jaime to post this based on her huge archive of interviews. Links to the full interviews are included where it is possible.

Jaime writes:

I’ve interviewed over 50 millionaires in the past year, and three big mistakes keep coming up. Here’s how successful millionaires found out how to get through them:

Mistake #1: “But I don’t have any time!”

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying ‘I don’t want to.” — Lao Tzu

I was talking with a millionaire the other day about how entrepreneurs want the newest tips and tricks to give them more time. In reality, though, it’s the fundamental elements that matter. The word focus has come up over one hundred times in the 50 interviews. We all have the same amount of time. Imagine if you removed everything from of your schedule tomorrow. No work, no driving, no eating, no Facebook, no TV. Just sitting. How long would tomorrow feel? In business, we dilute our efforts by adding so much to our plate. Len Schwartz, founder of Pro2Pro Network, said:

“It became incredibly obvious to me that I was diluting myself and my efforts and my focus and my energy so much so that I was just spinning plates and getting nowhere. So, for all of you listening that are like that and/or have experienced that, please embrace the value of extreme focus.”

Many successful businesses were built in just a few hours a week. Take David Heinemeier Hansson from 37Signals. He said, “So on the programming side of things, for about six calendar months that we worked on BaseCamp, I spent ten hours per week. That’s it.”

In a job, it’s about how many hours you work. But for an entrepreneur that’s not it at all. It doesn’t matter how many hours you work. It matters what you produce in those hours. Michael Burcham, serial entrepreneur who runs the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, said:

“Entrepreneurs aren’t rewarded necessarily by effort or hours. We’re rewarded when the outcome, the product or service we’re producing, actually does something that people care about. I see all the time individuals who are totally putting in crazy hours.

The things they are spending their time on are so unimportant. They’re refining Page 21 of a business plan describing an operating model in an area form that no one is ever going to read. That’s a complete waste of energy. So I would submit to you that it’s much more about what constructively you are doing every day and less about how long you are doing it for.

My own personal philosophy is I give everything a really good six to ten hours in a day.”

Action Item: Are the items you have on your to-do list today driving forward your business? Are you making an active effort every day to both 1) acquire new customers and 2) serve your existing customers better? To really grow your business, you have to do the tough work of prospecting for leads and closing sales.

Mistake #2 – “I Don’t Have Enough Money!”

“You can make excuses or you can make money but you can’t do both.” — Pat Mesiti

Money is always an issue for a newer entrepreneur, whether you have some or you don’t. This is one of the most common excuses I hear from prospects and clients. Money is not your issue. Your creativity and pushing through boundaries is the issue. Don’t get me wrong–it might be true that you have very little money to spend. But many of the millionaires have had the same issues. MJ Demarco, author of the Millionaire Fastlane, said:

“For someone to say ‘Oh, I don’t have any money. How am I going to start a business?’ That’s an excuse. It really is. I started my business with $900. All the capital that came into my business was human capital. Hard work, sweat, and the other thing I want to mention is that it was all self taught. I took the time to learn. Everything I learned insofar as my company, I had to teach myself. I was on the Internet, learning and buying books; I was at the library all the time.”

Joy Gendusa from PostcardMania.com said:

“When I started doing postcard marketing for my company I had no money. So it was literally my paycheck that was going into postage and I started out sending 1,000 pieces every single week.”

They find a way. I’ve heard stories of going to SCORE, figuring out how to get people to work for you for free or for trades, or learning how to do things yourself. In fact the time we live in now is probably the cheapest to start a business. We no longer have to have a brick and morter store. We no longer have to pay for expensive printed brochures, or yellow page advertisements. Now we have WordPress, social media sites like Fiverr.com. Instead of thinking how little you have, start to think about how much you have. You are so lucky. David Heinemeier Hansson also said:

“It has never been easier to create something in software with no capital on hand as it is today. If you can do it self-funded, you can do it on your schedule, on your own time and with you being in control of the entire process the entire way.”

And a side note about funding: You don’t need to get funding. In fact most of the millionaires I asked discouraged it. Most of them didn’t even take loans, especially in online businesses. They started small, and just kept working and reinvesting.

Action Item: Is there a way you can barter your services and trade your expertise for someone else’s? Can you learn how to create a website, program the software you want to create, etc.?

Erica’s note: When I first started my hosting company, I traded my HTML and CSS skills to a web design company in exchange for my first Cisco switch. I dug servers out of Dumpsters and fixed the hardware myself. I bought parts on eBay. One of my employees, later in my business, said, “Wow, this entire business was built on eBay.” Yeah, pretty much!

I built my own website, and figured out PHP to learn how to accept credit cards online. (These days it’s a lot easier!) Stop telling yourself you can’t do this stuff. Instead, buy the books, sit down and learn what you need to learn, and ask questions. I had no schooling in this area, and I had no “mentors” who taught me everything. I learned via IRC channels and people at work who knew this stuff.

Don’t know anyone who knows what you want to learn? Look up local meetups in your area. They may be even worth driving a few hours each way to, or camping out in your car for a day or two. Do what you have to do to make your business succeed. The worst thing you can do is sit around waiting for someone to finish your website.

Do you know–I knew a guy personally who had a hosting business that pulled in over $350,000 a year, and he had no website. He had a domain name, with a page on it that said “Sorry, we are still building our website, but email us if you need help.” followed by an email address. He signed up some huge customers. If he can build a 6-figure business that way, you really don’t have any excuses.

(end Erica’s note)

Mistake #3 – “I don’t know how!”

You may not know, but other people have been there before and succeeded. Just because you don’t know how right now, does not mean you can’t learn. Sometimes you even paralyze yourself because you don’t want to make a wrong move, or you think we need to learn the “right” way (of course there isn’t a “right” way, so you keep looking continously). This excuse is usually based in fear: fear of the unknown and fear of failure. Fear is normal though — for you and for millionaires. They feel the fear and do it anyway.

Amos Winbush III started a company called CyberSynchs. He was a songwriter and wanted to start a tech company.

“There was nothing on the marketplace to fix my issue and I thought that if I had this same problem there had to be millions of other people who had this exact same issue, so I said, “Let’s start a company.” I called my business manager and said, “How do I start this company?” He said you need to find some software engineers, so I did a lot of research to find out what software engineers actually were and what their function was.”

When he was starting a tech company, he didn’t know what software engineers actually were, let alone how to start a business! He started the business with only $250, too. (He found a CTO on Craigslist for free!) He had a million dollar company in only 18 months. Amos leaned on his mentor and just kept taking action. He didn’t let his excuses get to him. He didn’t have a plan or money, but that didn’t matter.

Frank McKinney didn’t know how to do real estate before he started, just like Craig Wolfe didn’t know how to make rubber ducks that look like celebrities (Celebriducks). If we already knew how to do every step it probably wouldn’t even be that interesting to us. The only thing you need to know is the next step. Figure out what that next step is. If you don’t know, ask someone who does.

Action Item: The real truth is that most of us, even those who have made a lot of money, don’t feel like we know what we are doing. Millionaires aren’t necessarily smarter than you–or more talented than you are. They do know, however, how to push through their fears and make the tough decisions. Today, work on one thing you previously feared. It probably won’t hurt as badly as you think it will, even if you fail. Just give it a shot!

Bio: Jaime is a business coach and speaker who has been featured on CNN Newsroom, MSN Money, Success Magazine, Fortune, Yahoo’s homepage and more. She interviews millionaires every week to get advice from them on how you can become a self made millionaire.

If you are in the beginning stages or just starting business in 2012 and have thought to yourself, “I don’t know how to even start!” or “I don’t know what to do!”–register for Jaime’s free webinar series now. Hurry–the webinar is on Tuesday!

Erica’s note: I’m now accepting guest posts on erica.biz again–check out my contact page if you’re interested in guest posting on erica.biz.



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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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