Starting a Business

It's only been four years, but I figure if I make it to the fifth year, I'll own a real business. This self-imposed milestone is, of course, just wishful thinking, but it helps. I've never been a big believer in those mythical risks of going off on your own. You know, the risks that would-be entrepreneurs can never actually articulate, but fear to death. So what's the secret? It's so simple, you'll laugh:

Secret #1: Be angry. You ever notice that the most successful people, in private or public sectors, in business or at home, are angry about something? They're angry about growing up poor. Angry about their lack of education and those who rub theirs in other people's faces. Angry about their jobs, bosses, co-workers, or even their commutes. They're mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore. So, they put up rather than shut up. Anger is the entrepreneurs' passion; it's your M.O. All criminals have them, and just look as how successful they are at committing crimes. Imagine harnessing that force to achieve your goals.

(An addendum: angry people all have another thing in common - they all dislike being around people who don't like stress and are always complaining about it. It's not that complainers are bad, just unproductive. And to an angry person that needs to get things done, there's nothing worse than this type of person. Except maybe if this person is on payroll.)

Secret #2: Sacrifice. Buying fancy clothes and gadgets does not a happier person make. Entrepreneurs have two major hurdles starting out: often, their only example of how a business should be is their prior companies. As a result, they're always looking to start out with a bang - office, furniture, computers, and employees. What they soon realize is that most of this is unnecessary and a big waste of money. The second hurdle is that in our commercial culture, entrepreneurs don't often start out being cheap bastards. Our programming as employees with access to supply closets for virtually anything or consumers with weekly paychecks make it difficult to think that we can operate without either.

Secret #3: Spend like it hurts. Closely tying in to Secret #2, this secret is almost a no-brainer. Would you smash your head against a brick wall a second time? Just pretend every purchase is a brick wall. Yes, this is extreme, but what'll happen is that you'll become adept at spending before your brain implodes.

Secret #4: Find a partner, be it spouse, co-worker, mentor. They'll get you through the tough times and engage in stimulating conversation when no one else is around. Pets don't count.

Secret #5: Learn to learn. With all due respect to higher ed institutions, you don't own the monopoly on learning. It is actually possible to continue teaching yourself new things outside the walls of a school or "executive program". The challenge is in figuring out what sort of student you are and how you learn. Then, teaching yourself based on the way you process information. Then, finding more and more information that you can process in this way. It's not hard and is actually fun once you overcome that "leave-it-to-someone-else" culture we live in that faults people as "elitist" for actually being smarter.

Secret #6: Ignore all the stats. Journalists aren't economists. Economists aren't entrepreneurs. So why do you listen to them? Entrepreneurs are always misrepresented because

a) statistical firms neglect entrepreneurs because of their lower level of activity, which is also hard to determine (if you're not a big brand or spending billions on raw materials, you don't really exist to many statisticians);

b) entrepreneurs don't always report every detail, accurately or otherwise;

c) misrepresentations in what will or won't affect entrepreneurs, typically based on economic theories (i.e. a myth that higher minimum wages will impact entrepreneurs the most is absolutely wrong since entrepreneurs ordinarily pay their associates more anyway due to their non-corporate, non-hierarchical working relationship);

d) entrepreneurs track and analyze their accounts payable and productivity figures more closely than their accounts receivables, meaning that they aren't always concerned with precise sources of revenue (unlike big corporations) since all the money goes into their pockets anyway;

Secret #7: Share the wealth. As an entrepreneur, you're not in business to make yourself rich. You're in business to make the business rich, because when the business makes money, everyone, including you, makes money. And in order to grow a business, everyone needs to make money, not just you.

Secret #8: Entrepreneurs are big businesses waiting to happen, not "small businesses" started by uneducated ex-garbage men. The nomenclature of "small business" is as derogatory to an entrepreneur as a racial slur. Whether finding clients or attracting employees, entrepreneurs have greater success when they're passionately selling a business service or recruiting, be it small or big. Unfortunately, clients and job candidates only get passionate about large businesses, much like statisticians, despite the fact that almost 97% of jobs are created by entrepreneurs. And in an information economy, the typical entrepreneur is college educated, with expertise in a function or industry, and is surprisingly well-versed in sources of funding, managing technology for productivity, and marketing their product or service.

At the recent 2nd Annual Students + Leaders Conference: Entrepreneurs & Networking Leaders, speakers Jeffrey Robinson Ph. D, Assistant Professor of Management and Organizations and Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Fritz Desir, Managing Partner, Thurst360, an interactive marketing agency; Jorge Cano-Moreno, Publisher/Co-Founder, Urban Latino Media Group, LTD; Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Director/Co-Founder, FUEL Outdoor; essentially covered the same things. Although these are my secrets, all entrepreneurs agree that anyone can start a business if they learned these secrets, too.

Write to Al Berrios at


Disclaimer: The recommendations, commentary and opinions published herein are based on public information sometimes referenced via hyperlinks. Any similarities or likeness to any ideas or commentary from any other sources not referenced is purely coincidental. al berrios & co. cannot control any results occurring from advice obtained from this publication nor any opinion(s) conveyed by any reader of this publication.

(c) 2004. All Rights Reserved. al berrios & company, inc. Published by al berrios & co. This Report may not be reproduced or redistributed in any form without written permission from al berrios & co., subject to penalty.