From my vantage point of helping entrepreneurs start, build and operate insurance agencies I have developed some strong opinions about what is required to be successful.  Over the next few blog posts I will explore a few of those things in the hope that it will be inspirational to some, a goad to others and a deterrent to those who have no business being in business for themselves.

Calvin Coolidge said “nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent, and unrewarded genius is almost a proverb”.  I take that to mean that the first ingredient of success is not ability, intelligence (or its close relative a “great idea”).  If you think about your own experience you will readily see that there are many brilliant failures and talented flops.  There are almost unlimited great ideas that never make money.  Certainly these things are helpful but clearly they are not the essential answer.

I think discipline and hard work are the first ingredients.

It is Saturday morning as I write this. I am alone in my office.  I am in my roughly 35th year of self-employment and this is not an unusual circumstance.  My typical week, now that I’ve achieved a degree of success in business, runs between 50 and 60 hours per week not including the time I spend reading about business, thinking about it away from work or having informal discussions.  In my earlier years I typically worked closer to 80, and sometimes more, hours per week.

This is necessary.

I literally don’t know anyone who has been truly successful in their profession or business who did not work that much, and that hard, in the early years.  And I know no one, except inheritors of wealth, who don’t work that much in later years.

So, the first thing to building success is long hours, hard work and the realization that it really never stops.  Discipline according to Merriam Webster is “orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior” it is also defined as “self-control”.  The successful business person is accountable to himself or herself.  There is no one to regulate the effort level or time commitment to work for the business owner.  The successful business owner must be disciplined in the approach to work.

Long hours, consistent effort and the sacrifice that comes with that are prerequisites for business success.  After the business is established and running well continued success, and even growth, may be possible with a reduction in time investment.  But the really successful owner will never be able to count on working a 35 to 40 hour week as employees do.

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