Recently someone on a social networking site for pilots which I frequent asked some questions about starting his own business.  I responded to his questions as someone who not only has been in business for myself almost all of my life, but also someone who actively works with other entrepreneurs to help them start and grow their businesses.  After all that is one of the key things Oklahoma Agents Alliance does. 

I thought part of what I wrote to that budding business owner might be interesting and useful to those who may be contemplating starting their own insurance agency.  If you’re an entrepreneur, and you want to own your own insurance agency, perhaps we at OAA can be of additional help. 

Here is what I wrote:

“Having worked with a whole bunch of people who wanted to be their own boss over the years, and especially the last decade, I think I can give you some good guidelines as to what makes one successful:

1. Entrepreneurs simply can't or won't be satisfied working for someone else. They will find a way.

2. Entrepreneurs cannot be stopped. Whatever obstacles you put in their way they wire around. Conversely, my experience shows that people, who spend very much time at all thinking about the obstacles, never get started or if they do they don't become successful. Look backwards. How have you approached your entire life? If you are they person who gets things going, started clubs in school, created a team so you could play, etc. you are entrepreneurial. If you don't have a track record of creativity, overcoming the naysayers, etc. in the rest of your life maybe you're kidding yourself.

Portrait of a serious businesswoman using laptop in office

3. Entrepreneurs are visionary people. They are dreamers in the sense that they can envision themselves in the future having obtained what they worked for. This visionary creativity is essential and without it I don't think you can succeed. Are you generally a creative person? Entrepreneurs become successful in the most mundane of businesses but they usually create a better way.

4. Entrepreneurs who succeed in building a business beyond one that merely supports them (a business not a job) are self aware enough to recognize their own limitations and look for ways, or other people, to supplement or complement them. Those that don't, that always think they can do everything better usually limit out pretty early. Also, businesses go through distinct growth and then stability phases. To keep growing you need to learn to anticipate and recognize this and be willing to continually invest to move forward. Or you stop being an entrepreneur and start just being a business owner.

5. Entrepreneurs are optimistic people. If you're a glass half empty kind of person don't bother. Yes, the government is basically against you, taxes are continually going up, it's hard to find good employees, and on an on. So what? Those are just things that keep the competition manageable.

6. Decent accounting skills are critical. Understand what cash flow is and that profits aren't cash flow. Feed the business first.

7. Failure isn't disaster it’s a necessary part of forward momentum. Not everything you try works but the entrepreneur may be discouraged but doesn't quit. The people that failure stops make great employees.

8. Entrepreneurs are risk takers. In general if you are risk averse you shouldn't be a business owner. You calculate risk, of course, but you take it and you are comfortable with it. I have never known in any month or year how much I was going to make. If you like certainty keep your job.

Young man drawing a financial graph on the wall9. Set goals for this month, this quarter, this year, 3 years from now and be the kind of person who achieves them. But it's helpful to have lifetime goals first and make these shorter goals work towards the ultimate. Regardless of how you do it hold yourself accountable.

10. Collect mentors and coaches. Mentors don't even have to know that's what they are but don't be afraid to seek advice from others you respect. Sometimes hiring a coach is a great way to move your personal and business performance along. One of the biggest problems entrepreneurs have after they are in the middle of building a business is that there is not one to hold them accountable and you can lose your way in the trees.

My grandmother used to tell me two things all the time when I was a little boy. I'm sure you've heard them. I made them mottos without knowing it: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." and the story of the little choo choo train who made it up the mountain no one thought he could as he repeated to himself "I think I can, I think I can". They're corny but powerful. If this is your attitude about life you may be an entrepreneur. If not make yourself valuable to someone who is.”

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