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If you’re a successful entrepreneur (you’ve been in business at least a decade and are still in the black), you probably won’t be surprised by Warren Struhl’s idea that starting a winning business is more about your attitude than anything else. A serial entrepreneur, Struhl founded his first company, PaperDirect Inc., at age 25, achieving $100 million in sales before selling it five years later. Struhl is currently CEO and co-founder (along with LeBron James and two others) of Purebrands, which produces Sheets Energy Strips.
“You have to be wired a certain way to be an entrepreneur,” Struhl says. Read: risk-tolerant. That’s because there’s nothing simple, safe or easy about launching a startup. “You have to be obsessive,” he says. “If you’re not thinking about it 24/7, you’re probably not entrepreneur material.”
So did you pass that attitude test?
If so, Struhl would like to remind you that up to 80 percent of startups fail in the first three years. “If you’re not up for a gamble, you should probably keep your job,” he adds.
However, if you’re risk-tolerant, obsessive, can function when you’re sleep-deprived and have a superb idea, then Struhl suggests you go for it. But be prepared for anything.
For one, “never underestimate how much it’s going to cost,” he says. He’s consulted with more than 30 companies and says not one of them budgeted enough. “Whatever you think it’s going to take, triple that number,” he advises.
He also says that being adaptable is key. “One thing people overlook is that the business plan changes over time,” he says. “Most businesses I’ve worked with started with one idea but ended up with something completely different. To be successful, you’ve got to be flexible and willing to change course.”
Struhl’s Tips for Entrepreneurs
Do your homework. “The first thing is to Google your idea and your competitors,” Struhl says. “Do as much research as humanly possible. Typically, something has already been tried. Learn from those successes and failures.”
Get smart feedback. Don’t be guarded about your ideas. Share them with friends, family, colleagues and people in the industry. Consider the negative as well as the positive feedback you receive.
Maintain high margins. “Whatever your product or service, make sure your cost is very low,” Struhl advises. “You want your profit margin to cover your mistakes while also building a long-term business model.”
Hire smart people. “It’s hard to do it all yourself. Period. In the beginning, get the smartest people around you that you can,” he says.