Interview with an Entrepreneur

My nephew Rob Sage, 16, asked me several questions for a school assignment about entrepreneurs.

Hey Rob,
Great questions!
Here are my answers:

1) What is your definition of an entrepreneur?
I got these from and I agree with them all.

-A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture
-A risk-taker who has the skills and initiative to establish a business
-One who creates a product on his own account; whoever undertakes on his own account an industrial enterprise in which workmen are employed
-Someone who organizes a business venture and assumes the risk for it

2) Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur?
-The desire to create something of value
-The desire to stretch myself to see how much I can accomplish
-The desire to be independent and to make my own decisions about my life

3) Why did you choose the type of business you are presently in?
I’m going to use the computer training business I started in 1995 and sold in 2002 because it is the best example. I spent 8 months researching several business opportunities before choosing a computer training business. I wanted a franchise to reduce my risk. A franchise is a partnership between the franchisor that has the business model, and the local franchisee that has entrepreneurial skills, capital, and local knowledge. I didn’t want a food or cleaning business which are very common in franchising. Personal computers were becoming ubiquitous and the Internet was just beginning. I knew and loved information technology; knowing and loving what you do increases your chances of success.

4) What are some of the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur?
Pros: independence, pride of accomplishment, more money if you succeed
Cons: risk, you might lose your money; no one else cares as much as you do about the business so you are often alone and responsible for everything; no steady pay check

5) What were your career plans when you graduated from high school?
I didn’t have any because I had no idea what I wanted to do so I went to college.

6) How many hours do you work per week?
When starting the business I worked 70-80 hours per week for 2+ years. If and when a business is successful, you might not have to work at all.

7) Do you plan your tasks before getting started?
It depends on your personality and your ‘gut feel’. Often it is better to plan everything up front; you reduce your risk of failure. Sometimes you are so sure in your heart, your intuition tells you to just dive in and do it. Even then some planning is usually wise. The bigger the risk the more value there is in planning in advance. You have to decide. Regarding daily or weekly tasks, if you have more work to do than you have time, you have to plan so that your time is well spent. If you have more time than things to do, planning is not so important.

8) Do you feel that owning your own business has been worth the conflicts that you have had to deal with?
Yes! Don’t give up on an idea because of fear. Life is difficult. Go ahead and do what you think is right no matter what anyone else says. Only you can decide if something is worth doing or not.

9) What previous types of work experience have you had?
Cutting grass and landscaping, working in a factory where I punched a time clock, life guarding, teaching swimming, and managing a community swimming pool, working in a bank.

10) How did you develop the idea for your enterprise?
By doing 8 months of research to see what opportunities existed and how they matched my skills, personality, and ambitions.

11) What type of planning did you do prior to starting up?
After deciding on the computer training business it took another 8 months to open the business. This consisted of research at libraries (before the Internet), meeting other people in the business, attending industry meetings, checking the local market and competition, preparing budgets and cash flow forecasts, negotiating leases for space and equipment, hiring and training staff, developing a marketing plan…

12) What pressures or problems occurred with the business? (If any)
There were more competitors in the business than anticipated reducing both revenues and gross margins; the market potential was less than forecasted; customers refused to change their information technology whenever the software publishers introduced new versions, reducing the demand for training; many individuals decided to teach themselves.

Rob, these are quick answers; if you want any elaboration please call or write.

Good luck!!

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