Success – an entrepreneurial perspective

What is success?
Is money the definition of entrepreneurial success or does the entrepreneurial spirit define success in different terms to what many ill informed observers believe? So, what truly drives the entrepreneur to succeed?

Introduction to entrepreneurial success 

Money is success” has become the mantra of our age.
But does money really deliver the success it promises? Sure, it is near impossible to be a successful entrepreneur and not have it, but money does not define success for the entrepreneurial spirit which sees it as simply the natural outcome from a life dedicated to never giving up, dedicated to overcoming the challenges of life in all its forms and dedicated to seeking genuine fulfilment from life’s journey. But the ill informed on seeing the correlation between money and this spirit, seek out money as a pathway to own it. This misguided pursuit is none more evident than in the plethora of ‘Get Rich Quick’ schemes that masquerade as delivering an easy entrepreneurial success, but they have got it wrong as nothing could be further from the truth!


Entrepreneurial success and money 

Entrepreneurial success is defined, driven and derived from a world unrelated to excessive greed, flashy trappings and in need of external acknowledgement. For the entrepreneur knows that whilst money is often the accompaniment of a successful life, it is not the measure of it.

Anyway, if money alone defined success, then the likes of Mozart, Rembrandt, Vivaldi, Oscar Wilde, Orson Welles, Jimi Hendrix and Judy Garland are failures indeed – for they all died paupers!

The true entrepreneur measures success using a variety of scales unknown and even derided by the “Get Rich Quick” schemers: typcial measures like contentment, character, conscience, commitment and continuance. Entrepreneurial success is intensely personal. The entrepreneur knows what success is – for them. For them success is not just an outcome – it is the journey.

Whilst others may covet the entrepreneur’s money and spirit of success, the entrepreneur knows that this external manifestation of success is just the tip of the iceberg – Desire, dedication, determination, concentration, self-discipline, effort, courage, hard work, sacrifice, singleness of purpose, unswerving focus and a will to win are the bits that most never see and the “Get Rich Quick” schemers fail to disclose as pre-requisites.

But the incessant marketing message to our age, that money delivers success, is the classic ‘cart before the horse’ scenario. The sad outcome from this misaligned pursuit is often a life characterised by its emptiness, soullessness and discontent. For not everything that looks like success is success and we all know many successful people who wish they were.

The entrepreneurial spirit puts their personally defined pursuit of success centre stage, with spin-offs like money being simply the accompaniments and servants of the main game. This entrepreneurial view is far too focused on living a successful life to think too much about the money anyway. People of this ilk can live without possessions but they can’t live without success. Success for them is something far greater than just possessions, money and status and includes intangible assets like destiny, legacy and life meaning.
Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop retail chain, is quoted as saying;
“I want to define success by redefining it. For me it isn’t that solely mythical definition – glamour, allure, power of wealth, and the privilege from care. Any definition of success should be personal because it’s so transitory. It’s about shaping my own destiny.”
Henry Ford

As Henry Ford is quoted as saying:

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.”

Many people are fooled into believing that the trappings of success and the fulfilment earned on the journey to success are inexorably linked and it matters not in which order they are pursued. By the time these people find out the truth it may be too late, because they will have spent their life to get money instead of spending their money to get a life. So I believe that the trappings, like money, should be viewed as ‘outcomes from’ not ‘pathways to’ success.


Definition of entrepreneurial success 

The term ‘success’ obviously needs qualification. For example: some world dictators have also been very successful, at murdering thousands of their countrymen just as other business people have been very successful at making huge wealth by either destroying our environment or by the ill-gotten plundering of the investments made by naïve investors.

Entrepreneurial success is not defined by these types of activities. When asked to define entrepreneurial success, Richard Branson says

“It is the satisfaction of doing it for yourself and motivating others to work with you in bringing it about. It is about the fun, innovation, creativity with the rewards being far greater than purely financial.”.

For other entrepreneurs, it is simply finding a way to pay the bills whilst they do what they truly enjoy. For these people, money is important but it does not define them. They seek definition from doing what sustains, doing what they want and doing what they ought. It is pursuing their destiny via the work they love and doing the work that is right for them.

Now success is a concept that society attempts to define but in fact only an individual can define it for themselves. For success comes to us in many guises, but only one truly fits. Others, for fair gain or foul, will direct us towards their meaning of success. The trouble with adopting someone else’s success is that you can never have it. For whose success will you really achieve anyway? – yours or theirs? It is a strong character indeed that can pursue their own success without the need of external acknowledgement. But this is the entrepreneurial spirit, in that it chooses to live their brand of a successful life – with or without this acknowledgement.

What is also least evident to others, in observing entrepreneurial success, is the perseverance that is required to achieve it. For entrepreneurial success is all about timing i.e. being there at the moment when it matters as well as the 99 times when it didn’t. The entrepreneur knows that there is a hard work that leads to success and there is another that just leads to perseverance. But they press on believing that countless setbacks will eventually be redeemed by just one moment of solitary success.

Guy Kawasaki in his book ‘The Art of the Start’ talks about the need for meaning in entrepreneurial development and establishment. For him though, “Meaning is not about money, power, or prestige. It’s not even about creating a fun place to work. Among the meanings of “meaning” are to;
• Make the world a better place.
• Increase the quality of life.
• Right a terrible wrong.
• Prevent the end of something good.”

Read a manifesto on the Art of the Start here.



Other aspects of entrepreneurial success 

For the ill-informed, entrepreneurial success is defined and evidenced by the acquiring of what we don’t have but true success for the entrepreneur is more about holding on to what they have. They know that precious possessions like integrity, creativity, passion, freedom and their legacy are all threatened by the improper application of money, power and fame.

The other aspect of entrepreneurial success least promoted is that it must be sustainable. There is no arrival for the true entrepreneur, only continuance. For them, true success must be sustainable. They have witnessed success in others being a sweet poison in that it has strangled the drive for continuous development in many a great talent. Entrepreneurial success is not in pursuit of an outcome but rather a process of continually overcoming challenges. The entrepreneur knows that if you look for it, you will find success in your failure but if you don’t lookout you may find the failure in your success.

Furthermore, success in not necessarily about winning. For winning does not guarantee success just as losing is no automatic failure and when you only define success as winning, then you are truly on the road to personal failure. The entrepreneurial journey calls for you to focus on being a better person not necessarily to be better than everyone else. Even in personal relationships, successful people seek to win the person, not the argument.

Now nothing characterises entrepreneurial success more than that it is a journey, and that must first past the milestones of indifference, ridicule and attack. Continuing on this road to success they must also pass many milestones marked disappointment. But continue they do, which is why these entrepreneurs are successful long before they are recognized as such and why it takes many nights to become an overnight success. These entrepreneurs would rather a failed greatness than to settle for a mediocre success


Quotes about entrepreneurial success


Entrepreneurial success is available to all and here are a few of my insights that may help guide you:

Irrespective of the challenge – taking personal responsibility is the starting point for all successful achievers.

Success is the child of belief.

No one big right decision creates success – it takes thousands of little ones!

Success starts at the point where everyone else stops. Success is the extra mile.

Honour is the salt in success.

If you want 10 successes then attempt 100.

Individual success is best achieved by taking everyone with you.

Success = An optimist in thought + a pessimist in action.

Successful people have only themselves to blame.

Today’s win was born of your prior will to win the will.

If at first you don’t succeed – congratulations, you’ve made it to first base.

You know your a success when even failure can’t stop you.

What value success in a mediocre world?

Losers quit, blame or cheat; winners don’t.

Real success is in what remains after you don’t.

May death find me in the midst of some very important yet unfinished work.


Summary – Entrepreneurial Success

Often the missing ingredient in an entrepreneurial life that whilst possessing the inner contentment of success, still lacks the external trappings, is fate. These entrepreneurs realise that whilst all who succeed did it right, not all who do it right will always succeed. But undeterred, the entrepreneur will continue the journey comforted by the belief that ‘their time will come’.
Past or current setbacks may have robbed the entrepreneur of their external trappings but as Henry Ford again said:

“For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and griefs which we endure help us in our marching onward”

So, whilst the need to constantly achieve is the essence of entrepreneurial success it is underpinned by a drive that goes to the very core of the entrepreneurial spirit where the definition of success is beyond even achievement – it is rather, living a life committed to never giving up, to always continuing, to overcoming whatever the challenge may be that confronts us today and embracing the commitment to getting up and starting it all over again, if fate so decrees.

Success as defined by: 

My Creed by Dr. Dean Alfange*

“I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon—if I can. I seek opportunity—not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, all this I have done.”

  or as Ralph Waldo Emerson (the 19th century american essayist and poet) stated:

“Success:  To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!”

Is this not what entrepreneurial success truly means?
* Originally published in This Week Magazine and reprinted in The Reader’s Digest in October 1952 and January 1954. Honorable Dean Alfange was an American statesman, a WWI War veteran,  a candidate for governor of New York, a law graduate from  Colombia University and Professor Emeritus at UMass Amherst. He was born December 2, 1899, in Constantinople (now Istanbul) and died in Manhattan at the age of 91 on October 27, 1989

About the author

These days Peter Baskerville likes to call himself a New Venture Architect. This is because he is keen to impart the knowledge and insights he has gained from establishing over 13 new ventures (involving over 30 outlets) to help budding entrepreneurs of today design and build sucessful new ventures.
As a teacher, mentor and coach to hundreds of ‘real world’ new venture intenders, Peter now wishes to share his expertise with the millions of intenders scattered across the globe who have been brought together via the medium of the internet. He has contributed many works on entrepreneurship here on Knol and on other content publishing platforms. He fully intends to continue expanding this body of work as well as provide value-added resources via his website, designed to help people start and succeed in their own business.



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