Entrepreneurship: Do’s and Don’ts for Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Katy Zimmerman – Host

Dr. Rahim has more than 10 years of experience in business development, non-profit administration, management consulting, and project management. He’s launched several businesses before continuing his education by earning a doctorate in management and a post-doctorate in marketing and management. I am thrilled to be discussing small business with you today. I know this is a topic that you are personally very passionate about. To start us off, could you tell us a little bit about your personal experience as an entrepreneur?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

I am extremely passionate about this, let me correct you right there. Entrepreneurship was by accident. I started my own business because there was a need. I noticed that there was a service that was currently not being offered to the population of people at agencies that I was working with. I saw an opportunity to fulfill that void and I stepped in. It was a great opportunity for me and my family.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

Sign of a true entrepreneur right there. Those who are considering following a new path, but are on the fence about taking such a big risk in their lives – what advice would you offer them to help them determine if this is the right step for them?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

I think you have to ask the right questions. You have to figure out what exactly you want to do and make sure that it fits your life – it fits your lifestyle. It’s also not just right for yourself, but for your family. I think often we don’t think about our family and how that plays a role to the family dynamics. So one, ask yourself the right questions. Why does this matter? Why is it important? Then look at your strengths and weaknesses. Why are you the best person to run this business? Why are you the best person to start this business? And look for those weaknesses that you will be challenged with and try to find out what type of resources you will need, what type of support, and what type of coaching. Asking yourself the right questions will help you look in the right direction. Then you can figure out if this is the right path. And if it is the right path, then you can start putting together a plan; you can start putting together a committee of advisors and coaches. You can start looking for education materials. Do your research; start reading, start getting counsel, and that will add to that resource library that you really need to start to stack up to make sure that this is the right fit.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

That’s great advice. I think that anybody who is considering opening their own business has probably heard of the unfavorable stats of how many small business ventures fail. I read an article today in business insider that quoted a recent survey of a thousand small-business owners that had a promising takeaway: 86% of the respondents believe that they can do anything that they set their minds to, while 77% said they would rather learn from failure than never try. There seems like there’s a big difference in the types of people who fail in small business and those who succeed. Potentially because of an attitude but perhaps their skill set and leadership qualities. What do you think are the most important skills or attributes a successful entrepreneur should have?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

I think one is determination. You have to be determined because you’re going to hit road blocks. That’s something we all experience. But if you are determined, you’ll get over that roadblock. You have to be intuitive with your surroundings, with yourself, and with people you talk to. We’re not just talking about customers, but with the people you surround yourself with. It’s family members, and whether it’s business coaches, accountants, lawyers – you have to be intuitive. You have to think creatively. If this product or service currently doesn’t exist, people are going to tell you that it’s going to fail. That’s something we don’t like to hear. The people we trust the most and the people we respect may tell you that it’s not a good idea; that it’s going to fail. You have to be able to brush that off your shoulder and move forward. Say that this is my dream, this is something that I aspire to do, and you have to be determined to push forward. So that’s the best advice that I can offer. Now Dr. Gene Landrum is one of my mentors and he’s the founder of Chuck E. Cheese. The guy is in his 60s but has so much energy, is so creative and is so innovative. The one thing that he told me which makes so much sense is that wouldn’t you rather fail on a small business and lose a couple thousand dollars and gain so much experience that you will be successful in your multimillion dollar startup? That makes more sense to me than anything else because he has told me that he has failed more than he has succeeded. But it was through those failures that made those successes very big. So when he did succeed, he succeeded very big.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

Great advice. If you don’t try, you can’t fail. And which is worse honestly? Do you think that entrepreneurs are born? Is it one of those professions where you either have it inside of you or you don’t?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

I think that some people are born with it and some people they inspire. They found an opportunity, took advantage of it, and have been successful ever since. I think people like Dr. Gene Landrum and people like him are very charismatic, very innovative, and very creative. So I think those people that are born with. But people like me? I saw an opportunity. I would’ve never thought about being an entrepreneur. I didn’t even know what entrepreneurship was – I can’t even spell entrepreneurship. So I saw an opportunity and I took advantage of it. It was scary, I’m not going to lie. I even quit my job to pursue it full time. I had to take a few part-time jobs just to make it happen. I lost a lot of sleep, I lost some money, but I learned so much from that process. I met some amazing people. I think that we often don’t take advantage of those people that are around us. Those people will be your strongest supporters if you include them in that process. They may not fully understand what you’re doing, but your family and friends do want you to be successful. So take advantage of that – you have to communicate. That’s what I learned to do. Make sure that those people that are important to me are aware of what I am doing and are aware of the process. And are fully aware of what I’m investing in.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

What do you think the biggest mistake most entrepreneurs make, and how could they avoid it?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

I think the first one is rushing. We tend to rush into things. We see an opportunity and we want instant gratification. So we rush into things because we’re afraid that we’re going to lose this opportunity. You hear about the Steve Jobs story or the Zuckerberg story, so you’re afraid you’re going to lose that opportunity if you don’t jump into it. But it’s very important to really think about it. It’s to really put it on a piece of paper and start doing some research. Often, those people who are successful when they jump into it is a very small percent. Those people who have actually thought about it, put it on paper, and seek advisement – the chances of them being successful increases. So my advice is don’t jump into it; do your research. That product could already exist. That service could already be provided. But it doesn’t mean that it ends there. By thinking it through, you’re providing yourself with a better understanding of what this is that you’re getting involved in. It provides more clarity to decide if this is the right fit for you.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

What are some of the latest innovations or technologies that new entrepreneurs should know about?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

First off, the Internet is an amazing tool. It’s something that was not fully utilized even five or ten years ago. There are a lot of people that are online that are part of these social entrepreneurship groups, designed thinking groups, and small business groups that want to support and help each other. So that idea of someone stealing your idea or your plan has shifted and people are looking to help each other. So one of the best tools in regards to funding, in regards to resource building, collecting, and sharing, is like Indie Go-Go – a great open source way to raise money and awareness of your product. Meetup.com is a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs to create events around your startup. There are tons of these websites that are dedicated to help you share your business idea. To help you gather feedback on your business idea. If you’re looking to develop a non-profit, I fully support that you look at the unreasonable institute. It’s a great resource for you to understand what it is to be a social entrepreneur. What type of resources are available and what type of funding is available. If you’re looking to initiate a tech startup, look at the technology garden or rocket ship. These are great examples of websites and groups that support new tech startups. If you’re looking to startup a small business, check your local chambers, check your small business association, and check your local startup groups like score that provides advisements. Maybe your local university has something like that. There is so much more, and these things didn’t exist when I started my business. And all you have to do is just go to Google. It’s simple, but there’s so much of it out there now.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

I’m sure that’s reassuring that there are so many resources out there that are available to help people. Thank you for going through that list. We’ve gone over a lot of information today. For someone who’s taking that all in, where do you suggest that they start? What are the first steps that they should take down this path to becoming an entrepreneur?

Dr. Emad Rahim – CTU Business Alum and Real-World Faculty Member

There’s a lot of discussion happening around the business plan. Why is it important? Is it still relevant? Should students go to school if they are entrepreneurs? Those examples of people dropping out instead of continuing their education, and start their business and become successful – it’s a small percentage. My recommendation first off is to educate yourself. It may be pursuing a degree, it may be research, it may be seeking advisement – but you need to educate yourself. You need to know what this business is. Why is this an opportunity? Are you the right person to lead it? What type of resources do you need? Who should be a part of it? What type of communication plan should you have in place to make sure people are aware of this opportunity? So I always say to just put it on a piece of paper. Whether you start off with a business plan or a SWOT analysis, you need to figure out why this business is important and how do you contribute to that. Then you can figure out exactly where the gaps are. We start seeing our strengths and say “Okay, I know that. This is something I clearly understand and something I have a lot of knowledge in”. But you’re going to identify a lot more weaknesses. You’re going to notice those gaps. Because of those gaps, you’re going to say, “I need to know these people, I need to know this information, I need to have this technology, and I need to seek these groups of people to support me in answering these questions”. That will lead you in the right path. I always say start off with that. Start off by putting it on a piece of paper, think it through, and do some research around it.

Katy Zimmerman – Host

Thank you so much. You’ve provided some extremely valuable information for our viewers today and I look forward to hearing feedback and responses from everyone on how they’re taking these steps and putting them into action in their own lives. Thank you for taking the time today to speak to us on this important subject for aspiring entrepreneurs. Dr. Rahim is active on Twitter, you can follow him @CTUBusiness and be sure to check out the CTU faculty blog as well for more insights and hot topics for entrepreneurs. Thank you Dr. Rahim, have a wonderful day.


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