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Red, White and Entrepreneur

As we approach Fourth of July festivities this week, I’m feeling patriotic, and I’m reminded of how much entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of America. Being an entrepreneur is about as patriotic as you can get — as American as apple pie, fireworks and lemonade stands. As Americans, we have a strong collective work ethic and a deep desire to make things better for the next generation — being entrepreneurial is simply who we are.

When I was 11 years old, my parents bought me a popcorn machine. That summer, I set up shop in the company my dad ran and sold popcorn and Snickers candy bars. Running your own business at the age of 11 is no joke: I had to keep the books, manage the concessions inventory and follow my dad’s spot-on advice:

1. Treat everyone with respect.

2. Give them more than they asked for.

So I made sure that the popcorn was overflowing, and for every tenth bag of popcorn I sold, I gave one away. My little popcorn stand was so successful that the company went on to build their own, permanent concessions stand by the following summer — and I was out of business, having learned a very early lesson in capitalism.

Though I have had many stops and starts along the way, the entrepreneurial spirit I acquired at the age of 11 is still a part of who I am. Like many people who possess an entrepreneur’s spirit within, I still look for opportunities to not just work for something great, but also to build something great, and to creatively innovate to solve problems for people. But I’ve had to learn how to discern when the right time is right to leap into something new and unfamiliar.

Maybe you’re digging deep to find your inner entrepreneur right now. Perhaps you’re contemplating the start of a new business, licensing a franchise or taking on a new position. Besides just trusting your gut, how do you know when the time is right to leap and not look back?

Several years ago, a business that I had poured my heart and soul into abruptly came to a halt. I found myself exhausted, with a skewed decision making compass, and an uncertainty about where to reinvest, refocus and recharge. After pausing for reflection, I was able to determine a set of criteria that I could stand any future opportunity against and gauge when to leap. I came to the realization that any future endeavor would have to meet three qualifications:

· The right market timing

· The dollars to support sustainable growth in a reasonable timeframe

· The right people to partner with

I viewed these things like a three-legged stool; if all three weren’t present, the entire opportunity would be out of balance. Being out of balance meant that I would eventually have to overcompensate for the imbalance and the opportunity wouldn’t be as successful. Over the years, this three-legged stool has never let me down.

My patriotic self is betting that you have your own version of a three-legged stool — one that allows you to take control, find your inner entrepreneur and set yourself up for on-going opportunities. With a little self-reflection, you can find it. I’m certain it will bring you back to your all-American roots and waving a red, white and entrepreneurial flag. Happy Independence Day!

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