What is Entrepreneurship?

As an Adjunct Professor at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School, I taught a course on financing new ventures.  Most of the students came into the class thinking about creating the next venture-backed, tech IPO and that this is the type of business that an “Entrepreneur” would build.  They thought that entrepreneurs are high risk/high reward seekers with new and innovative ideas. Many grappled with the false dichotomy of taking a corporate Fortune 500 job or “being an entrepreneur.”  These choices are actually not mutually exclusive.  I think we need to broaden our definition of entrepreneurship and of what it means to be entrepreneurial..  I am currently a part owner of three entrepreneurial ventures and the active CEO of one: Zylun, an offshore outsourcing firm; Oxzen, an internet marketing company; and pestnet.com, an authority on everything pest control related.  None of these businesses will be the next hot tech IPO, but they are all great, profitable, entrepreneurial ventures where I can be creative and solve pain in the market.

When I think of entrepreneurs and their mindset the following attributes come to mind:

  • Problem solver
  • Innovative
  • Visionary
  • Creative
  • Leadership
  • Brave/Courageous
  • Hard working
  • Smart
  • Embraces the Risk/Reward tradeoff
  • Optimistic

True entrepreneurs apply these talents and mindsets in many types of businesses and industries— this is the essence of entrepreneurship.  The business itself could really be anything: it could be the hot, venture-backed tech company in Silicon Valley, but it also could be starting a small bootstrapped retail store, running a franchise location, managing an intrepreneurial project at a big company, taking over the family business, taking a traditional brick and mortar business online, or buying a small business.  Most of the entrepreneurship in the US happens at small obscure companies on every street corner across the country. These ventures may never make the owners wealthy, but this entrepreneurial spirit is one of the things that drive our economy and make our country great.


I read a brief article this morning titled, “True Secret to Success.”  It reminded me how important Gratitude is to our success, happiness, and optimism in life.  Significant personal and professional successes, life events, tragedies, and holidays (like Thanksgiving) remind us to show our gratitude.  But the real key to happiness is showing our gratitude daily.  Over the last few years both in business and personal settings, I have had people recommend that I write a daily gratitude journal.  I figured I ought to give it a try since I have always kept a daily journal.  Every day at the top of my entry I simply write the first three things that come to my mind that I am grateful for.  The list often includes my wife, children, family, God, Jesus Christ, friends, health, freedom, America, opportunity, time, nature, business success, etc.  No matter how bad the day before was or how stressful the current day may be, I always have many things to be grateful for, and when I identify even a few of those things each day, I feel optimistic about the day ahead.  I have found so much fulfillment in this daily exercise that each Monday as we start the week, our entire family sits down together and we each list the three things we are most grateful for.  Gratitude can be expressed in other ways as well. For those who are religious, daily prayer is an opportunity to show gratitude to God, the source of all things we have to be grateful for.   Whether it be through a gratitude journal, daily prayer, or daily meditation, I know that showing daily gratitude in all areas of our lives is a “True Secret to Success.”


Creating a Valuable Network…Give First, Give More

Every day we hear about networking.  Whether it’s through Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Twitter, or more traditional face to face networking, we almost all do it. But why?  There is obvious social, personal, and business value to networking, but I want to focus on business.  To me, a network has zero value unless it is actionable.  What do I mean by actionable? An actionable network is one that you can go to with confidence when you need a job, promotion, advice, friendship, or recommendation.  I truly believe that it is the quality of our relationships—not the quantity—that will set our network apart.   So, how do you build and obtain value from an actionable network?  Many of the things I will discuss are common sense, age-old truths (such as do unto others as you would have them do unto you), or come from well-known books (such as How to win friends and influence people).

Give First, Give More

-To build an actionable network, you must go in with the mindset that you are going to give more than you receive.  Don’t be a leech; you will quickly suck the value of your network dry.

-What can you give? Time, Knowledge, Money, Empathy, Hard work, Contacts, Jobs, Recommendations

Respect your network

-Respect their Time-Remember that everyone in your network has their own problems and responsibilities.  Don’t waste their time and always give something in return

-Respect their Privacy-Your network should be treated like a prized possession.  Be careful who you share your network with, and protect your key contacts from leeches.

Regular, Relevant contact

-The meaning of regular may differ for each connection in your network.  I have a core group of contacts I make sure to talk with every month, but with most of my contacts, I reach out quarterly or semi-annually

-Relevant contact could include sending an article or link related to their business/industry, birthday and Christmas letter, response to their requests, introductions to members of your network, lunch, or golf.

-Don’t reach out only when you need something

Build your Value to the Network

-People will want to connect with you as you become more valuable to the network and are an actionable player in those networks.  The following will help you increase your value to the network:

-See 1 and 2 above

-Expanding your Professional Experience

-Character/Absolute Integrity

-Hard work, performance, execution


-Bring your Actionable Network to the table

Be Bold

-Once you have built an Actionable Network, you can have the confidence to reach out to them when you are in need

Bootstrapping is a state of mind

In the process of starting multiple companies, teaching a financing new ventures class at BYU, advising entrepreneurs, and investing in startups, I have often encountered the question of whether to bootstrap or raise capital from the outset.  The answer to this question is often a matter of opinion, and I am heavily biased towards bootstrapping as long as you can.  The funny thing is that as much as this topic is debated, it is usually a moot point because many companies can’t raise money and have to bootstrap.  The reality is that most companies will never raise a penny of venture capital or go public, not because the business is bad, but because it may not have the potential for a 10x+ return, scale fast enough, or is not in a sexy industry.  I’ll admit that there are times when raising money is essential to get to market quickly, grab market share, expand globally, or build/upgrade the management team, but even in these scenarios, the bootstrapping mindset can still exist.

I like the bootstrapping mentality because it helps the company develop discipline, create culture, and value every dollar, and keeps ownership and control with the founders.  Even if you ultimately raise outside capital, bootstrapping as long as you can is crucial to maximizing your valuation.  I have fond memories of the early days of Zylun—sharing a basement office with another company, with 3 employees working out of the storage closet.  That experience and those stories have molded our company’s culture to focus on ROI of everything we do, question every dollar spent, and focus on profit not just revenue.  Because we worked so hard in the early days of our business to instill the bootstrapping mentality, our US team and Philippines team are constantly focused on increasing the bottom line and allocating company resources to their best use.  When in doubt, Bootstrap.