I was recently a speaker at an event in Kansas City, sponsored by U.S. SourceLink, America's largest resource network for entrepreneurs. Acknowledging the national importance of entrepreneurship to America's economic growth, one of the attendees there asked an important question: How do we encourage more people to become entrepreneurs? As an entrepreneur, investor and former corporate executive, I'd like to take a crack at an answer.
- It's exhilarating. There are few jobs more exciting than taking an idea and building a business out of it. Yes, it can also be pretty terrifying, but it's worth it.
- You'll learn tons about yourself. How you handle leadership, stress, rejection, exhaustion and admiration -- these are all important things to know for whatever future career you might have. Becoming an entrepreneur will be sure to teach you.
- You'll have dominion over your own time. Yes, you'll work a lot of hours. But, the hours you choose to work will be up to you. If you like working in the middle of the night, that's fine. If you are raising children, you can carve out time after school. Even though your obligations run 24/7, you can still be the master of your time.
- Drinking water from a fire hose can be fun. Most entrepreneurs don't understand all of the components required to successfully run a business. Many get discreet elements like technology or management or finance. But, since launching a business requires broad operational expertise, there's always plenty to learn.
- Wireless technology has made it so much easier. As a result of faster wireless networks, smartphones and tablets, the ability to sell beyond your own backyard and connect to investors and customers has never been easier. I started a tech company in a coffee shop with Wi-Fi. So have many others. As technology evolves to include the Internet of things and ever expanding opportunities for video communications and greater global access, these possibilities will only increase.
It's hard to imagine that one day your idea would grow to be a full-fledged company with employees and products and profits. It's also difficult to describe the euphoria of a first investment or sale. But it happens every day. From low-tech to high-tech businesses, in big cities and rural and small town America, it happens over and over. Entrepreneurs are key to America's economic growth -- so for anyone considering it, I'd recommend thinking about it seriously. It's a truly rewarding journey.
Diane Smith is a former telecom executive, CEO of American Rural and serves on the board of Mobile Future. She was a co-founder and chief executive officer of a ground-breaking IPTV and advanced media services company in Kalispell, Montana.