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Passion & hard work: Best practices of the best small businesses

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Passion & hard work: Best practices of the best small businesses

Americans embrace an entrepreneurial spirit. About 10 percent of the labor force — or more than 15 million people — work for themselves, according to the Bureau for Labor Statistics. Successful small-business owners create jobs and economic opportunity while avoiding mistakes and seizing innovation and the future.

Right state of mind

“Entrepreneurship is a wonderful mindset and skillset to develop, no matter what you do, but understand that it is not easy,” said Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. “It is a craft, not a science or an art, that needs to be mastered through acquiring the right mindset, studying it, applying the knowledge in practice to build capability through apprenticeships, and finally, through learning how to be a productive part of a community.

“Once you have done this, which is not easy and takes time and effort, you will control your own destiny to be a job creator, not a job seeker. You will be able to build great things — organizations, offerings — that change your environment and hopefully the world, but you have to have the ability to fight through some downturns. In entrepreneurship, like life but even more so, the elevator does not always go up. It will often go down with great speed, and you have to be ready for and embrace the ride as well as the end result,” Aulet said.

Be passionate

“I have been engaged with hundreds of entrepreneurs throughout my career, and the common thread to successful entrepreneurs is passion,” said Marc Compeau, instructor of consumer and organizational studies in the School of Business, Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York. “If you are passionate about what you’re building, your venture around you will be fine.

“No matter how well-crafted the plan or how well-funded the idea, roadblocks and challenges will arise almost daily, particularly in the early days. Passion will get you through each one. Passion will make you fight. Passion will make you find a solution when others can’t see one, and passion will inspire those you are leading to give you their very best.”

Avoid assuming

One of the biggest mistakes an entrepreneur can make is assuming there is a market.

“Just because you love [your idea], doesn’t mean enough people will love it to make your idea a profitable venture,” Compeau said. “Prove the demand exists; better yet, let the market tell you what the problem is and solve it for them — just do it in an area that you’re passionate about.”

Find what’s ripe for disruption

In addition to the technology sector, opportunity to disrupt the market is everywhere.

“If you had said ‘taxis’ will be a multibillion-dollar opportunity 10 years ago, people would have laughed, but it is today,” Aulet said. “That being said, one that I find interesting is food distribution. Did you know that 40 percent of the food we grow goes to waste in a country where two-thirds of the people are overweight or obese? Yet food scarcity is a problem elsewhere in the world. Food needs to be healthier and more effectively delivered to the right places. This represents a compelling social and economic opportunity, but it is not unique.”

“I would be chasing something that can’t be sold on the internet,” said Compeau, who thinks health care is ready for innovation. “I wonder about the potential return of hometown, small-niche market shops on Main Street that provide a sense of community. I speculate, hope, that millennials are looking for that, and they are beginning to settle into hometowns that will profit on their busy lives.”

Thinking about starting your own business? Try Eastern Bank (back page).