THE BLOG

Entrepreneurs Have Careers Too

09/01/2014 11:51 GMT | Updated 10/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Cruising around in a yacht, the sun is shining, and I'm with Playboy bunnies.

That's what I had in mind when I decided to be an entrepreneur. I was 15. It's easy to imagine successful entrepreneurs living the good life. Fast cars, private jets, yachts, St.Tropez, champagne, sunshine and rainbows, and for me girls in bikinis, lots of girls in bikinis.

I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn't really like that at all. In fact, we entrepreneurs, have careers too.

Let's think about it. For a lot of people, the career begins after University. A graduate job at a good firm where you work hard, build up your skills and then look to either move up within the firm, or leave to a new one at a higher position. Career building involves as much networking and politics as does actual work. And you have to do a lot of networking to do well. For many people, there may come a time, where to get to that next level, further qualifications are needed, mainly to stand out against your peers. So back to school they go. They study an MBA, or perhaps some more specific training on management, communication or other specific skills. At the same time, as the years roll by, many people get married, have kids, 'settle down'.

Meanwhile, the popular conception of successful entrepreneurs is that they have the good life. The grass seems greener for them. But actually, it's not. Most successful entrepreneurs I know, including several billionaires, still work 80 hours a week. Sure, they may enjoy a holiday or two here and there every year, but often it's with their families, not with playboy bunnies and often not on a yacht. A lot too, don't drive fast cars. Billionaire Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman is well known to drive a Honda civic.

And most importantly, us entrepreneurs are just like everyone else, with careers. We have to do exactly the same things to develop as entrepreneurs, as anyone in the corporate world.

1. Networking

To develop your career, you have to know people. Entrepreneurs have to know lots of people. For entrepreneurs, you need to know people to help you build a business. A lot needs to be done. Everything from HR to IT to stationary design, tax returns, legal structures and accounting to name but a few. And that's before you even think about what the business actually does. It's a lot for anyone to cover by them selves. Also, the more people you know, the easier and quicker it is to find the right people to help you.

2. Training

Every good entrepreneur appreciates that they have to be constantly learning. About ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, as well as about the market we're in. We have to learn from mistakes so as not to repeat them. We have to use our experience to be able to execute strategies more efficiently so we get better and better at doing the same things. Successful entrepreneurs read, a lot. Microsoft Bill Gates's annual reading list is legendary. Founder of Download.com, Mark Cuban, reads for three hours every night. I'm sure that isn't the only reason he sold his company to Yahoo for $5.6bn. (But it probably helped).

3. Profile building

Entrepreneurs also have to build out their profiles. Not to stand out in a company or rise through the corporate ladder, but to attract the most talented people to work with and often to attract financing to fund new ventures. The bigger and better your profile, the easier it is to launch a new business because there is a certain amount of awareness and buzz just because of who you are and what you're now doing.

4. Hard Work

Most people with successful careers work hard. So do entrepreneurs. To launch any new initiative, whether it's a company or a venture, takes a lot of focus and effort. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It's not uncommon for me to work 7 days a week for 90 hours, and I have a beautiful wife and a gorgeous new born baby. (No playboy bunnies and no yacht either).

5. Specialise

A lot of careers are built on specializing in a certain business function, area. Entrepreneurs are no different. Most of us fall into one, maybe two or three categories. Successful Pizza Express founder Luke Johnson, focuses on restaurants. Alan Sugar focuses on consumer goods, IT and real estate. Dragon's Den Peter Jones, focused on technology.

Of course, there are exceptions. It's difficult to count how many successful businesses in different categories Richard Branson has, but it' a lot. Some people just have a gift for business. But just like many people with successful careers, entrepreneurs focus and specialize. This way, you get to be really good in a certain field.

So, when you next think about how the grass could be greener, think again. In many ways, we're all entrepreneurs trying new things, in new ways, to make progress for ourselves, and the world around us.