How do successful entrepreneurs think? What do they know, but keep to themselves? The goal of Kevin D. Johnson‘s book, The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs, is to answer that question, and for the most part, he succeeds.
However, what makes this a great read for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs is not merely the accuracy of Johnson’s insights into successful entrepreneurial thinking. It’s his recognition of the fact that succeeding as a business owner requires a mindset that is different than what it likely was prior to becoming an entrepreneur, and often different from that of the majority of the people you know. I often say that if you won’t change your mind, you can’t change your money; I believe this also applies to entrepreneurship. If we are to improve the success rates of new small businesses, we have to encourage the people who create them to understand and embrace an entrepreneurial mindset before they start their companies. Johnson’s book provides an excellent way to begin that process.
Johnson, the founder and CEO of Johnson Media Inc., launched his first business as an undergraduate at Morehouse College in Atlanta. A self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, Johnson has been an instructor for the Teenpreneurs Conference, which annually provides instruction to aspiring and established teen business owners at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, for several years. In his book, he identifies key lessons that he believes entrepreneurs must learn in seven areas: strategy, education, people, finance, marketing and sales, leadership and motivation. For each of the 100 lessons, he walks through the thinking of successful entrepreneurs, using examples from his own experience, as well as stories of high-profile business leaders including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank.
Some of these lessons identified by Johnson are fairly common to most books on entrepreneurship: Hire A Good Lawyer; Think Big. Others seem to go against conventional thinking and are squarely aimed at challenging cliched assumptions about successful business ownership: Business Comes First, Family Second; Find An Enemy. And at least a couple I actually take issue with: The Business Plan Is Overrated; What You Wear Isn’t What You’re Worth. But he makes confident, cogent and often witty cases for each of the lessons, and as a whole, they effectively drive home his larger point: To succeed as a business owner, you must change your way of thinking about work, money, opportunities, obstacles, the people around you, and perhaps most of all, yourself.
I strongly believe that too many business owners do not embrace entrepreneurial thinking until long after they’ve launched a business, if at all, leaving a trail of stillborn and failed ventures in their wake as they learn to adapt their thinking by trial and error. Even if you have no immediate plans to start your own company (and especially if you do, or already have), do yourself a favor and read Johnson’s book. Don’t wait to become an entrepreneur to develop an entrepreneurial mindset.