Expert Kevin D. Johnson On What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur

What you have to do, and who you must become, for inevitable success


Many would argue that ‘failure,’ in some form or another, is inevitable when looking towards success. What happens, though, to the psyche, spirit and tenacity of an entrepreneur when faced with failure, and how do you look past that failure in hopes of ultimately succeeding? CEO of Johnson Media Inc. and bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Mind, Kevin D. Johnson, helps us find out.

[Related: Code Fever Founder Felecia Hatcher Talks Keys to Lasting Success] What do you think are the psychological effects of failing in an entrepreneurial pursuit?

Johnson: One of the most difficult psychological effects of failing in an entrepreneurial pursuit is a lack of confidence that in many cases prevents an entrepreneur from moving forward. The failure causes the entrepreneur to distort reality and doubt his or her capabilities for achieving success.

What makes a successful entrepreneur?

The overriding characteristic that successful entrepreneurs have is endurance. A recent study of 10,000 entrepreneurs revealed that approximately 63% of the respondents took 11 years to reach $1 million in annual revenue. It took my company, Johnson Media Inc., nearly 11 years to reach the $1 million mark. During those 11 years, I wanted to throw in the towel, but I kept going; working hard. I often ask young people in their 20s and 30s are they willing to wait 11 agonizing years to be a millionaire. Surprisingly, many say that time horizon is too long and the emotional cost too high.

What are the tell-all signs that an entrepreneurial venture will be unsuccessful?

Companies led by people who are arrogant, passionless, untrustworthy, or unprepared are prone to fail.  This is truer for early-stage companies.

What should an entrepreneur do to lessen/avoid the chances of failing in their ventures?

(1) Conduct thorough customer discovery. Don’t focus on your product; focus on what the customer needs. (2) Find an advocate. Notice that I didn’t say a mentor, which is the common advice you may hear and is certainly valid. However, an advocate will actively support your business. He or she will not only give you advice, but also will bring you business.

What is the next step after a seemingly large failure in business/entrepreneurship?

Immediately, do something that you love and is recreational.  It is so important to detach and decompress from time to time. It helps you to really value what is most important in life.

What can be done to overcome failure? How does one bounce back?

‘The Entrepreneur Mind’ suggests thinking differently, and this is certainly the case when it comes to overcoming failure. Entrepreneurs who possess The Entrepreneur Mind look at a major setback as an opportunity, a lesson to be learned on the way to ultimate success. Entrepreneurs bounce back quickly because they (1) engage themselves in a supportive, entrepreneurial ecosystem, (2) analyze their faults, and (3) use the lessons learned to propel them faster to success.

Register Now to learn more on successful entrepreneurship at the 2016 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit, May 4-7, Loews Hotel Miami, Miami, Florida.


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