4 Important Points Black Entrepreneurs Should Know About Success - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

There are a lot of definitions of success. Black entrepreneurs, in particular, need to define it for themselves. It’s part of the experience of entrepreneurship—since you’re the boss you also decide what counts as succeeding. Unfortunately, defining success is difficult. There are a number of things you should know about success that will help you figure out what it means to you.

Overnight Success Can’t (and often doesn’t) Happen Quickly

Whatever your definition of success is, it’s important to understand that overnight success is impossible. You have before you a task that takes years to complete—creating a successful startup. Before that happens, a lot of things need to go right and you’ll lose a lot of sleep over it.

Fact is, you only hear about a lot of people when they hit it big. You don’t hear about the effort that went on behind the scenes, the long days when it felt like they were throwing their lives away. What looks like overnight access is just when they reached critical mass and made the kind of noise that everyone hears.

Succeeding Doesn’t Mean a Problem-Free Life

“I was 40 years old before I became an overnight success, and I’d been publishing for 20 years,” said acclaimed poet Mary Karr. At some point in your life, you may have thrown up your hands and wished all your problems away. Of course, that wish went unfulfilled and you went on with your life trying to find solutions instead of folding. That’s why you went into entrepreneurship—perhaps with financial independence in wealth, you can solve all your problems.

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Unfortunately, success doesn’t mean your problems will go away. All that changes is the context in which you handle problems. Financially successful people, for example, have a lot more tools at their disposal. They can handle more problems with less effort, which means problems don’t impact their lives as much as they would someone in financial distress.

It’s important to remember that while it doesn’t mean a problem-free life awaits you in success, it does mean that certain problems cease troubling you. While they’re replaced with new kinds of problems, it can be nice to feel that certain concerns that haunted you throughout your life no longer have any power over your day.

Success Doesn’t Involve Having All the Answers

Much of entrepreneurship involves uncertainty. Unfortunately, that uncertainty never really leaves. As your business grows and revenue starts coming in consistently, you cut down on some of the questions, such as how you’re going to pay for rent next month. However, even when things are all set and you’ve grown it into a large and stable company, the questions don’t stop coming.

The competition will push you to keep finding solutions to various problems. Even when you feel like you’ve succeeded, you’ll never stop looking for answers. You’ll never stop looking for the next thing that will keep you ahead of the competition and in the hearts of your customers. Knowing this is important—not only will this keep questions from keeping the feeling of success at bay, but it will also keep you from delaying important tasks out due to the misguided idea that you can get all the answers.

You And Your Startup Will Need to Constantly Grow and Change

At the heart of every successful entrepreneur is change and growth. Who you are now isn’t the same person who can take a startup to the next level and make it a stable business. To do that, you must constantly learn and improve. The same principle should be applied to your startup.

Don’t expect your starting systems and practices to stay forever. While you may stumble across something that won’t require improvement until years from now, chances are your current solutions are stopgap measures, something that lets the startup function while you put ideas and money together for a more permanent option. It doesn’t stop there—you might not even have the same target market or product after a few months.

Don’t be afraid to change yourself or the startup if evidence and experience suggest that your current path isn’t working. Yours isn’t the first company to pivot, and it won’t be the last. Better to change things up as early as possible. The longer you take to change things, the more difficult it becomes.

Figuring out what success means for you as an entrepreneur can take a lot of soul-searching. Knowing what it doesn’t involve or mean can help you narrow down the list. The sooner you figure out what it means for you, the sooner you can develop cleaner and more objective plans.

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Jeff Shuford

Jeff Shuford is a nationally syndicated columnist whose monthly column appears in more than 44 regional newspapers. Shuford is one of fewer than five millennial African-American syndicated columnists in the United States, and one of the country's youngest syndicated columnists overall.


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