Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur: Networking Your Way to Success

By Donell Edwards

As the publisher of The College World Reporter© (CWR) one of my goals is to encourage a spirit of entrepreneurship among college students and all of our readers. Because we believe in the very near future, due to an unstable economy and the effects of rapidly and continuously changing technology, economic survival will depend on the ability to become entrepreneurs and business owners. Our position was recently validated in the article, Why Everyone Will Have To Become An Entrepreneur, published in the May 13, 2012 edition of Forbes’ Online Action Trumps Everything Blog.

The purpose of this article is to provide readers with an understanding of what entrepreneurship is, and the importance of networking in becoming a successful business owner or entrepreneur. As mentioned previously, we believe college students are in a very favorable position to become entrepreneurs or business owners. College students have access to a plethora of research, information, professional advice, counselors, and resources that are essentially free, that would cost an incredible amount of money if these services and resources had to be paid for.

In addition, there are many examples of phenomenally successful college student entrepreneurs who started businesses while still in college. For example, in 1973 Harvard University students Bill Gates and Paul Allen joined forces to launch the software company that changed everything, Microsoft. Yale University student Frederick (Fred) W. Smith wrote a term paper that later became the blueprint for the multi-billion dollar Federal Express (FedEx) overnight delivery service.  In 1984, while still a college student at the University of Texas-Austin, Michael Dell launched his computer company, which later became Dell Computers, from his dorm room. In 1999, Northeastern University student Shawn Fanning founded the popular music sharing service Napster.  Most recently, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who while students at Stanford University became co-founders of Google.   And in 2004, Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg launched what has become the phenomenon that is known around the world as Facebook from his dorm room.

These are just a few examples of what can be accomplished by college students, or anyone else for that matter that has a dream, or has a hobby that they are passionate about.  But it does not just happen.  And not everyone possesses the skills and other qualities required to be a successful entrepreneur. But anyone can learn.

So, do you have what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.  First of all, what is an entrepreneur.  To answer this question we asked one of the most widely recognized authorities in the world on entrepreneurship and networking to explain what is required to be a successful entrepreneur.   Dr. George Fraser is an internationally renowned speaker and New York Times best-selling author, and is considered an expert on networking and entrepreneurship by many knowledgeable people on that subject.

Dr. George Fraser

Dr. George Fraser

Dr. Fraser says in order to become a successful entrepreneur,  “I think that, are you a risk taker? I mean that ‘s what entrepreneurship is, it’s risks, it’s taking risks, it’s managed risks, it’s controlled risks.  But do you, are you a self-starter?  Do you need someone telling you and giving you directions each and every day? Are you a risk taker? Do you enjoy creating and making your own way? Do you have the work ethic? In other words, to be a successful entrepreneur requires 8 -12 hours of work a day? So ‘A’, do you have the work ethic, do you enjoy working long hours, because that’s what it’s going to take, especially if it’s something that you love; that ‘s number one.  Are you a risk taker, or does that stress you out, does it angst you out, taking risks? Those are the fundamental litmus tests for entrepreneurs, work ethic, taking risks, self-starting. Are you like that? And do you enjoy those things? Because that’s what it’s going to require, you’re going to have to work hard, you’re going to have to take risks, and you’re going to have to be a self-starter. No one is going to be there to tell you what to do and when to do it, you’re going to have to figure it out yourself.  So, do you have the discipline necessary, to go, secure the information necessary, to be successful in whatever business you’re going to be in.  Or do you just want to learn by your own mistakes? And, by the way if you’re doing that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.”  So, are you a risk taker? Are you prepared to put everything on the line, because that is what it is going to take.

By ‘everything’ I mean your time, your energy, your financial resources, your emotions, the potential of stressful family and personal relationships, and the unexpected.  That’s what it will take to be a successful entrepreneur.  But there is nothing like the reward of achieving success with a project that you envisioned, started, developed, and successfully brought to fruition.”

At the beginning of this article networking was mentioned as a key element in achieving success as an entrepreneur.  What is networking, and why is it so important?

According to Dr. Fraser,  “Networking is the identification and the building of relationships, for the purpose of sharing information, opportunities, and resources.  And the emphasis on that definition is on the building of relationships.   Sharing; because all of life is about relationships.  All of life is about working with and through other people. In fact there is no success that you can attain, sustain, or maintain on your own, by yourself, in a vacuum.  In fact the most powerful asset that you will have in the 21st century will not be your computer.  It will be your relationships.  It will be your relationships.  Why?  Because all entrepreneurship, all job searches, all upward mobility in the public and private sector workplace, all organization building, all community building, all nation building, are inherently, networking initiatives, that it is your ability to shape the scope of your search for human resources, and bring those resources to bear on your challenges and opportunities in life, is what will ultimately determine your level of excellence for success in life.  It’s all about relationships.”

It should be noted that there are all types of relationships, there are good relationships, bad relationships, mutually beneficial relationships, toxic relationships, and the list goes on.  To determine what relationships are most beneficial in building a powerful and effective network, begin with those closest to you, your inner circle of family and friends.   Dr. Fraser says he learned a very important lesson from observing those who were successful:  “I learned the need to remove toxic people and bloodsuckers from my life; people who drain you of your time of your energy and of your patience. This is very, very important, it is very easy to say, very difficult to do, why? Because many of those friends or those people are your family members, or your significant others, or people who claim to be your close friend. I say you need to really, really discern and to discriminate who you are hanging out with, who are your circle of friends?  Introduce me to your five closest friends and that will tell me who you are.”

So thus far we have learned that in order to become a successful entrepreneur, one must be a risk-taker, and one must become skilled at the art of building relationships, and one must carefully examine his or her inner circle to ensure that only those who are positive influences are included.

Since networking is such a vital part of the success of an entrepreneur, let’s spend a little more time discussing how to acquire the skills required to build positive relationships.   Dr. Fraser offers some insight into how this can be done.   Although his comments are directed to college students, anyone can follow this advice and succeed.   Dr. Fraser says, “There are so many ways that our young people should be practicing this whole idea of cultivating, nurturing, and building relationships. First they have to learn this whole art and science of networking.  And I think, I think really, college students, and I talk with them about this all the time, one of the most important things they can do to begin building their network is to volunteer.  So that they can learn new skills that they would not ordinarily have a chance to learn. And secondly, it puts them in front of people that they would not ordinarily meet, and it helps them to display the skills which they have and to make an impression on people who can impact their lives through job opportunities, through entrepreneurial opportunities.  So I think, having a sort of volunteer mindset, so that you can go out into the marketplace, and meet people; there is no question that every student in your college should be either volunteering for a summer position, or if they are smart enough and if they are good enough, they should put themselves in a position to be recruited to be a summer intern at a major corporation.  If for no other reason than to meet the important people in that organization and to make an impression.  If they can’t get a summer internship, then they need to volunteer in organizations where there are important people who are in areas in which they may have an interest.”

Volunteering is a great way for anyone to increase their knowledge, gain new and additional experience, and meet important people who may help advance their careers or help achieve their goals as an entrepreneur.   So seek out organizations and corporations that afford opportunities to volunteer. Be active as a volunteer in the community, get to know key leaders.  Take advantage of every opportunity to volunteer.

To summarize, the fundamental qualities required to become a successful entrepreneur are:

  • Being a risk-taker.
  • Learning to become an effective networker by building relationships.
  • Become an eager and enthusiastic volunteer.
  • And closely watching one’s inner circle of family and friends to ensure that negative influences are eliminated.

Although education and training are very important, these can be acquired, but the essential, fundamental qualities just mentioned must be present for anyone who desires to be a successful entrepreneur, or they must be learned and fully developed before you can network your way to success.

Related Article:  America’s Coolest College Start-ups 2013

About George Fraser:  George C. Fraser is the author of two critically acclaimed books:  Success Runs In Our Race; The Complete Guide to Effective Networking in the African American Community and Race For Success; The Ten Best Business Opportunities for Blacks In America.  He is the founder of the annual PowerNetworking Conference, where thousands of Black professionals, business owners, and community leaders gather to discuss and do business with each other.  Mr. Fraser is also the Chairman of Phoenix Village Academy, which consists of three Afrocentric charter schools that serves Cleveland and Akron, Ohio inner city children.  Over the past decade, the prestigious publication, Vital Speeches of the Day, has selected, reprinted and distributed worldwide, five of Mr. Fraser’s speeches; a first for any professional speaker in America, regardless of color.

About CWR Media Group
Donell Edwards is the founder and publisher of The College World Reporter (CWR) and CWR Media Group which publishes CWR World News and other digital publications, and manages The CWR Talk Network. The CWR is an empowerment magazine for college students and anyone interested in education and self-development. CWR World News is a daily newspaper that covers a wide range of topics on the domestic and international scene.

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