Entrepreneurs are unsung heroes of US economy

Columnist Harvey Mackay says they are the people who take risks to bring ideas to the marketplace.

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In a famous circus act, a juggler starts one plate spinning on a stick, then puts the stick on a slot on a table, starts another plate spinning on another stick, and then he gets a third one started. By this time, the first plate needs some help to keep going. Now he starts a fourth plate spinning and gives some needed attention to plates two and three. The juggler has to keep moving around, keeping all the plates spinning.

Entrepreneurs are like that. They need to keep moving to keep all the plates spinning.

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I still have trouble spelling the word, but I didn't let that stop me. I wanted to be my own boss and have a team around me.

November is National Entrepreneurship Month, an ideal time to recognize the unsung heroes of our economy. The third Tuesday of November (Nov. 16 this year) is recognized as National Entrepreneur's Day. There's no big celebration or presents or Hallmark card selection.

I just like the idea that we can celebrate people who take risks to bring their ideas to the marketplace, because entrepreneurs are the ones who start the companies that create most new jobs.


There are more than 31 million entrepreneurs in the United States, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, and their businesses employ nearly half of all workers. Approximately 55% of U.S. adults have started at least one business in their lifetime, and 26% have started two or more businesses. Few entrepreneurs are successful the first time they try. If you can survive to fight again, you haven't failed.

More and more working-age Americans are starting or running new businesses. Also, a growing number of people are considering entrepreneurship as a career option, with 51% of the working population believing now is a good time to branch out on their own.

I have found that the most successful entrepreneurs -- yours truly included -- started working for an established company to gain valuable experience. Starting one's career as an entrepreneur is usually a bad way to spring off the starting block. Statistics show that 46% of small business entrepreneurs are between the ages of 41 and 56.

Entrepreneurs must be risk-takers. Mistakes are part of the process. They are not afraid to step out of their comfort zone. I have a saying that applies here: No risk, no success. Know risk, know success.

The founder of a highly successful company was asked what it took to succeed. He answered, "The same thing it took to get started: a sense of urgency." No matter how intelligent or able you may be, if you don't have a sense of urgency, you'd better start developing it now. The world is full of competent people who honestly intend to do things tomorrow; however, tomorrow seldom comes for them. Many individuals with less talent are more successful because they understand the importance of urgency.

Entrepreneurs have a lot of I's -- instincts, impulse, inspiration and innovation. They know how to improvise with the best. Business, like the rest of life, rarely comes with an edited script. Mastering improvisation is a surefire way to become better at everything you do.

Why do entrepreneurs succeed? It's usually not just because they are chasing a pot of gold. It's because they love doing something new. They love changing the rules of the game, and they know how to harness a team to tackle challenges.

It's said that entrepreneurs often show themselves early. If that's the case, starting at age 10, I was delivering newspapers and later setting pins in a bowling alley. I had a variety of jobs not just because I loved to make money, but also because I loved learning about success. A modest start, but the seeds were sown.


Entrepreneurs are often like a firefighter running into a situation everyone else is trying to leave. But successful entrepreneurs know what they're doing. They have a mission and a plan, just like the firefighter.

Mackay's Moral: Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't.

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at , by emailing or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

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