The “self-made” title is a badge many entrepreneurs wear proudly. It’s seen as the gold standard for success. You’ve done the undoable and beaten the odds stacked against you to create something that separates you from countless others. So now you get to claim all the glory — or do you?
The idea of being self-made — although a massive self-pat on the back — is in reality a myth. Entrepreneurial success relies on the insights, guidance, experiences, observations, and interactions of others. The following are five reasons the self-made entrepreneur is a myth.
Entrepreneurs will either fall into the category of providing a product or a service. Assuming you came up with the idea for said product or service without the insight and feedback of others, you would still need an opportunity or platform to share that product or service with paying customers. That opportunity might be as subtle as having someone mention your name in a room of decision-makers or as straightforward as you participate in an episode of Shark Tank. Whether that opportunity was paid for or organic, someone has taken a chance on or believed in you enough to support you on your journey.
We don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes even we don’t even know what we do know! That is why successful entrepreneurs turn to mentors, coaches, and advisors at different points in their journeys to cover their blind spots. Education can take different forms, from traditional classroom learning to one-on-one mentoring with an experienced leader. Whatever path to learning you take, you will be dependent on someone else’s shared knowledge and experience to teach you what to do and how to do it on your path to success.
The difference between success and failure as an entrepreneur might be a third-degree connection. Earlier I suggested that someone might mention your name in a room full of decision-makers, but the thing that would make that person feel inclined to mention your name is the relationship you’ve cultivated with them. Relationships are important to entrepreneurial success, whether they are with customers or clients, with investors or stakeholders, or are the relationships with friends and family that keep you encouraged, motivated, and fulfilled. The relationships you build can also help determine where you get your first round of investment capital.
Your investors are either going to help you bring your product or service to market or help you scale. One of the biggest obstacles facing small businesses is funding. Without investors, you might be left footing the bill for all marketing tasks, research, and development, the creation of systems, distribution, and all other operating expenses. Unless you are going into your business independently wealthy, you are going to rely on the capital of others to help get you where you want to be.
Customers and clients
You can’t have a business if you aren’t making money. If nothing else, customers and clients are going to be the primary reason for your existence as an entrepreneur. Even if you somehow manage to navigate past all previous obstacles on your own, you will need the rallying of customers and clients to your specific aim or goal in order to reach some version of success. Your success is a direct correlation of the people who buy into and trust your product or service, therefore it can never be attained by yourself. Self-made is a myth because success simply doesn’t exist in a vacuum.