US Department of State: Principles of Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneur's challenge is to balance decisiveness with caution – to be a person of action who does not procrastinate before seizing an opportunity – and at the same time, to be ready for an opportunity by having done all the preparatory work possible to reduce the risks of the new endeavor.

Preparatory work includes evaluating the market opportunity, developing the product or service, preparing a good business plan, figuring out how much capital is needed, and making arrangements to obtain that capital.

Through careful analysis of entrepreneurs' successes and failures, economists have identified key factors for up-and-coming business owners to consider closely. Taking them into account can reduce risk. In contrast, paying them no attention can precipitate the downfall of a new enterprise.

Motivation: What is the incentive for starting a business? Is it money alone? True, many entrepreneurs achieve great wealth. However, money is almost always tight in the startup and early phases of a new business. Many entrepreneurs do not even take a salary until they can do so and still leave the firm with a positive cash flow.

Strategy: What is the strategy for distinguishing the product or service? Is the plan to compete solely on the basis of selling price? Price is important, but most economists agree that it is extremely risky to compete on price alone. Large firms that produce huge quantities have the advantage in lowering costs.

Realistic Vision: Is there a realistic vision of the enterprise's potential? Insufficient operating funds are the cause of many failed businesses. Entrepreneurs often underestimate start-up costs and overestimate sales revenues in their business plans. Some analysts advise adding 50 percent to final cost estimates and reducing sales projections. Only then can the entrepreneur examine cash flow projections and decide if he or she is ready to launch a new business.

Last modified: Thursday, June 25, 2015, 1:14 PM