Today, our Washington, D.C., National Capital Region is home to more than 1,000 international firms from 50 countries. More and more multinational companies are coming here to take advantage of what our region has to offer.
Washington, D.C. has the nation’s most educated workforce and the region is ranked third in entrepreneurial activity. According to INC Magazine, we have the largest number of fastest-growing private companies in America.
Our region is growing each day, and with unemployment rates significantly below the national average, we offer our students more opportunities to join a global corporation or venture and more opportunities to have an impact on our global business futures. The opportunities don’t end here in Washington. Today the opportunities for our students are truly global, and our graduates are increasing work around the world.
We are also very fortunate to live in a place with such a strong entrepreneurial history to inspire us. In 1607, the first successful English settlement in North America was founded in Virginia. Did you know that one important purpose of Jamestown was to provide investors with some profits from gold mining? These people were entrepreneurs, braving the unknown in search of something greater.
And although the economy has been very tough in the past few years, history proves that during tough economic times, our nation emerges stronger because of our entrepreneurial spirit. Many great companies were founded during times of recession—General Electric was formed during the panic of 1873; the Great Depression saw the beginnings of United Technologies (1929), Hewlett Packard (1939), and Revlon (1932); Apple Computer was founded during the recession of the ’80s and Google during the downturn in the ’90s; and P&G, IBM and FedEx were started during major economic downturns too.
Now is the time for entrepreneurs to follow their passions and career aspirations.
Remember that each face that passes you in the street could belong to the next entrepreneur or business leader who changes the world for the better. Maybe she’s the next Meg Whitman, or he’s the next Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs.
I am often asked if there are any tips for becoming a successful entrepreneur. We know that there is no specific course of action that applies to all entrepreneurial endeavors, but here are a few lessons we have learned along the way.
Get excited. Research has shown that one of the major predictors of success for entrepreneurs is their level of excitement and passion for what they are doing. Successful entrepreneurs do have that “special spark” of interest and passion—and yes, sometimes obsession—with their companies. So be sure to “plan your destiny” and “pursue your passions.”
Take on a mentor. The number one predictor of success as an entrepreneur is experience. Those who have been through the process before—even if they had an earlier failure—are much more likely to succeed. Learn from others who have the experience and that includes our own faculty at the School of Management. Our faculty are not only experienced entrepreneurs themselves but they have experience mentoring others. They run annual events such as the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, Dean’s Business Plan Competition, and Mason Entrepreneurship Research Conference. Our faculty also teach entrepreneurship labs and run the Next Step for Entrepreneurs program.
Don’t do this alone. We know that small teams of 3, 4 or 5 individuals are much more likely to succeed than the “Lone Ranger” entrepreneur. Our success truly depends upon our relationships.
Stick with it. Persistence is another trait of the successful entrepreneur. Many, in fact most, entrepreneurs have one or two or more failures behind them. Just one quick example: let’s go back to my mention of Steve Jobs and Apple Computers. We all know how wildly successful Apple is now, even surpassing Microsoft in market value as the largest computer firm. But do you remember the Apple “Lisa” machine and the “Newton” handheld device? And how many of you even knew about Steve Job’s venture called “Next”? Even for Steve Jobs, there were many failures on the road to global success.
We’ve all heard this quote from Thomas Edison before, but it certainly rings true. Remember that “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”