Random Xpat Rantings

Contemplative dominance for the modern man

Why entrepreneurialism is mis-represented

Posted by xsplat on December 14, 2013

Entrepreneurs may cut and paste from other businesses, but fundamentally they are going into the unknown. I’ve heard it said that 90% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years. I don’t think it’s that only the top 10% of people are smart enough to succeed, I think it’s more likely that the successful ones were the tenacious entrepreneurs 9th try.


My belief is that most people seeking advice on how to be an entrepreneur don’t actually want to be one. They want to have-been one.

There is no cook book recipe for going into the unknown. The cook book recipes are called franchises, and those come with steep costs and fees for a good reason. The unknown has been taken out of the equation for you.

In my last post I came down hard on motivational material and on ebook products for how to make money on the net. I’ll admit I don’t know what percent of my attitude comes from pride and arrogance. Pride in the “doing it my way” approach, and arrogance at easily dismissing other realities.

None the less, there is, I think, a fundamental thing entrepreneurs have to come to grips with that books won’t prepare them for. The unknown.

There actually have been books written about facing the unknown. Pema Chodron writes Buddhist based books on facing the unknown and opening up to that feeling of groundlessness without flinching away. Those are inspiring, and she even includes some techniques that can be practised to help create new neuronal synapses to re-wire habits so that we can deliberately take joy in going into what we know not.

We can read biographies of what other entrepreneurs did, and maybe some of the more clever writers will even be able to distil out some principles, in the same way Pema does.

But I don’t think that’s what people look for when they seek out marketing advice or entrepreneurial advice, and I don’t think that’s what’s being sold. What’s being sought after and sold is hope and out-dated recipes for what once sort of worked. Instructions for how to re-create a dead or dying franchise.

Market situations flux constantly, and many of the 90% of businesses that fail within 5 years were successfully following up on a trend before being cast aside. When I was a travelling vendor of imports I met a guy who caught the tie die trend of 1992 and wholesaled nationally to Walmart. Many entrepreneurs will constantly re-invent their businesses. Sometimes as they notice that it’s time to re-invent they’ll wring out some more money by publishing a book about how to duplicate what they no longer find enough profit in doing.

If an enterprise is scalable, then an enterprising businessman will scale it up. If importing Peruvian handicrafts is scalable in that there are enough profits to send out buyers and to open stores or send out salaried and commissioned travelling salesmen, then you will do that. If not, then you can write and sell an ebook about how to travel and get into sales of imports.

Travelling sales is a good way to get a feel for market cycles. You’ll meet a great many other entrepreneurs and over years see for yourself how your own and others businesses cycle. You’ll see how some businesses that were once amazingly profitable have now become a burden to the owner, who is trapped by a sunk cost of inventory that needs to be refreshed to keep the store functional but is no longer fast moving enough to pull in good money nor avoid much of it getting fashionably stale. So sometimes a vendor will just dump all his stock at a ridiculously low price, so that he can get out and start the next fresh thing. He has to do this before other people notice that the fashion is on the decline.

Ebooks are like that. The vendor is getting out, and selling you his hard won knowledge because it is no longer useful enough to him.

Successful SEO work is extremely valuable and is sold to clients at top dollar. If it works, it is scalable. From the principle above therefore you can conclude that any SEO advice you purchase no longer works that well.

The website http://www.blackhatworld.com is full of free advice that users share amongst each other about how to do search engine optimization work. It has an open-source, or socialist ethic. And of course service providers gain clients there.

Five years ago I was thrilled to discover it, and thought I’d now accelerate my business progress with the help of this huge resource of shared knowledge. I opened up a large office, renovated it, and had plans to scale up – offering the very services for sale that I’d seen discussed and advertised.

It didn’t turn out that way. I carefully studied all the plans and info available, hired staff to execute it, and worked hundreds of my own domains, focusing diligently on a few of my most valuable.

It didn’t work.

Ya, some things worked temporarily, but in the long run my best performing sites are the ones I didn’t touch at all. Some of my sites that I did SEO work for would flop up and down and eventually settled into the deep dark depths of the bottom of the rankings.

So I just stopped doing that, and focused on other things. Then a few months ago I went back to blackhatworld and made a post asking for SEO recommendations. It was time to try again. Radio silence. So I asked again. Only service providers answered, recommending their own services. I was persistent and stated and restated my desire for recommendations for an SEO specialist who was successful in their business of increasing ranks. Not one recommendation.

And from what I’ve written above, that’s exactly what you should expect.

Entrepreneurialism is not socialist. It’s capitalist. The good ideas are extremely valuable trade secrets, if they can be scaled up. And that’s what we aim for – scalable businesses.

I’ll try to come up with some tips for how to be a successful entrepreneur, but they will be very general, and won’t resemble a recipe you can follow. Entrepreneurialism is all about going into the unknown based upon your own creative vision. And tenacity.




jimmy said: The person who is likely to succeed or follow through is likely to have a thinking style (or personality style) that is in the very low single figure percentage of the population. Some one who naturally thinks laterally, thinks and operates outside the box/grid, has the internal drive to keep at some thing until completion, operates a high level on everything (or at least improves all the time), has the ability to change direction and learn from mistakes (most people have an aversion to failure), switch from details to big picture, etc etc – this is a low percentage person.

A lot of people like the idea of being in charge or creating some thing or like to read about different successful people (often you can only get any worth from these stories if you too have encountered similar problems as they did or share traits they may have) and they may even come up with very basic ideas themselves. But an idea is often the heading at the top of a very long blank piece of paper which they never seem to progress far down the page before stalling. Or maybe they see it as a hobby that is unlikely to progress far rather like being on a journey and not reaching any destination.

Another thing I find is that people can never accept or see the worth in the help that you are trying to provide them often for free (on the flip side people offer others advice that is worthless as well). You could be providing them with information that would generate gain for them but no return for yourself. Often these are from making the same mistakes and learning – having experience in the same field or transferable skills – or being at the coal face and from having done the work that a better strategy would have yielded better returns next time.

Sometimes they even arrive at the advice themselves – usually several years down the line – and then you think that having been proven correct that they might take your advice now – highly unlikely.
Perhaps this is why most people who do have the right traits operate on their own.

I guess you can only recognize your own type and if your type is in a low percentage then you very infrequently encounter that type of person.

6 Responses to “Why entrepreneurialism is mis-represented”

  1. jake said

    it’s like dudes with 1,000 post counts on game forums. i’m willing to bet anything that they have the saddest sex (and romance) lives, away from their keyboards.

    all the online stuffs about entrepreneur this, entrepreneur that, all the traffic bait entrepreneur news on brain aneurysm inducing sites like forbes.com. the guys reading all that, buying the ebooks, hanging out in the bookstores getting business self help books … (actually, those guys are at least getting off the couch) … it’s bullshit.

    doing your own business is like a crack habit. you’re either a crackhead, or you aren’t.

    nice writeup, x. i read your stuffs, and i realize i should just quit blog things (except when you get all deep end with your girl bits, which also excellent third party entertainment).


  2. FreeMan said

    You’re out there walking the walk, so obviously you’ve got the experience and you’ve lived what you write. I was a little discouraged by this post, but sometimes reality hurts. It is what it is and no reason to dwell on things we can’t change. Thank you for sharing your experience and preparing us for the reality on the ground. I’ve been a longtime reader of the site and in a way I think of you almost like a distant uncle, haha. I admire your free spirit, and I wish to someday share your lifestyle. I’ve debated with myself whether or not to start some kind of entrepreneurial venture, and in the end it’s just something I at least have to try.

    I’ve had a brief taste of life in southeast asia, and I am hooked. I’ve been to the Philippines 4 times now and I very much want to live there. The warmth and femininity of the women is unheard of here. I love the cheerfulness of the population, the weather, and I’m completely enamored by the culture. I gobble up all the history books I can find to immerse myself. Every day when I sit in my office job, I feel like I’m in a prison, I’m suffocating to be back in paradise. It’s a no brainer for me to do whatever I can to create an online business so I have the means to live where I want.

    Right now I’m employed in a well-paid engineering job with good benefits. I can use my overtime as vacation leave, and I make it out to SEA 2-3 times a year. I’m 26 and living with my parents to save as much money as I can to give me options for the future. This is my situation right now. It’s not perfect, but it’s OK for now.

    I’m planning on providing as much value as I can through my posts, and eventually ebooks. I don’t plan on selling motivation, but rather experience (which is limited due to my age). It’s worth a try. In the meantime, I’ll continue reading and glean some inspiration through osmosis. If I’m ever in your part of the globe I’d love to meet up at your convenience. Thanks again for your content!

  3. […] Entrepreneurs may cut and paste from other businesses, but fundamentally they are going into the unknown. I’ve heard it said that 90% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years.  […]

  4. […] Market situations flux constantly, and many of the 90% of businesses that fail within 5 years were s… […]

  5. “I’ve heard it said that 90% of new businesses fail within the first 5 years.”

    haha! I’ve just read this today, and that is how I opened my latest article. You go into SEO as well. Jesus, your blog is like an alternate universe for me.

  6. I mean parallel universe.

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