John Goullet is a successful entrepreneur with over three decades of experience scaling companies within the IT staffing industry.
Entrepreneurship is an enticing concept. Whether you were leaning back in your desk chair and daydreaming about being your own boss, or perhaps sitting in bed when you were suddenly struck with a “million dollar idea”, the odds are at one point or another you have considered pursuing becoming an entrepreneur.
The idea of building something from the ground up, growing rich and successful because of it, and creating a legacy that will outlast you is certainly appealing, so it's no wonder that over 600,000 new businesses are started each year. Unfortunately, approximately 20 percent of those businesses will fail within two years, 45 percent during the first five years, and within a decade only 35 percent of them will still be around.
The fact of the matter is that entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. It is a humbling practice in constantly learning from both your triumphs and mistakes, and to pursue it requires discipline and sacrifice. It's not an easy road, and according to John Goullet, an IT staffing executive who founded his company nearly 30 years ago, the decision to become an entrepreneur should not be made without putting in the time to reflect on what it truly means.
John Goullet has spent the past three decades building his business amidst the massive technological shifts that have occurred since the turn of the century. He held the role of CEO for his company Info Technologies, Inc. for fifteen years from the time of its inception to when it successfully merged with Diversant, Inc. and became Diversant LLC. John Goullet has since held the position of chairman for the organization for over a decade. Both Info Technologies, Inc. and Diversant LLC have been named to Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies in the country, and Diversant LLC is among the United States’ top 25 largest IT staffing firms.
John Goullet emphasizes that while he has found success through entrepreneurship, it is imperative that one asks oneself the right questions before deciding to embark on the journey. Below are some of the most important questions that can help form a big picture idea of how you would fare as an entrepreneur.
First and foremost, it is important to reflect on why you have a desire to enter entrepreneurship. One of the most common “wrong” reasons for becoming an entrepreneur is the unrealistic expectation that it is a way to get rich quick, when in reality it is a highly intensive process for a business to become profitable, and entrepreneurs cannot hope to see any personal monetary gains until that has happened. John Goullet says that there is a strong possibility you will work for years without ever seeing a dime of the money your company earns yourself, and that he personally can think of a thousand other ways one could make money faster than entrepreneurship.
In fact, each year thousands of entrepreneurs go into massive personal debt in order to get their new business off the ground. This is the true definition of entrepreneurship: it involves a level of commitment that goes beyond the average businessman, becoming a personal investment both in terms of money and time. Therefore, your motivation for becoming an entrepreneur must be greater than simply viewing it as a way to make money.
If you’ve been able to determine that money or some other unrealistic expectation is not the motivation for your desire to pursue entrepreneurship, the hope would be that the reasoning you have settled on lives somewhere in your passion for the work. Running and leading a business is often a harrowing endeavor, and there will inevitably be low moments in which you question whether you made the right decision. John Goullet says that once the initial rush of adrenaline and excitement has faded, it is important to have something deeper that will keep you moving forward through difficult times.
That deeper drive comes from the passion you have for your product or service. This doesn’t mean that, for example, if you are starting an IT staffing business that you must feel passionate about IT staffing. Instead, the passion should be based in a belief that what you are bringing to the table is adding value to the world, it is filling a hole in the market that would ultimately be empty without its presence.
Anytime you start a business there is a 50 percent chance that in five years it will have failed. While blunt, it is important that potential entrepreneurs wrap their head around this concept, because it ultimately points to the level of risk that pursuing entrepreneurship entails. When you are an employee of a company you do not ultimately bear the burden of mistakes beyond how they affect personal career aspirations, but for business owners they carry more weight.
The fact of the matter is that starting and growing a business is filled with taking risks. John Goullet argues that realistically a business won’t succeed if its leader is so risk-averse they aren’t willing to take chances. Whether it’s quitting your day job or signing a lease on a new space, nothing about starting a business is for the faint of heart. There’s no guarantee of success – or even a steady paycheck – and even if you have enough passion to launch a thousand ventures there are still a number of unexpected circumstances that can result in your failure, from the state of the markets to a kink in supply chains that can’t be easily ironed out. What is your level of comfortability with risk? If it fills you with excitement in addition to a healthy amount of fear, that might be a good indicator that you can handle the uncertainty and disappointments entrepreneurship brings.
When it’s your business, every decision comes down to you – no one else is going to make them for you. From your first hour in business on you will be asked to make decisions every day, and more often than not the “correct” answer will not be clear. As an exercise, think about how you might handle these early decisions: When do I hire employees? Do I work from home or do I lease office space? Do I pursue a niche clientele or appeal to a broader audience? Do I incorporate? Do I advertise? Do I borrow money from family and friends? Do I use my entire savings?
John Goullet says that if these questions alone have left you feeling overwhelmed it is important to realize that the decision-making process only gets more difficult and complicated the further you get in the process, especially once you have stakeholders besides yourself such as clients and employees. The choices you make are ultimately what leads to the success or downfall of the entire company, so being able to balance trusting your gut while also making informed decisions is crucial.
An essential aspect of being a good business owner is knowing yourself well enough to acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. While it would be wonderful if everybody had the ability to start and run a business, the fact of the matter is there are going to be people who are more suited for it than others. While the answer to these questions shouldn’t ultimately be deciding factors in whether you choose to pursue entrepreneurship, they are important considerations that have the ability to point you in the right direction.
Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners. Alongside automotive journalism, Felix recently graduated from university with a finance degree and enjoys helping students and other young founders grow their projects.