8 Must Have Attitudes For The Entrepreneur Who Tackles A Downturn Economy

When I first started my recruitment company in 2005, companies were still paying top level (and sometimes mid-level) sales professionals (discipline I started with) $100,000 a year and up. For me, this meant that even though in my ramp-up period my business volume was low (not many customers), my revenue wasn’t, as there is somewhat of a direct relationship between employee compensation and recruiter compensation for finding that individual.

Those days are gone. My company receives over twenty times the amount of hiring inquires compared to when I started the firm, but we get about the same total number of high-paying sales positions.

As long as you don’t count sanity as a requisite for survival, I survived and I guess one could say thrived. Here are eight tips based on the mentality that built an employment-related company when I’m sure many thought it could not be done.

It's Tough In Today's Economy

1. If There’s Not Much To Feast On, Many Are Going To Suffer Famine

… But it doesn’t have to be you.

What I’ve learned is that many who are not happy with the performance of their business are used to an old economy in which they could cut basic corners and still do well. That is no longer the way of the world.

The only way to remain intact these days is to have a rule that every piece of work you have to do can be nothing short of better than your last and better than what you thought you could do.

Stick to this rule and you may often be frustrated, but rarely will you be disappointed in the results.

2. Stay Away From Negativity

… And always be around ambition.

Human beings are imperfect animals and one of our most universal faults is blaming outside forces for what has gone wrong instead of taking accountability for our actions.

This imperfection is in abundance and when the economy is not going well, it blooms like so much toxic algae.

Understand that we make our own destiny – not an economy, not others, but ourselves.

When possible try to stay away from people who are not upbeat, passionate and energetic, as cynicism is a success killer.

3. In Many Instances, Tenacity Is A Virtue, Not Patience

Never rely on what you did yesterday regardless of how grand, because if you don’t produce with the same tenacity, you’ll never grow.

When you own a business, procrastination must become a thing of the past.  We are creatures of habit and this is one that you must break to survive.

I’ll do that tomorrow,” becomes a sigh followed by “I’ll brew a cup of coffee.”  Let the other guy procrastinate, keep at it and see how quickly you begin to get the jump on these individuals.

4. Don’t Like, Don’t Love, Become Infatuated With What You Do

Many don’t think this is possible, but many people don’t want to be entrepreneurs.

Make it possible by choosing a business that combines the two “P’s” which are your “passion” for _______ and the ability for that passion to lead to realistic “profitability.”

If either variable is less than 30%, I would recommend taking a second look prior to starting your venture.

Employees can love their jobs; entrepreneurs must make a job a lifetime masterpiece.

5. Let Your Work Promote You, Not Your Words

… And don’t let the amount of money you make control your perceived self worth.

Self promotion is for losers and if you’re doing it, learn to stop.

People are too wrapped up in their own lives to really care about what you’re doing, how much money you’re making, etc., unless it somehow involves or interests them.

Regardless of how successful you are, it’s best to remain humble.

It has become a frustration of mine that I see someone and the first thing they bring up is how well they are doing in business. It comes across as insecure and, even though it’s not meant to, it alludes to the fact that I am ignorant enough to judge individuals by how successful they are.

6. Your Ambitions Must Be Larger Than Life, Your Ego Is A Different Story

When starting a business, you must be filled with a driving ambition and check your ego the same moment you register your corporate domain.

To hire my first employee, I had to get on Monster.com (a tool I had for the recruiting biz) and begin cold-calling applicants who would hang up, not call back, and treat me as if I were somehow lower than them because I worked out of an apartment.

Last open job my company posted, we got… see #5.

7. Read, But Question The Writer, Listen But Question The News

When I began writing, I would read articles by “entrepreneurs” that were as egotistical as they were inaccurate.

Prior to buying into what an entrepreneur says, determine whether:

a) The person has a successful company or whether they are blogging about a list of future projects and “it just wasn’t the right time” flops.

b) They make as much money as they say.

c) You agree with their advice.

Television, including reality TV, follows the same rules as online writing… plus, if you’re aspiring, you should not be watching TV; read a book.

8. Believe That The Work You Are Doing Will Pay Off

The reason why many don’t start their own business is because they mentally cannot get over the doubt as to whether the work that they are doing will pay off.

Eventually, that doubt (which has not a bit of merit) leads to forfeiting one’s dreams.

I’ve had this doubt and I’m sure all entrepreneurs have at one time or another, though this is the work that can and will lead to your masterpiece; your freedom from having a boss.

Remember that just because it doesn’t pay, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t pay off.

In Closing

Regardless of how many doors may be shut and despite the odds that are against you, opening a business in any economy is possible.

It’s your choice, do you want to be a Pirate of Silicon Valley or one with a sunken ship?


Photo courtesy of EvelynGiggles

About Ken Sundheim

At age 25, Ken Sundheim started KAS Placement Recruitment and Staffing from a studio apartment in New York. With no industry experience nor contacts, Ken learned the staffing business out of a book. KAS Placement now has two offices and is currently nominated as America's Most Promising Companies in 2012 by Forbes Magazine. Ken has previously contributed to NYTimes.com, WSJ.com, USAToday.com, Forbes and many more. You can read more at kensundheim.com.

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  • Great post. I especially liked #4. I once heard a very successful internet marketing explain that the secret to his success was “obsession” – he was obsessed with making is business successful. Similar idea to “infatuation” I think.

    • I think infatuation is an absolute necessity to an entrepreneur. No matter what your business models are they are going to hit road blocks. Liking that business model might get you over some, loving it will get you over more, but in order to get through all of them you must be absolutely obsessed with what you are doing and the idea that it cannot fail. In my opinion the mentality should be this with any business venture “Succeed or Die” and I can almost guarantee you’ll succeed.

  • Thanks for the great article. I do feel that if you have the vision and the passion you will succeed. There can be 10 restaurants in the same street. if you food and service is superior, you will get the customers!

  • Wow Ken, a lot of good stuff here. It’s true that in order to succeed in any type of business venture that you have to be willing to go the extra mile. Most employees do the bare minimum when it comes to their jobs and that is why they are not getting to where they want to be.

    • I couldn’t put it better than the following: Most employees do the bare minimum when it comes to their jobs and that is why they are not getting to where they want to be.

      I have come to say that our country’s wealth (not sure if you’re from the States) has made many people complacent because they feel that they deserve a good salary and an upper middle class life because they are American.

      The best education I got as an entrepreneur was seeing how my vendors worked and what really is status-quo and how to exploit it.

      At times, working with these people was frustrating, but I began to notice that corporate America was like this and, if they were my competitors, I could figure a way around them.

      It’s hard to get to this point, however, as an entrepreneur it is very satisfying when you do.

      I really appreciate you reading.


  • Thank you for an interesting post regarding starting a business, particularly in today’s economy. Though I enjoyed all of the points, I feel that I want to comment on number 7 as the most important point.

    Everything you read has to be questioned. Sometimes people believe they have success because of a specific; the truth is that something for which they are not aware may actually be the reason for the success or failure. You have to test and question advice to make sure it is right for your situation.

  • Awesome tips Ken and cool channel!… ;]

  • I think, every entrepreneur should know those 8 key ingredients that lead to business success – they are important when the economy isn’t doing so well, but they are also important in a high flying economy. Whenever I start a new venture, sooner or later I get problems with point 8 (Believe That The Work You Are Doing Will Pay Off) – when things aren’t going so well (especially at the beginning) it’s often very difficult to keep on believing that everything will work out fine.

  • Love point no4 “Your Ambitions Must Be Larger Than Life, Your Ego Is A Different Story” – at times I see individuals wanting to start a business, but makes me wonder when they don’t have any ambitions or drive.
    If you don’t, your business is just as good as the one on the next block.

  • Big fan of this statement, “The only way to remain intact these days is to have a rule that every piece of work you have to do can be nothing short of better than your last and better than what you thought you could do.”

    I feel like society tries to go for the short cuts and avoids quality. I definitely think work progresses much faster when you invest time in to creating a quality piece of work.

  • Great tips Ken. Every single one of them resounds with me. However, the last one was the most poignant because of what I’m facing right now as I build my online business.

    I have to believe that the work I’m doing will pay off because very few people seem to. The world of online businesses is strange to those around me, especially my parents and they seem to think I’m wasting away on the computer night after night. Of course if I had put all that energy to building a brick and mortar business, like a law firm, it would have made more sense to them.

    However, my husband believes in me and more importantly, I believe in me. I have to. There are few ‘entrepreneurs’ I listen to, but I tend to pay attention to those that write for EJ. Thanks for the post.

    • “The world of online businesses is strange to those around me, especially my parents and they seem to think I’m wasting away on the computer night after night.”

      Hi Sharon,

      First, thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback.

      Regarding your parents, I turned down a job at a major bank b/f starting my business. My mother almost killed me.

      Once you start to see the smallest amount to success, they’ll come around and will be your biggest fans.

      Just keep up that work that doesn’t pay directly as it will.

  • It’s typical for many new entrepreneurs to tie their businesses closely to their egos. This is a self-defeating mindset, as it gives the person a sense of ownership and propriety over the business, when it should more inclusive.

  • Great tips, i would also recommend just perseverance as nothing is guaranteed in business

  • Some great tips here, I have found the same thing happen in the industry I work in, that I now have more customers onboard but you can no longer charge the labour rate that you could 6 years ago.

  • Brilliant. Really needed this. Thanks Ken.

  • This is a WONDERFUL article. Not only are these points so true, they are uplifting. I agree with all of them, but love No. 2, 3, 4 and 8.

  • I always keep in mind that ANY sort of work I do will pay off. At least in it’s own way. Sometimes, it’s the usual monetary compensation, sometimes it’s meeting new people and making new contacts while doing so, sometimes it’s acquiring new skills and in the worst case scenario – it’s learning a hard lesson what not to do ever again.

  • J

    Really like this article. It is always a challenging to take the steps of putting a business together. The hurdle of leaping into this economy and feeling confident is not easy to say the least. Entrepreneurship is never having a guarantee to fall back on. The only thing you have is a positive attitude, hard work and adaptability. —Thanks for the tips!

  • I agree that #4 is the most important. As an entrepreneur you’ve got to truly be consumed with what you’re doing, one bit of lost interest and your whole business will fall apart.

  • Hey Ken,

    I wanted to leave you a quick comment here because this is definitely an article that I feel I’ve lived through myself. So many of the points you made were not only thought-provoking, but really made me sit back and look over my past year and see if I’m doing things to the best of my abilities.

    The first and perhaps most thought-provoking point I want to mention is point #5 that you made about people who brag about their business success and how it oozes with insecurity. This is so true and I even know someone who fits this description perfectly, and you’re right – it’s difficult to have a conversation with them because A) their first question is always ‘how much is your business bringing in?’, and B) they place way too much of someone’s self-worth on income. Unreal, it’s like you were reading my mind here.

    I also want to mention point #2, which you say ‘always be around ambition’. I know you originally mentioned staying away from negativity, but I think too many people are hanging around with negative individuals and it’s pulling them back from the success they so desperately crave. I’ve made it a point in my business to insert myself into only circles of people who are passionate and ambitious and who truly believe they’re on the path to success. It’s a contagious thing to be around people like this, and the more you’re around it the more successful you will be, and oddly enough being around ambition makes me enjoy life so much more as a whole.

    And finally, point # 1 – No cutting corners… That is so true – especially for all of us internet entrepreneurs!! So many people can come online and start a ‘business’ and there is so much volume out there today that sometimes you get lost in the sea of crap… so I definitely try to put 100% into everything I do, I think these days it’s going to be the only way to rise above the masses and truly achieve the success you’re after.

    Thanks Ken for writing this, I’ll keep an eye out for more of your stuff here from now on!


    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for taking the time to give me an in-depth synopsis that I feel definitely warrants some response.

      The main reason for writing about staying around positive people is that when I became successful; I noticed attitudes towards me changing, which at first was difficult, but I understood their feelings as we are all human and don’t always wish everyone well.

      As a matter of fact, I used to get emails from competing firms telling me to drop dead (a nice touch).

      From those days, I don’t always recommend networking with other entrepreneurs who may not be all that supportive because sometimes it could lead to disappointment.

      With regards to “no cutting corners,” that is something that popped into my head right away simply for the fact that many aspiring entrepreneurs think that things will fall into place naturally.

      Owning a business is more of an offensive.

      Hope this is helpful and provides you with a bit of more insight into what I feel.

      • Hey Ken,

        Thanks for your reply!

        That really is unfortunate that people’s attitudes changed just because you realized your dreams – but as you said many people don’t wish others well – quite unfortunate.

        I agree with what you’re saying that entrepreneurs these days do thing everything is just going to happen, but we know this really isn’t the case. I actually graduated from medical school three years ago and was planning on a lucrative career as an anesthesiologist, but I struggled greatly in getting my visa to work in the US, so I actually turned to business because my original plan was simply not working out the way I thought it would. Luckily I have always known I’d run a business at some point or another – but you’re right, people think it’s going to just ‘happen’, but it doesn’t.

        I really appreciate your response, I actually found your article to be something I enjoyed reading and used it as the basis for a video on my blog – I really hope you don’t mind!

        I’ll be back to read more from you Ken,



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