The Accidental Entrepreneur


Like many business owners, Susan-Urquhart Brown never expected to end up as an entrepreneur. Launching her own business spoke to her passions, but she soon realized there was much more to being a successful owner than she ever expected. In The Accidental Entrepreneur, she takes all the mystery out of going solo. For those who are just beginning to consider starting a venture as well as those who want to take their organization to the next level, she offers advice on what works and what doesn’t. With hard-won ...

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Like many business owners, Susan-Urquhart Brown never expected to end up as an entrepreneur. Launching her own business spoke to her passions, but she soon realized there was much more to being a successful owner than she ever expected. In The Accidental Entrepreneur, she takes all the mystery out of going solo. For those who are just beginning to consider starting a venture as well as those who want to take their organization to the next level, she offers advice on what works and what doesn’t. With hard-won wisdom and empathy, she shows readers:

• the 8 questions everyone should ask up front

• the top 10 traits of the successful entrepreneur

• how to obtain a license and sellers permit

• the best way to create a business plan

• 10 simple ways to get referrals

• the 6 secrets of marketing a business

• smart tips for investing and finance

• ways to avoid burnout

• how to avoid the 7 biggest pitfalls in business

Starting one’s own business should be exciting, not scary. This is the one book that will show readers how to create a successful and fulfilling venture they can be proud of.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“…a must-read for its simple and encouraging tone, which takes the mystery out of running your own business.” -- Curve magazine

“This is the best $20.00 you'll ever spend on your business. Hit the business section and pick it up now.” --

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814401675
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 7/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 708,549
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Urquhart-Brown (Oakland, CA) started her own company in 1995. As a business coach and mentor, she has encouraged thousands of people to build the business of their dreams. From 1998 to 2001, Susan wrote an advice column in The San Francisco Chronicle for entrepreneurs called, "Going Solo."

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Read an Excerpt


WHAT IS AN “accidental entrepreneur”? The answer is: a person who never expected to be self-employed or thought of herself or himself as an entrepreneur.

An accidental entrepreneur is not a born or natural entrepreneur, or even someone who is comfortable, at first, selling products or services. Accidental entrepreneurs don’t set out to be entrepreneurs; rather, they find themselves working on their own by chance or reluctant choice, and only gradually come to find that they enjoy it. At that point, they realize that they need to learn what they don’t already know—everything they can, in fact—in order to make their business a success.

Here are a few examples of accidental entrepreneurs:

• A communication specialist takes a retirement package, and a few months later she agrees to do a project for her former boss. The boss, enthused about the specialist’s work, recommends her to someone in another company. Soon she is working on projects for three companies. One day it dawns on her that she has a consulting business. This is fine with her. But so far this work came strictly through referrals. How can she market herself to other companies?

• An engineer has not been able to find work in the high-tech industry and needs money to pay his mortgage. He takes a substitute-teaching job at a ¬ local school and discovers that many of his students need tutoring in math. He starts an after-school tutoring program and discovers that he really enjoys working with students, especially those who are math-phobic. He ¬ realizes that he could build a business around this. But how?

• A therapist, counselor, or coach finds herself enjoying working one-on-one with clients and wants to build a private practice. She keeps her “day job” while slowly developing a referral base. At some point, she knows she wants to do this work full-time, but she doesn’t have enough clients to support herself to this degree. What steps does she need to take in order to accomplish this goal?

• A corporate refugee has a vision of living a quieter life, away from the city and the long commute. She manages to move with her husband to a small tourist town. However, this new area offers very few well-paying jobs. The couple realize that they need to make their living on their own, and decide to open a gift store, although neither of them has any retail ¬ experience. They decide to invest their savings in this store. What do they need to learn in order to make the store a moneymaker and to keep its doors open over time?

In all these cases, and many more like them, the decision to be an entrepreneur comes about gradually, as events change, priorities shift, and the need to make a living creates new needs and new possibilities. In almost every one of these cases, there’s a lot to consider before just jumping in, if the business is to get off the ground and keep on going.

Passion and motivation are the first considerations. Entrepreneurship is like running a marathon. You might run to lose weight, to get in shape, to prove you can do it, or for a cause. These are all good reasons. But do they have sticking power? Is your heart really in it? Before you take your first running step, it would help to ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” If your answer is, “Because I’m enthusiastic and passionate about it,” then you will have a good chance. When your heart is truly connected with your goal, then you are willing to train, to run, to move past your obstacles, to reach the finish line, and to celebrate your success—and then do it all over again! (The next time, however, you can learn from your mistakes and get to the finish line faster).

You may begin your entrepreneurial career by accident, but it’s important to make this move intentional as soon as possible. For only once it becomes intentional will you give your business the kind of care it needs, and make it possible for it to give back to you the kind of profit and enjoyment you hoped for in the first place.

Being an entrepreneur is far more creative than doing a job for someone else. Your business is a reflection of who you are and what you’re passionate about, as well as the unique expertise you have to offer the marketplace. If you are a sole proprietor—or, as I like to say, a “SoloPreneur”—you make all the decisions, you do most of the work, you solve the problems, you take the heat when things go wrong, and you bask in the glory when things go right. It’s exciting and scary, but you are doing what you love.

How to Use This Book

I wrote this book so that everyone whose heart’s desire is to have a successful business has the opportunity to create, sustain, and grow the business that best fits their expertise, passion, and the needs of their perfect clients or customers. This book is for entrepreneurs who have from zero to twenty employees.

This book will boost your confidence and give you the tools and techniques to reach your goals, one step at a time, as well as stories and practical tips from entrepreneurs who have taken the leap and have successful businesses! The book can be digested in bite-sized pieces. Look at the table of contents, then turn to the section that interests you most. Read one whole section at one sitting, or just read one chapter. Do one exercise. Prioritize the ideas, tools, or techniques that fit your business strategies and that you would like to implement. Apply the ideas directly to your business. Then add them to your action-item list or business plan.

In other words, this book is designed to be useful, practical, accessible, and encouraging, and, most of all, to guide you from being an accidental entrepreneur to being an intentional entrepreneur with a thriving business.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Jim Horan, ix

Acknowledgments, xi

Introduction, 1



Eight Questions to Ask Before You Start a Business, 5

Myths About Going into Business for Yourself, 8

Take the Entrepreneur Quiz!, 10



The Entrepreneurial Mystique, 13

Taking the Leap, 15

Ten Traits of the Successful Entrepeneur, 18

Know Why You're Going into Business, 19

Tune Up Your Entrepreneurial Skills, 22

Avoid the Seven Common Pitfalls in Business, 24



A Name That Grows with Your Business, 33

A Checklist for Setting Up Your Business, 35

Are You an Independent Contractor or an Employee?, 38

Which Business Structure Is Best for You?, 40

To Partner or Not to Partner, 46

Partnerships That Work, 48

Why a Business Plan?, 55

Target Your Market!, 58

Put Your Own Money on the Line: Investing and Financing, 60



What Motivates You to Keep Going?, 65

If You're the Boss, Who Keeps You Accountable?, 69

Magic Formula: Intuition and Intention, 72

Making Procrastination Work for You, 75

What Stops You in Your Tracks: Self-Sabotage and Resistance, 77

The Isolation of the “SoloPreneur”, 79

Burnout: How to De-Stress, 82

How Do You Spell Success?, 84

A Fork in the Road: Which Way Do You Go?, 88



Mind Your Ps and Qs, 91

Why Market Research?, 93

Going Green and Saving the Environment, 96

Six Secrets of Marketing Your Business, 100

Marketing = Sales!, 102

Ten Simple Ways to Get Referrals, 104

Six Sales Tips to Help You Sell with Confidence, 106

How to Get Unstuck in the Sales Cycle, 109

Position Yourself to Sell a Solution, 110

Why Customers Should Buy from You, 113

Strategic Networking, 115

Customer Service as a Sales Tool, 118

How to Cultivate That “Something Special” in Your Business, 122

How to Warm Up to Cold Calls, 126

Landing Consulting Gigs, 127

Dealing with Downtime in Your Business, 130



Keep-in-Touch Marketing Using the Internet, 133

Tips from Tech-Savvy Entrepreneurs, 136

Six Ways to Promote Your Business via the Web, 140

Web Promotion Action Plan, 145

Success Stories of Seasoned Web-Based Entrepreneurs, 147



Expanding Your Business, 155

How to Tickle Your Customers, 161

Hire Wisely the First Time, 163

Retaining Good Employees, 166

Action Plan—What's Next?, 168

Your Business from A to Z, 169

Index, 173

About the Author, 179

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