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5 success secrets from an unlikely entrepreneur

Alan Manly
Alan Manly
21 July 2017 3 minute readShare

When you think of a typical entrepreneur, you might envision a tech-savvy Zuckerberg-ish type with quality education or money behind them. But in truth, there are many forms of entrepreneurs and not all of them are as you’d expect.

I’m neither a genius nor over educated, and I’m definitely not the creator of a world marvel – but I created a thriving global business from scratch. And you know what? You can make a global success of your business too.

Here are five key things I learnt about creating your own entrepreneurial success:


1. Dress to exude success

Remember that every call is a sales call. Style your image to be comparable to the most successful in your field.

Every industry has a dress code of sorts. If you don’t feel comfortable or don’t wish to conform to the current industry code, buy an expansive outfit that declares success!


The goal is to look established, thereby by dismissing the image of a risky entrepreneur. After all, being an entrepreneur is risky enough without having your wardrobe scream that you are a rebel as well.

The message you want others to get from a meeting with you is of a confident and successful business person proposing a product, not a daring person in the fashion world.

2. Get a customer

All you need to have in a business is a customer. Sounds obvious, but it is the real challenge for any entrepreneur. The first customer is harder to get than anything else.

A major challenge is that the risk-taking entrepreneur has to sell their product to their first customer based on the opportunity of using a new product.



Overcoming the natural concern of buying a product from a risk-taker is the skill required by an entrepreneur. Keeping the first customer is the second half of the same challenge.

All first customers know deep down that they are taking a risk and will be angry with you if anything goes wrong. What is worse, they will be angry with themselves for knowingly taking a risk and getting it wrong.

The irate customer will vent their anger at anyone who will listen. Sadly, that can include your potential customers.

Strangely enough, all unhappy customers seem to know your other customers. To reduce this risk, the unlikely entrepreneur has to get close to their first and subsequent customers, so that they understand why they’ve bought your product and to constantly re-enforce their decision.

Let them know that you are both in this unspoken risky journey together.

3. Going into business is like going to war

With the battle cry of ‘fear no pain’, the unlikely declares war on failure. They know that the rich, gifted and talented are a different race.

The unlikely have to be totally committed, as they cannot draw on any inherited talents or wealth to be successful. Success will need to be fought for. The risk of failure is high for the unlikely, consequently they will fight to learn, fight to earn and fight to keep every advantage they ever acquire.

The status quo is not for them, nor will it support them. The unlikelies are the warrior class of the entrepreneur tribe.

4. Have an elevator pitch

Knowing what you are about is not enough. You may only have 30 seconds to sell your idea to a total stranger.

It is not easy to encapsulate the best idea in the world into a 30-second spiel, but with practice, it will not only be remembered but become second nature.

The takeaway must be that the stranger knows what you are about and, even if they’re not interested, will maintain a favourable opinion of you as the promoter of your product.

A brief outline of your pitch should also live on the back of the card that you will always offer at the end of your pitch.

5. Learn to listen

Or more bluntly, use silence as a weapon.

Being given an opportunity to sell to a prospective client, the temptation is to oversell by delivering the message and not hearing the response.

Once the elevator speech is delivered, let it rest. You have fired your best shot. Your next statement should be a question that easily leads your listener to talk about themselves.

“Tell me, what business are you in?” This works every time! Then listen.

Silence is not only golden, it is a weapon. Silence is a statement. Let it reign. Let your reply be one or even two seconds slower than expected. So many times, someone will fill the gap with more information.

These are just some of the things that worked for me, but there are plenty more. The unwritten secret is being willing to read an article like this and consider the ideas. Then, of course, the challenge is with you to be brave enough to give them a go.

Rest assured, when you try a new idea and feel that you are imperfect, don’t even consider giving up. Charge ahead, because you are now one mistake closer to success!

Alan Manly is the founder of Group Colleges Australia and author of The Unlikely Entrepreneur.


5 success secrets from an unlikely entrepreneur
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Alan Manly
Alan Manly

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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