The One Thing Successful Entrepreneurs Do

In college, my roommate and I rigged up a pulley system in our dorm room. From our beds, we could pull a rope that would open the front door 15 feet away. It was a fun system that helped two people.

A year later, my friends and I bought a kegerator and built a bar, beer pong table, and shot-ski in our garage, so we could all drink more efficiently. They were good systems that helped our whole social circle.


A few years later, I set up a workflow that created a list of fun activities in the city. Once per month, I received an email with 10 cool things within a 15 minute walk from my apartment, and I’d sign up for my favorites. Good system that only helped one person — me.

Last year, I set up a series of emails that get sent out to anyone who signs up for them. One email a day, 10 days in a row, aimed at reducing stress. It’s a great system. I never have to touch or maintain it, yet it’s helped thousands of people around the world, and runs automatically 24 hours per day.

Entrepreneurship is pretty straightforward. You just set up systems that help people. You create processes that automatically solve problems.

You get people to use your system somehow (usually by letting them try it out, for free), then you insert products and services that they’ll want to pay for while they’re in the system. And you earn money with your system, by coming up with better solutions for your customers so they keep paying you. The trick is that you have to make a system that other people want and love; it can’t just be for your benefit.

Once the system is working, your job is to try and break the system, from every possible angle, so you can create a process to fix it. You keep doing this until your system doesn’t break anymore, so in case you disappear someday, the system keeps moving. Your presence isn’t required in order to help others.

To be an entrepreneur, you can’t just create a product or offer a service. You have to build a system, one that people love, that sells in your sleep.

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Charlie Hoehn is the author of Play It Away, Play for a Living and Recession Proof Graduate. His work has been featured on NPR's TED Radio Hour, Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. Previously, he was the Director of Special Projects for Tim Ferriss. Currently, he is the Head of Video at Book In A Box. He lives with his wife and daughter in Austin, Texas.

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