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Want to be your own boss? There’s more than one way to make it happen

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab.

From Zuckerberg to Branson, we live an era where CEOs are celebrities and founders are famous. It's no wonder that 72 per cent of millennials dream of being business owners and 30 per cent of Canadians want to be their own boss.

In reality, eight out of 10 new businesses fail within the first 18 months, meaning entrepreneurship is different than movies and media coverage would have us believe. It's why one of my favourite success stories doesn't involve a private jet or a blockbuster budget. It's about James Harvey, who was a twentysomething junk truck driver, drowning in student debt. Now he owns a small business that's on track to make a million dollars next year.

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Like many aspiring entrepreneurs, James was short on the capital and connections needed to launch an operation from scratch. Instead, he found success through a new model of business ownership called EntryPreneurship – a franchising model that allows owners to benefit from pre-tested systems with room left to innovate.

At O2E Brands, we've been empowering EntryPreneurs for more than a decade, helping people like James, who went from working a low-wage job to running one of 1-800-GOT-JUNK?'s most successful locations. But just like traditional entrepreneurship, EntryPreneurship isn't for everyone.

If you're contemplating becoming a founder or a franchise owner, it's worth asking yourself these questions before taking the plunge.

Do you prefer the open road or GPS?

Business coach Rick Bisio explains that starting a business is best for creatives who feel their inspiration would be limited by rules and boundaries. Franchise opportunities are best for those who understand how proven models and structures can help them succeed.

That said, some franchise systems are too rigid and top-down. People who want more control over their entrepreneurial destiny should look for models that encourage collaboration and innovation. In James' case, EntryPreneurship was appealing because he could be his own boss, but he also had a safety net to fall back on.

Some people like direction while others want to forge their own path. And either option – or a combination of both – can lead to business success.

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Do you see strength in numbers?

With startups, lone wolf syndrome is a real hurdle to overcome – it's why many founders look to mentors and meet-up groups to cope. If going it alone isn't for you, EntryPreneurship gives you access to a network of peers. When James started out, he could ask hundreds of like-minded owners for insider tips. Some of our partners even shared financials, right down to salaries.

And there are more benefits to this kind of cooperative environment. While most startups spend around 20 per cent of their revenue on marketing, James immediately had access to our marketing machine. So when 1-800-GOT-JUNK? was featured on CNBC's Blue Collar Millionaire last year, he, along with all our partners, benefitted from that brand awareness.

It's a team sport model: there are still superstars in the field, but wins belong to everyone.

Are you seriously hungry?

There's some things that a franchise program can help you level up at: marketing, HR, accounting. But it can't teach passion, hunger, and determination. It's what James had; he even sold his beloved motorcycle to come up with the capital to launch in the first place.

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I've met many prospective franchise partners, who think they can buy a business and wait for our formula to work its magic. I tell them all the same thing: unlike working on a lifestyle business at your own pace, it takes serious hustle to step up to the plate and succeed as an EntryPreneur.

There are thrills and advantages to running your own startup, of course. But there are other paths to being your own boss, too. Just ask James, who boosted revenue 61 per cent in his first year and hasn't looked back since. He's a boss and business leader in every sense of the word because he gave EntryPreneurship a second look.

Brian Scudamore is the founder and CEO of O2E Brands, which includes home-service companies like 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. He's a people-person and passionate entrepreneur who helps others take the lead in their small business.

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