Becoming an Entrepreneur Was the Smartest Risk I Ever Took

Louis Lautman founded International Sales University, a sales training and development company that works with top Fortune 500 Companies and hosts public seminars. Here, he talks about how difficult it is to start your own business and how he became successful in an overly competitive market.

  • Share
  • Read Later

Louis Lautman, founder of International Sales University

Louis Lautman started his own sales training company after three years working in a corporate environment. He faced many challenges when he first started his own business, but now trains sales people for Fortune 500 Companies. Here, Louis talks about the difficulties he confronted during the start-up process.

Despite having always dreamed of owning my own business, I got a job after college. I was told that it was the best thing to do, so that is what I did. I worked in corporate America for three years and became a top sales-producer for a publicly traded telecommunications company. But I never gave up on the dream of one day becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, it was virtually all I thought about, so spent a lot of my free time working on ideas.

Then one day I came to a realization: Staying at my corporate job — not starting a business — was the real risk. Above all else, I feared never knowing if my business could have been a success.

(MORE: Q&A: Marc Ostrofsky on How He Got Rich … ‘Click’)

When starting my own sales training company, the biggest challenge I faced was getting used to not having a paycheck every other week, and having to generate my own income by closing deals. I had no certainty of where and when that next money was going to come in. It was up to me to make things happen.

This was scary and exciting at the same time. On one hand, I could run my business the way I wanted and do business with the people I chose to do business with. But again, I had to close those deals. I was no stranger to closing deals, but I didn’t have a base salary to relax on like I did as an employee. I had to make each day as productive and effective as possible. It didn’t matter how many people I talked to or how nice my business cards looked. If I didn’t close deals, I didn’t eat.

That meant I had to turn on my prospecting funnel by creating a system for following up with the people I had been cold calling. I began calling everyone I knew and telling them about my business. I went to networking events and established a social media presence. I read every book I could on my industry and began implementing all the strategies I learned. And, perhaps most importantly, I never gave up on my follow-ups. Soon enough, I was talking to prospects and making presentations.

That brought me to my second challenge: Who was I and why should people pay me to train their sales force? I had to prove myself in a crowded marketplace, with competition that had been around since before I was born. To say this was intimidating would be an understatement. Not so long ago I was looking up to these companies and reading about them in the news. Now, I was competing against them.

(MORE: How I Did It: Aaron Patzer on Creating

There were times when I questioned my own value and even backed down against competitive proposals. But I knew that I offered the best sales training course and highly personalized service. And I worked hard to exploit areas of weakness among my competitors.

It took me a couple of years to build a reputation in the industry, but it was my ability to deliver results that led people to have faith in me. Soon I was winning accounts because people were buying me and what I could deliver. It didn’t matter anymore that no one had heard of me. I landed Fortune 500 clients, some of which I had been a fan and customer of.

My reputation enabled me to build a referral network. Now my business is 100 percent referral based and I do not have to cold call anymore. Even though starting my business was difficult at first and I didn’t know how I was going to make money, it was the best decision of my life. I can work from anywhere, with anyone, and at any time I want. Everyone can become a successful entrepreneur, you just have to take the first step.

Founded by Scott Gerber, the Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.) is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.