Entrepreneurship is about taking risks and engaging in business ventures that bring something new to the table. For some individuals and companies, it’s about providing a product or service to a niche market, for others it’s about improving on an already established industry with a good foothold in the local or international economy.
What’s holding you back?
The biggest complication that people can face when thinking about going into a new business is fear – fear of the unknown, the unknowable and the unforeseeable.
Fear of the unknown is the first obstacle you need to get around when you get into something new. It can be difficult to let go of old habits and routines and move on. Fear of the unknown is the fear of stepping out of your comfort zone.
Fear of the unknowable is the second obstacle. Most people would never admit to being control freaks, but what sane person wouldn’t want to be in charge of their own business and destiny? Fear of the unknowable is the fear of not being in control. The funny thing is, becoming an entrepreneur means having more control over yourself and your business.
Fear of the unforeseeable is the third obstacle, you know something’s going to go wrong and you want to prepare for it, but how do you do that without knowing exactly what it is? You get so bogged down with what-ifs that your plan of starting fresh and creating a new life for yourself gets put aside as you get busy creating plans for when it fails.
What you do with your fear will be one of the most important decisions you will make in your career. Will you allow your fear to govern your every move and create roadblocks in your path to finding fulfillment in your personal and work life? Or will you use your fear to propel you into forging your own path and taking the good with the bad as you go on your journey to become a full-fledged entrepreneur?
What are the characteristics of a good entrepreneur?
According to the website of the US Small Business Association, there are a few characteristics that you should keep in mind when you ask yourself if you’re up to the task of becoming an entrepreneur:
Comfortable with taking risks
Working for yourself means that you’re assuming all the risks and responsibilities involved in running a business. There won’t be some higher-up telling you what to do and instead of getting reprimanded when you make a mistake, you could literally be out on the street with nothing but the clothes on your back.
You won’t have the financial power of a multinational corporation behind you and (especially if you go into a sole proprietorship) this means having to invest your own money as capital or approaching financial institutions and venture capitalists to fund your business idea. Take note, the last two options come with many, many strings.
One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is taking back control of your time and resources. However, a lot of individuals fall into the procrastination trap of “It’s my company, so I can do this task later.”
Entrepreneurs need to be able to think on their feet and make quick and important decisions that shape their company’s future. You shouldn’t put things off just because you can or because no one is there to look over your shoulder – and you can’t expect work to be handed to you just because you’re particularly skilled. Taking initiative, going out there to find new business and fighting to stay current in your industry and market are some of the most important characteristics of being an entrepreneur.
You don’t have to be a genius at marketing to become a savvy entrepreneur, but you need to be able to answer two very important questions in order for people to get to know your company:
- What are your products and services?
If you don’t know or understand what you’re selling, how are you supposed to get people to trust in you and your company? This particular question is one of the most common queries someone new to your company or industry is bound to ask. If you aren’t the best at thinking on your feet or forming answers that are straight to the point and interesting, get someone who is and pay them to create a simple spiel for you to remember. You can’t reel in the fish if your bait isn’t any good.
- How can I benefit from your company?
Ok, so you’ve managed to tell people about your company and what it is you do, the next step is to find a way to relate your business to their current situation or need. People are constantly looking at products and services available and wondering to themselves about why and when they would ever need them. Part of your job as an entrepreneur is making sure your product or service is relevant to the people you plan on selling them to as well as to potential partners or investors. Don’t go into things half-cocked. Do your research and prepare.
Able to negotiate
People are always looking for the best deal available and no one enjoys paying full or retail price if they can get away with it. If you want to keep your business competitive in our current economy, you need to be able to adapt to the market and its shifting needs.
Your negotiation skills will come into play with landlords, suppliers, investors and clients alike. The aim is to use your finite resources as frugally as possible without sacrificing your product’s quality, customer service and business marketing.
Becoming an entrepreneur calls for the ability to spot changes in the market and to adapt to them quickly and with as little fuss as possible. If you’re the type to see opportunity in a new business venture or spot a way to innovate on an old one then entrepreneurship is a great way to harness your creativity and create opportunities for yourself and others.
Supported by others
If you’re new to the world of entrepreneurship or if you have a good idea but don’t know how to go about making it a legitimate business then you need to have a good network of people to act as a sounding board or get a business mentor to help you out. You can’t have a successful business that involves one single person.
People need other people in order to grow and get things done. Remember that your business is not just about you (the owner) and what you think. It’s important to listen to your investors, employees and customers to gain perspective about how your business is doing and how it can improve.
Here are some other characteristics that are also important for someone to have if they plan on starting a new business:
Patience & Perseverance
It is rare to get a business off the ground and running at the drop of a hat. A good entrepreneur must learn to measure time using short-term and long-term goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
Most small businesses start with just one person – you are the CEO, manager, secretary, book keeper, investor, marketing coordinator and etcetera. You won’t get anything done if you laze about all day and procrastinate. An entrepreneur figures out what needs to be done and does it.
The only constant in life is change is a popular quote that people enjoy throwing around. A good entrepreneur relishes the challenge of new complications and manages to roll with the proverbial and literal punches that come with owning a business. Take it from one of the greatest and most controversial entrepreneurs in American history, P.T. Barnum, who once said “every crowd has a silver lining”.
"Who Moved My Cheese?"
The book "Who Moved My Cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D. is a great resource for would-be entrepreneurs. Whether you’re young and just starting out or if you’re someone looking for opportunities outside of an old and now tedious career, this book has something for everyone. Haw’s journey through the MAZE is a great way to summarize what getting into new ventures is like for most people – terrifying, exhausting and sometimes, if you’re lucky, absolutely exhilarating.
Remember – when the cheese moves, move with it.