Separating truth from fiction can be difficult, but here are 8 essential truths extracted from entrepreneurial encounters and experiences.
There are a host of competency studies, research into the characteristics and personalities of entrepreneurs, plus a steady stream of books analysing the careers of successful entrepreneurs. Separating truth from fiction can be difficult, but here are eight essential truths extracted from my entrepreneurial encounters and experiences:
1. Not everyone who says they are an entrepreneur is one.
Over the years I have talked with hundreds of would-be and practising entrepreneurs. I have started businesses and closed them. I have ideas for still more businesses on a daily basis. Am I an entrepreneur? I think not. Being an entrepreneur is not an occasional indulgence or distraction. It is more fundamental – something in your bloodstream. For this reason, I am always slightly wary of people who introduce themselves as entrepreneurs. To real entrepreneurs, being an entrepreneur is something they are, rather than something they merely do.
2. Entrepreneurs are turned on by businesses that work – they’re not slaves to a big idea.
We all have ideas for new businesses. What separates entrepreneurs from the millions of people with bright ideas is their willingness to make the idea a reality. They are driven and practical. So much so that, as John Mullins’ work suggests, they are quite willing to ditch their brilliant idea and business plan if they think that Plan B has a better chance of success. They are pragmatists who are, above everything else, interested in creating a business that works. That’s the real entrepreneurial buzz. Ideas are cheap; turning them into something viable and robust is much more demanding.
3. Entrepreneurs exhibit pure ambition.
The ambition of entrepreneurs sounds and feels purer. Usually, it is like comparing tap water to melted mountain snow water. Entrepreneurs see success in terms of changing the world or altering the marketplace. They want to make the world a better place and tend not to talk about money as a motivator. Instead it is a necessary commercial lubricant rather than a vital life force.
4. Entrepreneurs fix things.
If there are a couple of people in your business and the computer stops working, the chances are that you are the IT department. In this situation you tend to fix the computer. This often takes time, but you fix it because you have to. Entrepreneurs are natural-born problem solvers. Many in the corporate world remain problem creators with the IT department on speed dial.
5. Entrepreneurs are comfortable with their own inadequacies and limitations.
Running your own business, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly what you can and can’t do, what you should and should not do. You often have to speedily develop new skills (such as fixing computers, accounting, salesmanship, graphic design and much more). Development under pressure is memorable, but demands brutal honesty.
6. Entrepreneurs are adept at enlisting others to fill the gap.
Being able to beg and borrow is an essential entrepreneurial skill, yet one sadly neglected in the big corporate world. Having the cheek, the contacts book and the lateral thinking to connect with people who can and will help is entrepreneurially vital.
7. Entrepreneurs are opinionated but not egotistical.
Entrepreneurs are good company. They have views and are generally happy to share them. They have an enthusiasm for simplification rather than over complication, which lends itself to holding and expressing opinions. At the same time, they are willing to listen to others; their egos are usually of manageable proportions. This does not mean that they cannot be bloody-minded or objectionable. Entrepreneurs are not saints, but they tend to be interesting.
8. Entrepreneurs cannot save the world alone.
The skills required to scale a business, to really scale a business, tend not to be those of entrepreneurs. The crucial one of these is managing people. For many entrepreneurs, managing people is the biggest nightmare. They got into business to change the world, not to deal with the motivational travails, emotions and peccadilloes of feckless employees. The very word employee makes them uncomfortable. Who, after all, would want to be an employee when you could be an entrepreneur?