With apologies for a break in posting occasioned by recent holidays in WiFi random Tenerife, and a successful eye operation, here’s my latest post, the first in a series of four, on the subject of becoming a successful entrepreneur, which describes the skills, mindset and attitudes you need to become amazingly successful.
While it certainly helps to have strong technology skills or depth of expertise in a particular area, these are not defining characteristics of entrepreneurship. Instead, you need self-awareness, and the desire and determination to either grow or build upon some essential traits such as creativity, mental, physical and moral resilience – in particular, enduring in the face of difficulties, and the social and transformational skills needed to build excellent teams.
Why be an entrepreneur?
I became a private sector entrepreneur just short of my 51st birthday. In truth, I’d been an entrepreneur much of my time in my previous 25+ years in the public sector, as every job role required me to develop a business. Many people, too many in fact, thought of them as public services, but I always regarded them as businesses. To my mind, you need to be entrepreneurial whenever you want to take things forward.
So, in my public sector career, I might have pursued so-called ‘funny money’ [Government and European funding], explored and developed new products and services, improved my customers’ experiences, built great teams, or whatever was required to make a real impact and a real difference.
Some experts think of entrepreneurs as people who are willing to take risks that other people are not. Others define them as individuals who start and build successful businesses.
However, thinking about the first of these definitions, for me, entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily involve starting your own business. It is more normal now to recognise people who don’t work for themselves as entrepreneurs within their organisations. On making the change to the private sector, and managing my business, I noticed a marked increase in being labelled an entrepreneur. I’d argue that I’ve been an entrepreneur a lot longer than the last fourteen years.
So, what does it take?
Irrespective of how you define an “entrepreneur,” one thing is sure: becoming a successful entrepreneur isn’t easy, and it is even harder to become an amazingly successful entrepreneur.
So, what enables one person to successfully take the plunge, while an equally skilled or knowledgeable person does not? Are entrepreneurs somehow genetically different? Or do they have a different view of the world?
Though many researchers have studied the subject, there seem to be no definitive answers. What is known is that successful entrepreneurs seem to have certain elements in common. These items are:
- Personal characteristics;
- Interpersonal skills;
- Critical and creative thinking skills; and,
- Practical skills.
In today’s post, I will focus on the first of the elements.
I noted above that you need to start where you are. So you first need to examine your personal characteristics, values, and beliefs. Do you have the mindset that’s typical of successful entrepreneurs? You can assess this by answering honestly the questions detailed below.
- Optimism: Are you a positive thinker? Positivity is a critical asset, as it will get you through difficult times while you are finding what works for you?
- Vision: Can you quickly grasp the ‘big picture’, and provide an explanation to others? Do you often see where things can be improved? Are you able to create a compelling vision of the future, and then inspire other people to engage with that idea?
- Initiative: Are you a curious person, keen to explore new ideas and concepts, and always ready to solve problems and happy to take the initiative?
- A Desire for Control: Do you see yourself as a leader, willing to offer a compelling vision that others might follow?
- Drive and Persistence: Do you have high levels of enthusiasm and energy? Are you a self-starter, and are you willing to work hard to achieve your goals?
- Risk Tolerance: How risk-averse are you? Will you take calculated chances, even when the information available to you is unclear or uncertain?
- Resilience: Are you physically, mentally and morally resilient? Are you able to get up when knocked down or back? More importantly, are you a continuous learner, growing from your mistakes and failures?
The missing ingredient
To complete my thoughts on the personal characteristics required of amazingly successful entrepreneurs, I’d suggest there is one missing element from the list above. When I was contemplating moving from the public to the private sector, back in May of 2003, I discussed my idea with my wife and son at length.
We shuttled back and forth over as many pros and cons we could identify. Arriving at our collective decision about a new career pathway revealed the missing ingredient – courage. We all had to take the plunge, as my new job faced uncertainty, risk and potentially failure.
We took the plunge, and now, in my fourteenth year as an independent consultant, we have never looked back, except to say what a great idea it was and how delighted we were to take that decision. The courage of belief, of action, of your ability to overcome obstacles and limitations, is necessary to make a success of your choice. Holding your nerve when things don’t go well, managing periods of frenetic activity with periods of calm, being clear about managing money and cash flow, all take courage. If you have it, take the plunge. If you don’t, stay 9 – 5 and the security of a regular salary.
I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching you or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling +447958765972. I am always happy to listen and ready to help.
Thank you for reading.