We can all name a few elite entrepreneurs, Richard Branson, James Dyson, Bill Gates and others from Silicon Valley who are giants on the international stage but you don’t need to be a global superstar or crave the media’s attention to be a true entrepreneur. The Internet has spawned numerous teenage millionaire teens who have exploited the opportunities that the internet has given us in gaming and Apps for example.
The Oxford Dictionary definition could be typical of anyone who sets up in business:
“A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”
Investopedia provides us with a little more detail:
“An individual who, rather than working as an employee, runs a small business and assumes all the risk and reward of a given business venture, idea, or good or service offered for sale. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as a business leader and innovator of new ideas and business processes.”
The key elements here are “leader” and “innovator.” What makes them successful and why are they so different to you or me? The perennial question is whether or not entrepreneurs and/or leaders are born or made? That’s a question for another time.
There’s no doubting that entrepreneurs play a key role in any economy. These are the people who have the skills and initiative necessary to take new ideas to market and make the right decisions to make the idea succeed and be profitable.
Entrepreneurs come from all age groups, genders, social and ethnic groups and while they are all individuals they do have some common personal qualities and traits. How do you match up to these?
Are you totally passionate about your business idea? Do you thoroughly believe in what you are selling, or the service you are providing? Have you got an in-depth knowledge of your product, your competition and the market place? And, once you’ve got your business up and running – do you have the passion and the energy to keep going when others falter and want to give up?
While not necessarily ‘inventors’, entrepreneurs are highly innovative and creative individuals with the vision and insight to spot opportunities and act upon them. They have the ability to carve out a new niche in a market where others might not have seen it – and turn ideas into a solid business strategy.
Have you got the commitment and determination to make your business a success? Planning, setting up and running a business requires endless hard work and 100% of your time. Your family, friends and leisure activities may have to take a back seat, while you’ll have to give up security such as a monthly salary or a pension. Are you sure you’re willing to make this commitment?
A successful entrepreneur is prepared to make big decisions and take on tough challenges. There will be times when things are not going so well – when the sales aren’t coming in and bills are overdue – so you’ll need the courage to dig deep and not crack under the strain. Having courage also means making the right decisions for your business, no matter how unpopular they may seem at the time.
5. Ability to set goals
An entrepreneur will set specific and realistic goals and have a clear plan of how to achieve these. Your business won’t be a success if you don’t do this as you won’t have specific targets to aim for or measure your performance against. Further, having clear goals will enable you to formulate a sound business plan.
6. Sound judgement
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a high risk-taker to be a successful entrepreneur. It’s more about knowing which risks to take – and when you should take them. You’ll need sound judgement about your market, competition and your customers. You will also have to judge what needs your attention at a certain time and what doesn’t, and prioritise your focus accordingly.
The ultimate jack-of-all-trades, an entrepreneur has to be flexible. Are you able to cope with the different roles and responsibilities that starting a business demands, such as making decisions on finance, marketing, research and legal matters? Can you secure sales deals and manage staff recruitment? Flexibility also means recognising changes that may need to be made to your business if things aren’t going to plan – and learning from experiences (both good and bad).
One of the main drivers for starting a business is the desire to be your own boss. Entrepreneurs like control and want to be in charge of their own destiny. They want to make the decisions and are prepared to go it alone – especially in the early stages of starting up, before they have built a team around them. If you avoid making decisions or taking responsibilities, then starting up your own business may not be right for you.
9. Leadership skills
Once you have built up a team around you, your staff will be looking to you for strong leadership. This means setting staff realistic goals and targets and being clear about what you all need to achieve and how you can do this. Make sure your employees share your vision and that you are able to steer them through any tough times. Be honest with them and make sure you take responsibility for your actions
Do you have the resilience to keep going if nothing seems to be working? Are you able to face up to the challenges and not get discouraged when things initially don’t go to plan? How will you measure what is working for you and what it will take to make it happen? Business requires time, effort and dogged determination, and perseverance is vital if you want to make your business a success.
Entrepreneurs are exceptional people and are less conformist than most and are perhaps what could be described as streetwise and people that “do”. You must be prepared for the ups and downs of a huge roller coaster ride.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and few of us will possess all of the personal qualities above. But if you, or others, believe you have a majority of these qualities then you may well have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.