Can you work under pressure and to tight deadlines? It’s a classic question you get at job interviews. Well, if your intention is becoming an entrepreneur, this is highly likely going to be your permanent working status.
Still interested? Good. But that’s just the first step. Do you really want to be an entrepreneur? And secondly, are you actually cut out for it? Or are you just in it for the exuberant and adventurous-sounding job title? Or even worse, are you trying to achieve someone else’s dream?
These are all important questions you need to answer before you even start out on your journey to entrepreneurdom.
And you have to be truthful, starting with yourself. Because the life of many a contemporary entrepreneur and startup CEO is awash with little white lies that can actually do a lot of damage. We know, some entrepreneurs even thrive on such things. But the end result is usually failure.
And that is also a word you also have to be willing to accept, and then must move on from as fast as you can.
Becoming an entrepreneur: the dream
For many, becoming an entrepreneur has become a dream career. Or the new “in” occupation, if you will. This is mainly born out of the idea of becoming an entrepreneur being a rebellious move against “succumbing” to the 9-5 grind in an office job.
The problem is that far too many people seem to want to learn how to become an entrepreneur just because the lifestyle seems as cool as the job title sounds. I mean who wouldn’t want to answer the age-old conversation starter “So, what do you do?”, with the answer “I’m an entrepreneur”?
The thing that most of these people don’t understand is that 90% of the time, the role of an average entrepreneur is very different. In fact, it’s largely a stressful, sweaty, slog that involves long hours and working weekends – a far cry from the glamorous Instagram feeds of those at the top of the tree.
Yes, believe it or not, starting any type of business is tough. End of story. And this is why it’s so vital that you figure out right from the start whether becoming an entrepreneur is what you truly want in life.
What it takes
What does it take exactly then, this becoming an entrepreneur malarkey? Firstly it depends on the business and where you’re starting from. For the benefit of this post, let’s exclude the route where you are well connected or have a hefty trust fund to use, or are taking over a family business which is already running smoothly.
So that leaves us with starting from scratch, be it a startup or another type of fledgling venture.
There’s basically two different aspects of being an entrepreneur. There’s the “living-the-life” side, which basically refers to being your own boss, working from anywhere you choose, etc. And then there’s the “beavering away” aspect. This is the part where your nose is truly resting against that grindstone and you are slogging it out day after day, obsessing over your business and each and every little problem along the way.
In terms of what it takes, a quick read through this interesting Quora thread featuring some well-known names in the US, the overwhelming main qualities seem to be grit, determination, worth ethic, and have clear goals for your business. You must be actually interested in your business, and not the rewards it may bring. And, last but not least, you must learn how to be a leader and never stop learning.
Dealing with uncertainty
Oh yes, I almost forgot. How comfortable are you with uncertainty? Because you need to be comfortable when outside your comfort zone – on a very regular basis. Like every day. Because for all the resilience you may have, you will need to keep on dealing with different problems as your business grows (hello employees, hiring and firing, etc).
Our very own CEO and Co-founder Dimitris Tsingos has his own unique take on what becoming an entrepreneur is all about.
“Dedication is paramount. And that’s the sweet spot, at least for me anyway. If I had to sum it up in a few words, I would say creativity, science, engineering, and principled. A lover of life and a true citizen of the world. This is what a contemporary entrepreneur is about in many respects.”
I’ll raise a ping pong bat to that. I mean a glass, sorry.
So that’s great, we have a great idea of the qualities and skills required for someone with the aim of becoming an entrepreneur. And the good news is that no, there is no secret entrepreneur gene. But at the same time, not everybody can be one. Why? We’ll let’s explore quickly the things that work against you in becoming an entrepreneur.
What you don’t need
The below is a paraphrased list from Ernie Bray, an entrepreneur and Inc. 5000 CEO. If you find yourself nodding your head to any of these ‘qualities’, then you are probably not prime entrepreneur material. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be one obviously (except if you fit all of these descriptions that follow) 🙂
So, you may:
A failure to act or be decisive is one of the most common problems among entrepreneurs who don’t make the grade. It makes sense. We all know those people who can generate amazing ideas for businesses, or products and services, and even marketing campaigns, but don’t implement them. Whatever the reason, be it decision paralysis or analysis paralysis, if you can’t transform your ideas into something tangible, then you won’t make it.
Have a 9-5 mentality
If you want your own business but still want those ‘friendly’ office hours, then it’s probably better to stay where you are. Successful, or should I say dedicated, entrepreneurs know that they will have to work beyond the Monday to Friday, 9-5 program.
Or, have a know-it-all mentality
If you think you know everything, then the best bet is that you simply do not know how much you don’t know. Anyone who resists change and learning new things is not really compatible with the entrepreneur life.
Have a victim mentality
You know that colleague in the office who always tries to blame their failures or bad decisions on someone else in the team. Well, this person is definitely not entrepreneur material. Even worse, they are sabotaging their best efforts to learn from their mistakes.
Believe in spending big
There is a lot to be said for living frugal, no matter what stage your startup is. But this aspect is so important in the beginning. If you spend your time dreaming up how you are going to spend all the funding you may have raised – or borrowed from the 3F’s – on grandiose marketing campaigns instead of being capital efficient, then your cash will burn out before you’re even close to the end of the runway. Whisper it, but hey, early-stage startups don’t always need venture capital financing either.
Be too modest
That means, resistance to self-promotion.
One for the introvert entrepreneurs. I’m not suggesting that introverts cannot be entrepreneurs (there are some very successful ones), but by and large, if you are uncomfortable promoting yourself or your business/products, then you will find the going tough. Don’t worry, it’s not bragging. Being proud of your products and trying to promote thought leadership is a good thing.
See the glass as half-empty
This one is pretty self-explanatory. If you think negative, then you reduce the chances of positive things happening. Why? Since you will probably almost always also act negatively.
Listen to or spend far too much time with negative people
Another no-brainer but worth mentioning as some people can’t help themselves in this department in a similar way to how they stay in toxic personal relationships. As Tony Robbins likes to point out, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Have a tendency for unhealthy life choices
If you can’t be the master of your own well-being, then how can you be the master of a business? Those who can’t stay mindful of their health, and avoid bad habits like excessive drinking and/or poor eating won’t be able to dig in when the stress levels rise. Science has proven that a healthy lifestyle contributes to an enhanced mental outlook.
Have a low-energy persona
You know when people talk about someone and say “Wow, I could really feel his/her presence in the room when they walked in.”. That is where you want to be. However you may be feeling inside, you have to put on your game face all the time. Because everyone else is looking to you for leadership and inspiration, as well as motivation. Low-energy people are just not equipped for this challenge.
Some final words
Bearing all of the above in mind, it’s pretty clear to see that becoming an entrepreneur or starting your own business is one of life’s most challenging pursuits. What is also clear, however, is that it actually is not for everyone. But that’s okay too.
Another thing that’s clear, is that for those who chose the entrepreneur path, it can also be one of life’s most rewarding journeys. A journey full of purpose and meaning.
Going back to the very start of this article, the bottom line is that the sentiment remains the same. Becoming an entrepreneur can mean different things to different people. For some, it can be a true calling, not just a way to avoid the 9-5 corporate rat race. For others, it can simply be about the title and the rewards.
One thing is certain though. Without the main ingredients, such as grit, passion and determination, becoming an entrepreneur is so much harder. From day one, you need to be fully-focused on your business and its goals.
Let’s finish on a rather romantic thought from an entrepreneur, though, another gem from Starttech’s CEO, Dimitris.
“When you put these ingredients together; creativity, science and engineering(education for that matter), as well as freedom of expression and a grittiness to overcome obstacles – such as failure – and stand up for your values, the results can be unstoppable.”