When I use the word Entrepreneur, I am referring to someone who puts everything on the line for the sole purpose of pursuing the success of a “Big Idea”.
The Entrepreneur personally assumes the risks in order to realize his or her dream. They work for themselves, not others. They forge their own destiny. Their success is entirely dependent on their ability to deliver. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, the Entrepreneur relies on their savings account or spouse to pay for the daily living expenses. But the ultimate goal is always, that the Entrepreneur will pay for the business AND their share of the living expenses. Someday. Sooner, rather than later.
And let me be really clear. There is a big difference between being self-employed and being an entrepreneur.
Those who only have one customer or one account are not Entrepreneurs. They are freelancers. Those who work solely on commission – no matter what kind of nice words they are told by their company or association — are not Entrepreneurs. They are self-employed. And while I totally get there is a huge financial risk in both of these circumstances because you are earning your livelihood based on your ability to sell, there is no financial risk for paying back loans, paying the salaries of employees, paying gobs of money to suppliers and owing the banks huge gobs of money for equipment or inventory or trademarks or other stuff. And in management circles, there’s a lot of buzz about employees being Entrepreneurs. While I am very much for empowering employees, those who collect a paycheque in exchange for services rendered are risking little. They are not Entrepreneurs.
There is no shortage of Entrepreneurs. The classic definition is one who sees a need and then creates a product or service to satisfy it. And financially risks everything (or almost everything) to make it happen. An Entrepreneur can be labelled many different ways. Business owner, enterpriser, speculator, hustler, mogul, tycoon. Irrespective of whether there are employees or not, it is the Entrepreneur’s blood, sweat and tears that starts, buys and or builds the organization. Without the Entrepreneur’s direction and leadership, nothing gets done.
In the snowflake kingdom, no two are the same. Yet there are common elements which allow us to identify them easily. So too for Entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are enthusiastic. Wildly enthusiastic. Did you know that the original definition of an enthusiast was a person who was possessed by a god? Most of the entrepreneurs I have met are indeed eager, zealous, vehement, fervid, keen, impassioned, fanatical, and even obsessed. They are possessed by something. (And I mean that in a good way.)
Entrepreneurs are strong. Mentally. Emotionally, Spiritually. Physically. (Typically in at least one of these categories, rarely in all four.) Entrepreneurs execute way more than they plan. And possess an extraordinary level of perseverance.
Entrepreneurs make many, many mistakes. But their positive outlook gives them a framework to get over and keep going. Quickly. When something doesn’t work, they try something else. Their unspoken mantra is “Looking backwards gets in the way of driving forward”.
Most Entrepreneurs have an inferiority complex. It helps drive them. Naturally, they do not want anyone to know that about them. They want you to think they are oozing with self-confidence. In truth, they are extraordinary bluffers.
Entrepreneurs, (especially the male kind), often seem to carry a big chip on their shoulder. You can define that chip as self-confidence or cockiness, realism or arrogance, focus or stubbornness. Every day brings a new mountain to climb, a new battle to win, a new crisis to conquer. Some Entrepreneurs are good at keeping that chip contained; others are not.
Most Entrepreneurs are tinkerers and improvers, not truly original thinkers. The majority of the wonderful life-changers that we take for granted today were invented in the first half of the 1900s. Airplanes, space travel, computers, disease cures, scotch tape, drugs, telephones and the like. Very little in the way of life-changing invention has actually taken place in the past 50 years. What HAS taken place is amazing, marvelous, and awesome re-tinkering and improving. By some very forward- thinking Entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs believe they are always forging new ground. They travel through their own “Land of Oz” alone, outside an organization. There is rarely a mentor, or even a sympathetic colleague to demonstrate or explain to. There is no “I’ll go with you this time and next time you can do it yourself”.
Most Entrepreneurs do everything alone. Hence their belief in forging new ground.
Many Entrepreneurs are bullies. They bully their suppliers, employees, and even customers. Meet them socially and you’d never suspect this! But watch them in action and you’ll be amazed at their Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde persona. They weren’t born this way; they evolved. It’s a coping mechanism, for most. If you are the Entrepreneur who is as charming, fair and decent in your business as you are socially, you are indeed a rare breed.
As you ponder your new life, it is vital to be honest with yourself. Now, more than any other time, you need to understand what you have going for you, and what you don’t and then work with what you have. Therefore, I ask you; Do you REALLY know what you are made of?
Do yourself a big favour and take a couple of personality or psychological tests before you become too committed to Entrepreneurship. You need not spend scads of money. Google them. Call up one of your old recruiter friends and ask them to give you one. Answer the questions honestly.
No one is going to grade you or mark you. This exercise is for you alone. There are no wrong answers; there is only clarity. Look closely at your good qualities; determine which ones you will likely be calling upon for this venture. Ask yourself what you need to do to keep them strong. Look very closely at those qualities that you know get you into trouble. What actions can you take that will minimize their impact?
I believe you can do anything you set your mind to do. However, it is much easier to take the road that meshes with the fundamental essence of what you call You. If your tests show that you are not a start-up Entrepreneur, but that you are still suited to running your own show, consider buying a business. Consider buying into one as a partner. Consider a franchise. Consider a loose affiliation with a group. Very seriously. Be honest with yourself. Lead with your strengths; take action to bolster your weaknesses.
And please don’t try to do EVERYTHING yourself.
To your success!
Charlene Norman is the Chief Cheerleader at www.bulletproofyourbusinessnow.com She is a business and leadership coach who works with frustrated entrepreneurs. Her specialties are improving profits and ramping personal productivity. She wrote a book for early entrepreneurs (Bullet Proof Your StartUp: Nuggets of Wisdom for New Entrepreneurs) and is getting set to publish her second book (Surviving and Thriving Through The Next Decade). Besides the usual social settings of Twitter, Linked In, Facebook and Instagram, you can find the real person version of her living in St. Catharines to where she escaped after 30 years in Mississauga and Toronto.