What you can do about yourself to become one
By Marilyn Wo
If you are aspiring to become an entrepreneur, you’d like to think that entrepreneurial characteristics can be acquired. You’d rather be in control of your own destiny rather than leave your life to fate.
Truth is, studies have found that nobody is a hundred percent sure if entrepreneurs are born or made. That also means you may already have this set of “entrepreneurial talents” in you just like some people are born athletic.
On the flip side, you don’t have to be “born an entrepreneur” right from the get-go.
Though it may mean you’ll have to spend more time and effort to figure out what’s lacking and learn those skills — one of those reasons why entrepreneurship is not easy for most of us.
Before moving on, let’s set a common understanding of the definition of an entrepreneur. Based on Nadim Ahmad and Anders Hoffman:
Entrepreneurs are those persons (business owners) who seek to generate value, through the creation or expansion of economic activity, by identifying and exploiting new products, processes or markets. — Source
In that case, I would like to add that everyone can potentially be an entrepreneur. The difference will be the degree of success and this measurement of success will depend on the individual. Let’s assume you have figured out what success means to you.
Here are the things I suggest you do:
Be more self-aware
The term “entrepreneurship” became a buzzword since the 90s and sounds cool. Firstly, be sure that you are not chasing to be labeled as an entrepreneur for this reason. I am guilty to have fallen for that.
When I first graduated from the University, I told myself I wanted to be an entrepreneur but became a freelancer, thinking I’ve succeeded.
There’s nothing wrong being a freelancer. The point here is the illusion that I’ve won led me to realise I didn’t create the business I wanted after ten years.
Secondly, if you want to build a startup, it shouldn’t be an end in itself, but a means towards something beyond being an entrepreneur. Are you doing so because you are making the world a better place?
Does it also contribute to you having the lifestyle you’ve always wanted? Instead of looking for problems to solve, come up with solutions to solve a problem that you see in the world today.
Know the problems and know what you can solve.
In short, nobody can give you sure-fire answers but your own gut. You may have to take years of self-discovery. I would say, it’s part of the entrepreneurial journey to learn about yourself. So, go for it.
Enhance your vision
Being aware of yourself is just one part of the process. Studies have shown that if an entrepreneur may be self-aware, but without the experience to “see” a business, there is no entrepreneurial vision.
You may be able to carry on without an entrepreneurial vision. However, “absent vision, the process is less inspired, with less personal passion and leadership commitment to long hours, financial risk, and difficult decision making against uncertain timelines for milestones.
Absent vision, the founder is less likely to inspire the alignment, allegiance, and commitment of resources controlled by other people”.
What can you do to develop this vision? The two mental components necessary to make up your vision are values and imagery.
What do you value? Are you looking for a better lifestyle, independence or freedom? Are you looking to improve your wealth, security, fame and social responsibility?
What do you see that nobody else may see? If there’s an unmet need in the market, do you have a visual in your mind that shows the outcome after you’ve implemented your solution?
As listeners, audiences, constituents, and the entrepreneur himself, hear the same story of the nascent venture, they come to “remember” it, to retain the image on an “as if real” basis. — Karl Edward Weick
Sometimes entrepreneurship is not about just working hard. It may mean doing things you do not wish to do. In my case, networking is something I’ve always been uncomfortable with.
Meeting people brings about excessive cold sweat. I rarely know what to say if you asked me to do cold calls or strike a conversation at a conference.
Towards the end of 2013, my business took a downturn suddenly nobody referred any clients to me. Instead of hiding behind the screen, I realised it was time to venture out of my comfort zone to talk to more people and understand their fears and problems. Doing so turned my business around.
The beginning was a drag, I even made up an excuse that since my husband (our CFO), is better with people, he should network in my place.
When I realised what he learned isn’t what I needed to know, I took the plunge. As I met up with more people, I got more insights and that helped make me want to know even more.
Eventually, I signed up for more conferences, meet-ups and started communicating with more people both online and off.
Networking isn’t the only skill an aspiring entrepreneur should pick up. Things like patience, persistence, money and positivity are just a few of the many invaluable skills you need.
But most of them may not be within your comfort zone. Instead of putting them aside, schedule your time to work on each of them one at a time.
If taking action is key, getting uncomfortable is the first step to accomplish the skills you need. You’ll not only acquire expertise that cannot be taken away, but you’ll also gain more confidence and self-efficacy, based on Edwin A. Locke, “self-efficacy is the belief or perception that something is feasible, is a core construct of work on entrepreneurial intention”.
If you are truly aspiring to be an entrepreneur or on the brink of giving up, it’s time to look inward and towards the future. Then, take action on things that only you can do to bring you there even if you think you suck at them.