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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

7 Attributes of an Extraordinary Entrepreneur

Adopting these seven traits can certainly help you get recognised for the entrepreneur you are.

Monica Zent

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Ashton Kutcher made headlines at SXSW this year when he announced the launch of a new investment fund with business partner Guy Oseary. But Kutcher and Oseary are not new to the startup game.

In fact, Kutcher made early investments in Uber, Airbnb, and Spotify, showing a keen eye for investing in promising startups. When CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo asked Kutcher what he looks for in new companies, one of his answers was “extraordinary entrepreneurs.”

What creates an “extraordinary entrepreneur” in the eyes of an investor? As Founder and CEO of Foxwordy, a startup that is the first private social network for lawyers, as well as a member of one of the largest angel investor groups that invests in Silicon Valley startups, I’ve found there are key qualities that attract investors’ attention and lead to strong, lasting investor/entrepreneur relationships.

Related: The 7 Traits of the (Really) Wealthy

Here are seven key attributes of extraordinary entrepreneurs:

1. Strategic 

When it comes to your funding strategy, there are three schools of thought. One approach is to take only those investments you currently need, while the other approach is to take as much investment as you are able to get. Yet another approach is forget fundraising and focus on building the best business you can and the money will come.

While there are pros and cons to each approach, what’s important is to figure out which one makes sense for your venture and stick to it.

Defining your strategy in advance helps avoid setting yourself up for unmet expectations or taking your eye off the ball when it needs to be on the product or the business.

2. Frugal

Whatever funding you have must be used wisely. Spend your investors’ money as if it were your own. Even better, have it be your own. I am a strong believer in the importance of entrepreneurs investing their own money into their own companies, and it is something investors are bound to appreciate and respect.

WhatsApp, for example, hardly spent any of the $8M they raised from early investors, because they didn’t need to, although they certainly could have. Spend when you need to do so and save when you don’t.

3. Expert

Investor Mark Birch explains that prior domain expertise is not always a prerequisite to startup success. However, Birch cautions, “You can’t simply Google and Wikipedia your way to expertise, it requires time, research, talking to knowledgeable people and digging deep into the guts of the matter.”

Indeed, if you are new to your startup’s industry and don’t have the necessary domain expertise, you’ll need to invest time in building knowledge and networks, as well as focus on making key hires that bring domain expertise to the table.

Zipcar founder Robin Chase, for example, talked about how she started a car company, yet knew nothing about cars. She made a smart move by hiring a VP of Operations who had deep experience with Hertz.

Related: 5 Traits of Successful Teams

4. Decisive 

Investors want to see that you have the backbone to deal with the difficult decisions that inevitably will arise. From having to fire family members to deciding whether to expand from a single location to multiple locations, entrepreneurs face tough calls on a routine basis and how you deal with those decisions demonstrates your leadership abilities.

5. Transparent

Authentic communication is imperative to building trust in any relationship, especially between entrepreneurs and investors. Provide transparency via regular reporting and be sure to share the ups as well as the downs.

Investors know how challenging it is to build a new business and open, honest communication about challenges and successes is key.

6. Persistent

You’ve heard it before and it’s true: never give up! Investors want to see determination. In fact, how you deal with setbacks can be the very thing that sets you apart in the eyes of investors.

Richard Branson says, “many venture capital investors evaluate potential partners on how they reacted to a failed business, seeing it as a test of character, rather than a mark against them.” The “key,” according to Branson, is how entrepreneurs bounce back.

7. Open to advice

Don’t be afraid to connect with potential investors for input and advice. Many investors are entrepreneurs themselves and have immense knowledge and experience to share.

Rather than demonstrating uncertainty or lack of knowledge, asking for advice shows a willingness to learn and consider multiple points of view.

Doing so may also open the window of opportunity for funding. As Datanyze CEO Ilya Semin noted, “If you want advice, ask for money. But if you want money, ask for advice.”

Related: How to Find the Entrepreneur Within

Is there a secret formula to being an “extraordinary entrepreneur”? Probably not. But adopting these seven attributes can certainly help you get recognized for the entrepreneur you are. Moving forward, demonstrating these key qualities will go miles towards ensuring the ongoing relationships with your investors are amazing.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Monica Zent is the founder and CEO of Foxwordy, a private social network for lawyers and founder of ZentLaw, an alternative law firm.

Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Build Solid Back-Room Basics For Business Success

What do South African entrepreneurs really know about what goes on behind the scenes building of businesses?

Marc Wachsberger

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South Africa has a vibrant start-up culture with great ideas starting out with a bang, but closing down with a whimper because entrepreneurs picture the glory at the destination, but not the nitty gritty of the journey to get there.

Be smart about scale

When I started out, I literally did everything myself. I negotiated and signed leases, I arranged the furnishing for our apartments and managed the interior décor process. When guests started using our apartments, I signed them in at reception, and then carried their bags.

At that stage, there was no money in my business to pay for attorneys, interior designers and decorators and there certainly wasn’t enough money for porters.

However, when we got to 70 apartments, it didn’t make sense for me to be a porter any longer, so I hired someone to do that job, explaining clearly what I expected of him. Before I did that, though, I spent time designing incentives for him so that he would be more affordable for me, and so that he could earn as much money as possible.

Related: Training Is A Two-Way Trick

Know your talents – and your limitations

There are certain things I’m really good at, but I know without a doubt that sales isn’t one of them – and without sales, you don’t have a business. I couldn’t afford a top-flight salesperson, but I knew that I could attract the right talent with the right business model. I set some high targets for Pamela Niemand, but offered her one third of the business if she met them. We both won: she earned a share in a successful, trend-setting business, and my trend-setting business became successful!

Use your skills – but know when to hand over

My background in corporate finance meant that I had all the accounting skills I needed when we first started out, but I knew that the time would come when I would need someone focused on that side of the business full time. Doing it all myself first meant that I could brief my first full-time accountant clearly and with a deep understanding of what would be required – and that I could help that person find and fix any challenges based on my experience.

In summary, my simple advice to anyone starting out would be to bootstrap your business yourself without investors or staff for as long as you can, but don’t over-extend yourself. Know when to delegate tasks away so that you can focus on what you’re really good at – but don’t do it before you have a solid understanding of what’s required. Know what you’ll never be able to do, and bring in that resource from the beginning – but do it based on performance-based incentives, so that your fledgling business doesn’t lose out if your early hires don’t perform.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

The Myth About The Relationship Between Entrepreneurs And Taking Risks

This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.

Lisa Illingworth

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“I can’t be an entrepreneur or start a business. I don’t have the appetite for risk.” This line is spoken regularly to brave few that leave the perceived safety of a job, take the plunge and venture into the unknown world of being an entrepreneur. However, there is a gross misunderstanding in the appetite for risk that entrepreneurs are believed to have innately inside of them.

The little-known truth is that the majority of entrepreneurs don’t like taking risks and according to Luca Rigotti and Mathew Ryan in their paper that explores a model for quantifying risk and its translation into enterprising action, the results were very interesting.

Risk is explained by these theorists as taking action where the outcomes are unpredictable as well the factors leading to that outcome are unknown. One of the theorists in this area, Saraswati, who coined the term “tolerance for ambiguity” has a more accurate description of what the outside world deems taking a risk.

In simple terms, entrepreneurs don’t go head-first into the shark infested water because they like the idea of danger and potentially being eaten alive; or the thrill of being able to say that they survived whilst others perished in a pool of maimed flesh. They carefully calculate that the sharks have been fed recently, some of the sharks are ragged tooth sharks that whilst looking like they are set to devour a human being, are actually incapable of opening their jaws wide enough to bite. For those sharks that still have space or who smell blood and can’t resist the urge to kill, the entrepreneur has a cage set up that he can retreat into quickly and a knife with which to protect himself.

Related: 5 Infamous Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Face

Tolerance for ambiguity is the careful evaluation of what is known at the moment where a decision must be made and an open-mindedness for what is not known. This, coupled with the agility to change course when new information is presented, has earned the label of high risk appetite. The appetite is not for the risk, but it is the ability to move down a path, when all the information is not known.

I likened it to a person moving around in the dark holding a candle. The candle casts a light that illuminates a limited parameter around the person holding the candle. What is beyond the light that the candle casts, is unknown and potentially a risk. But as the person moves forward, the light reveals what was unknown and in the shadows. As the light reveals new information and new challenges added to what they have already learnt, the person can make better informed decisions. The tolerance is in not knowing what lies in the shadows yet to be illuminated by the candle and then the confidence in his or her own ability to act on what new information is discovered.

None of this behaviour is risky or irresponsible. There is careful consideration for what is known and a tolerance for what is unknown. And once there is more information available, a calculated next step is taken and more information is assimilated into what is now known. This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs To Adopt Today

Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…

Nicholas Bell

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For some people, becoming an entrepreneur is as easy as stepping off a bus. They have a big idea, they bring it to life, they hire employees and the next thing they are in a building smothered in branding and living the business dream. For others, the idea and the passion are there but they are unsure as to how they can make these into a sustainable reality. Entrepreneurial spirit isn’t like instant coffee – you don’t add ideas and suddenly get all the skills you need to thrive.

Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…

1. Believable vision

Make sure that your vision is believable and achievable. It has to live in the realms of possibility, not as a blue-sky idea that looks good on paper but wouldn’t work in reality. You need to be able to live this vision so make it realistic and achievable. This will not only keep you on track, but your employees as well.

2. Be inclusive

You need to ensure that every person who works with you feels as if they are part of your vision and understand it. They need to relate to where the business is going and how it plans to get there. Many leaders don’t understand why employees are not engaged with their business and it’s because many of them don’t actually understand what the business does.

Related: 4 Ways To Improve Your Budgeting Skills

3. Communication is critical

If you don’t have fantastic communication skills, then now is the time to hone them. When it comes to building employee morale, commitment and engagement, nothing works as effectively as constant communication. The same applies to client relationships. You need to repeat the vision and ethos of the company at every opportunity and you need to be part of the team that does this communication.

4. Be visible and transparent

You are communicating, now you need to make that communication genuine by being both open and clear. People respond incredibly well to transparency. They feel as if they are part of something that recognises their value and contribution and it fosters a more inclusive company culture. Often toxic cultures come about thanks to a lack of communication and visibility. People know when things are being kept secret and react negatively to it, regardless of whether they’re an employee, a customer or a manager.

5. Be practical

You aren’t going to build an empire in a fortnight so focus on a realistic and practical business strategy that has clear benchmarks and even clearer goals. Communicate these with the company and keep everybody on the same page. Practical and achievable means long-term success.

Related: Crucial Skills You Need To Be An Entrepreneur

6. Build opportunities

As people become immersed in your company and part of its growth they will also need opportunities to grow. You need to tie their careers to the business and create opportunities for them.

7. Be human

It takes people to build a culture, a company and a future. It’s essential that you are human in your interactions and your treatment of others. The impact that a down to earth and authentic attitude can have on a company is extraordinary.

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