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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

7 Things Great Entrepreneurs Don’t Do

These days, everyone with a MacBook and a blog thinks he’s an entrepreneur. Well, here’s a little tough love for the entrepreneurial generation: Calling yourself a CEO doesn’t make you one and a small army of Twitter followers doesn’t make you a leader, either.

Steve Tobak

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As a wise VC whose name escapes me once said, “There are entrepreneurs and there are Entrepreneurs.

Not to dash your hopes and dreams, but the truth is the vast majority of you simply aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs or leaders. I know you don’t want to hear that, but it’s true. And the sooner you realise you’re not going to be the second coming of Mark Zuckerberg, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to reach for the stars. As Robert Browning said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” But having grown up in the high-tech industry and worked with hundreds of real CEOs, VCs, and Entrepreneurs for decades, one thing I can tell you is the word has become so overused, it’s almost meaningless.

So while there is no one-size-fits-all model for true entrepreneurs, in my experience, there are some things they seem to have in common. This might surprise you, but what sets them apart isn’t some laundry list of attributes. It’s their actions.

What makes them unique is what they do and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t do.

1. They don’t think about work-life balance

They’re mostly workaholics. What that means is their work comes first. It’s what they live for. They’re not freewheeling, fun-loving people who live for the weekend. They live to do what they love, and that’s work.

2. They don’t try to be what they’re not

Probably the most damaging business myth to come along in decades is personal branding. You are not a product, and you can’t change who you are. Besides, real entrepreneurs don’t think about themselves. They think about their ideas and how to turn them into great products and services. And they deliver.

3. They don’t do it for the money

They don’t whine about how hard they work for peanuts. They just do it. And because they’re passionate about what they do and focused like a laser beam, the money eventually comes, big-time.

4. They don’t have day jobs

Great entrepreneurs don’t just dip their toes in the water. They jump in headfirst without a thought about the rocks below. They don’t do a little of this and a little of that. When they hit on something they think is really cool and exciting, they go all in.

5. They don’t give in to fear

They don’t pay attention to those voices in their heads – you know, the ones that haunt you with everything that can go wrong. They’re not fearless, mind you. Nobody is. They just don’t let their fear stop them from taking risks. They do listen to some voices, though: the voice of reason and their instincts.

6. They don’t have grand visions

While some do have grand delusions that they’re destined for greatness – a prophecy that’s often self-fulfilling, interestingly enough – for the most part, they generally don’t have grand visions for their companies. Zuckerberg, for example, wasn’t trying to create a company. He just wanted to rate the looks of fellow classmates.

7. They don’t have virtual mentors

Most people follow all sorts of writers, bloggers and tweeters these days. That’s fine, but to get somewhere in life, to do great things, you have to have real mentors in the real world.

Former Intel chairman Andy Grove mentored Steve Jobs. Jobs, in turn, advised Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Behind every great entrepreneur is at least one great mentor. A real one.

Most importantly, real entrepreneurs don’t call themselves entrepreneurs. They don’t do what everyone else is doing. They don’t follow the status quo, conventional wisdom or popular fads. They carve their own unique path. They’re leaders of their own destiny. That’s what drives them. And that’s why they succeed.

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Do you have the success gene? Find out here

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What characteristics do you think all entrepreneurs should have? Let us know in the comment section below…

Steve Tobak is managing partner of Invisor Consulting -- a Silicon Valley-based management and strategy consulting firm -- and a former senior executive of the technology industry

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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