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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

9 Answers You Need About Yourself Before Starting Your Own Business

If you think starting a business is only about financing a good idea, you have a lot to learn the hard way.

Ryan McMunn

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When considering starting your own company, there are a lot of financial, legal and business questions you need to ask yourself. “How am I going to raise money? Who are my competitors? Are there patents on similar products?” I’m not going to focus on those types of questions here. I’m going to focus on the intangibles.

Here are nine questions that you need to ask yourself about your own capabilities and personality as an aspiring leader.

1. How much responsibility can I take on?

You will be responsible for not only yourself and your business but everyone that has a vested interest in it. This includes employees and their families, investors, business partners, clients and the community in which you run your business.

It’s one thing to put your own fortune and reputation on the line; it’s another when you get other people and their livelihoods involved.

I am responsible every day to the BRIC Language Systems team in NYC, China, Brazil and Mexico – as well as every one of our language learners, interns and business partners.

Related: Start A Small Business, Become Self–Employed

Being your own boss sounds nice, but you’ll realise quickly just how much weight your shoulders can hold. Make sure you know you can handle it, for your own sake and theirs.

2. What am I willing to sacrifice in order to make this work?

There are tremendous sacrifices involved in starting up a business. Those sacrifices will include sleep, hobbies, exercise, relationships, vacations and your own personal freedom. A lot of these sacrifices are the result of realising who you’re responsible to (see above).

Be ready to sacrifice a lot in order to succeed and ask yourself if those sacrifices are worth the potential reward? More importantly, and more realistically, ask yourself if it would still be worth it if all of that sacrifice results in failure?

I lived in China for eight years. I sacrificed going to best friends weddings, the births of their children, my health, college football Saturdays and so much more.

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

So far, it is well worth it, not only because BRIC is doing well, but even more so because of the experiences and friendships that developed out of my time there. If BRIC blew up tomorrow – which I don’t expect nor want – I can honestly say that it was worth it.

3. Can I remain calm amid constant chaos?

calm-amongst-chaos

Batton down the hatches! You’ll be dealing with a storm of confused emotions and organisational chaos. How you relieve stress is incredibly important.

Make sure that you have the mental fortitude to deal with an incredibly stressful environment and that you know how to decompress. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, yoga or whatever else – make sure that you know how to relieve stress.

During my time in Shanghai I took kungfu classes at Longwu Kungfu, tried Taichi, and ran the Bund in the mornings.

Related: 5 Tips To Help Structure Your Entrepreneurial Lifestyle

This helped me get through an otherworldly amount of stress and chaos that only expats living in Shanghai will understand. No matter where you are, stress relief is one sacrifice you can’t afford to make.

4. Can I make a decision under pressure?

When you start a company, you will be dealing with issues that you could have never imagined. You’re involved in every decision and every detail. This means everything from legal to hiring, accounting, marketing, sales, IT and design.

You need to be able to calmly, rationally and quickly assess a situation and act. You’ll need to be decisive.

As Brian Tracy says “decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all”. Be able to make the decision, move on, and deal with the results. We all make bad decisions at some point, I know I’ve made a lot of them in getting BRIC up and running.

5. Am I able to back down when I realise I’m wrong?

Leadership is as much about being able to accept when you’re wrong and listening to your team, as it is about being right. No one likes a boss who can’t admit when their wrong.

If you’re leading the team in the wrong direction and people are pointing it out to you, as a leader you need to accept that fact and change course.

Being able to listen to your team and heed their advice is a hallmark of a good leader. I’ve been lucky in every leadership situation that I’ve been in to have either had a good team handed down to me or built a good team from the ground up. Those teams are why I’m where I’m at today.

6. What are my own weaknesses?

Being self-aware isn’t a prerequisite for being a good leader, but it should be. You need to know how what you think, say and do are perceived by others. This is far different from being self-conscious.

Related: Do You Speak Start-up?

Being self-aware allows you to understand others and effectively motivate, discipline and lead them. It’s recognising not only where you’re strong but also where you’re weak – and using that to build a team that compliments those weaknesses with strength.

7. Can I manage a diverse group of people?

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You are going to be responsible for putting a team together that will inevitably have different political, social and economic backgrounds.

They will have different attitudes, personalities and viewpoints. These differences are to be celebrated, but they will also need to be managed and lead towards a common goal.

Can you, as a leader, bring your team together when they don’t see eye-to-eye and are at each other’s throats? It will happen, you need to be able to help them forward as a team. Sometimes these differences are impossible to overcome and change needs to happen.

8. Can I let someone go, including someone close to me?

A lot of startups involve friends. Those friends may come from the neighbourhood, university or a previous job. Sometimes those friendships get in the way of good business judgement.

If anyone, including a friend, is dragging down the business despite repeated attempts to motivate them and having given them a fair chance, they need to go. This is part of your responsibility to everyone on the team who is executing, as well as all of the others mentioned in no. 1 above.

I’ve had to let people go in all kinds of circumstances. Some of them were close to me. I’ve had people break down in tears, and I’ve broken down in tears myself, but we were able to have the conversation and get through it. It’s not easy, so ask yourself whether or not you can handle that type of situation?

9. What are my reasons for starting this company?

Is it to make money, change the world, disrupt an industry, work for yourself, passion, pride? There are a lot of reasons people start companies. Make sure you know why you’re starting your company and that the reason is sound.

Related: Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Successful Entrepreneur?

Be realistic if you’re setting out to change the world. Change doesn’t come easy. Make sure that change is wanted or necessary when trying to disrupt an industry.

Be self-motivated if you want to work for yourself, and make sure that passion and pride are both in check.

Once you’ve answered these nine questions, get ready for a whirlwind. You’ll feel extremes of every emotion from exhilaration to sorrow, success to failure, anxiety to serenity, doubt to certainty and anger to pleasure. You’ll feel many of those conflicting emotions at the same time and sometimes for the same reason. It’s a wild ride, and if you’re ready for it take the gloves off and come out swinging for the fences, it’s totally worth it.

Lastly, don’t overthink it. If you ask yourself too many questions, you’ll never get them answered and wind up never starting anything at all.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Related: The 7 Unwritten Rules For Becoming A World-Class Entrepreneur

Ryan McMunn has 11 years of experience doing business in China. He is the founder and CEO at BRIC Language Systems, a leading online language-training firm. McMunn has been interviewed by Fox Business, CCTV-America and several other publications as well as spoken at conferences in Europe and across the U.S. on global entrepreneurship.

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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