Almost every article ever written about entrepreneurship suggests that it’s not for everyone. And yet the articles go on to list attributes that many successful people possess as the traits commonly associated with great entrepreneurs, such as a strong work ethic, persistence, persuasiveness and discipline.
For 25 years, I have studied entrepreneurs and discovered that what contributed to their incredible success was not what society typically considers assets. People like John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford and Oprah Winfrey didn’t achieve greatness by possessing the traits and following the narrow path recommended by management gurus.
So, don’t believe everything others say about you or how they label you. Maybe your supposed liabilities are really your assets. Here are 12 signs many people might consider a liability, but which can actually be indications that you are meant to be an entrepreneur.
1. Hate the status quo.
It doesn’t make sense to you that something has been done the time-honoured way with no explanation why. You are not someone who wants to just go through the motions or sit by idly. Nor do you like following the pack.
2. Easily bored.
You find yourself easily bored, and others start viewing you as a problem. But nothing is wrong with you except that you are bored with activities that aren’t up to your abilities and aren’t challenging. That’s why you hated most of the classes you ever attended. Think Bill Gates who dropped out of college to become one of the richest men in the world.
3. Fired from jobs.
You’re too creative for your own good when it comes to working for others, and you may have some history, as I do, of losing jobs. Being just a cog in a wheel is very difficult for you because you want to create something others can be inspired by and contribute to.
4. Labelled a rebel.
You know that greatness resides outside the lines of conformity and don’t think that policies, laws and regulations apply to you. You have been described as a rebel and rule-breaker and would defy gravity if you could.
5. Resist authority.
You have a lifelong record of resisting authority from your parents, teachers and bosses. You don’t go along with the agreed-upon norms of the group or community you work and live in.
6. Ready to improve everything.
You always see how you could do things better. In addition, you are opinionated and freely give your two-cents about your better way of doing things – even when you’re not asked.
7. Bad at making small talk.
You have difficulty making the kind of small talk that so many people get comfort from. This social pattern of relationship and rapport- building seems like a waste of time to you and makes you uncomfortable.
8. Bullied in your youth.
You may have been heavily criticised, picked on and even bullied as a child or teenager. This has caused you to be driven to excel and to prove to the world that you are indeed a force to be reckoned with.
You may have been labelled obsessive/compulsive because when you get started on something you have difficulty letting go. Don’t let anyone convince you that this is a disease or deficiency. All of the great entrepreneurs become completely immersed in their vision.
10. Scared to go solo.
The entrepreneur in you is scared of going out on your own — and also terrified of not doing so. This fear is so common in our society because we’ve been conditioned to think that entrepreneurship is much riskier than getting a ‘good job’. The reality is there is instability in both.
11. Unable to unwind.
You can’t go to sleep at night because you can’t turn your thoughts off. An idea may even manifest itself in your dreams. The next morning you find yourself still consumed with that idea, distracting you from the job you’re supposed to be doing.
12. Don’t fit the norm.
You have always been a bit uncomfortable in your own skin. Until you get used to the idea that you are in fact different from most people, it could prove to be a problem – or exactly the motivation you need to acknowledge the entrepreneur screaming to get out.
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?
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.
The Myth About The Relationship Between Entrepreneurs And Taking Risks
This is the true relationship between entrepreneurs and the apparent illusion of risk.
“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.
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.
7 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs To Adopt Today
Want to know what skills can help you build confidence and your business? Here are seven…
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.
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.
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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