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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

How You Can Manage Your Sense of Identity At Work

A strong and unwavering sense of identity must be important for entrepreneurs, right? Maybe not.

Robert Paddock

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Our work-based identity is an interesting, and often troublesome, topic for entrepreneurs. Here’s why:

As an entrepreneur, we need to tap into a hugely diverse set of responsibilities to get our business off the ground. We’ve got to create a product or service that people will pay for, manage our team, liaise with funders and shareholders, market our product, manage our finances, create scalable systems and many other tasks that require radically different skills.

Related: Align Customer Perception With Your Brand Identity

In the early days, most businesses don’t have the luxury of appointing a specialist for every role, and even well-funded startups require founders who have diverse enough skill sets to get the business off the ground.

Then, as our business starts to grow, we realise that we can’t possibly continue to manage the breadth of responsibilities we currently have. So we start to hire specialists to take over portions of our responsibilities. It’s around this time that the issues around our own identity start to arise.

Defining our identity in dialogue

On the subject of identity, the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, says that, “We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the things our significant others want to see in us. Even after we outgrow some of these others, the conversation with them continues within us.”

In business, our “significant others” include our colleagues. We’re used to being the people at the epicentre of the business, critically involved in most decisions, and relied on for our breadth of understanding and cohesive vision for the business.

I particularly like the last line of Taylor’s quote, “Even after we outgrow some of these others, the conversation with them continues within us.”

The way I interpret it is that even when we need to change our self identity for the good of the business, and start taking on new or different responsibilities, we continue to define ourselves by the work we used to do, and we’re perpetually drawn back to the tasks and responsibilities which have come to define our work at the early stages of the business.

Others have defined us by this work, and it’s very tempting to keep jumping back into the familiar waters of these roles, responsibilities and behaviours.

The problem is that when we do jump back in, we disempower the specialists who have now been tasked with these responsibilities – which is not a great way to create a healthy corporate culture.

This is a challenge that is repeated again and again, albeit in different ways every time, for as long as our business continues to grow.

Redefining our work-based identity

As entrepreneurs we have to constantly redefine our work-based identity based on the needs of the business. This sounds like an extreme statement, but ask any entrepreneur who has successfully started a business and they’ll tell you how the job they’re doing now bears little resemblance to the job they were doing when they started their business. These changes and adaptations often require radical shifts of perspective and identity, which can be incredibly challenging.

Related: Are You Full Of Mojo Or Nojo?

So how can we make these constant transitions throughout our entrepreneurial lives without feeling like a slave to the needs of the business? Here are five points that have helped me:

1. Our identity is transient

The first, and most important point, is to accept that our work-based identity is transient and will change – guaranteed. Don’t hold on too tightly to the things that defined you in the past or you might stifle the growth of the business. You might even get left behind as your business grows in spite of your clinging.

2. Self-identity is about your potential

One of the online dictionaries defines self identity as, “the recognition of one’s potential and qualities as an individual”.

The second point is to recognise that self identity is about potential, and the implication is that what we’re doing today doesn’t define us nearly as much as what we’re capable of doing.

3. Empower others

Empower others in your business, especially in areas you used to manage yourself, with specific KPIs and allow them to do their jobs – only get involved when you need to.

4. Manage yourself outside of work

Finally, proactively manage your identity outside of work. The entrepreneurial journey can be all encompassing, and it’s important to have other lenses through which you define yourself.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Wiseoldmonkeyman

    Sep 27, 2015 at 21:22

    Getsmarter is a joke. 128 million in revenue riding off the brand of UCT, People are buying the courses only because its UCT nothing more not because of getsmarter

  2. Billy J

    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:30

    “Even after we outgrow some of these others, the conversation with them continues within us.” Spot on! Thanks Robert.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

5 Fierce Ways To Become The Ultimate Entrepreneur

What does the ultimate entrepreneur look like? The truth is that although we aspire to many of our role models, success is personal. Here are five ways to find your own ‘ultimate’ success.

Erik Kruger

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For some, the ultimate entrepreneur might be someone like Elon Musk — working non-stop, rich beyond measure, but with no balance in life.

For others it might simply be someone who has built a business that will sustain them; an entrepreneur who is successful but also prioritises other aspects of their life. Take a second. Think about it. What does it mean to you?

In my view the ultimate entrepreneur is focused, has copious amounts of positive energy, a supportive network, is mentally tough, has their priorities in order and has a steadfast idea towards which they are working.

Here are five ways to go about building yourself into the ultimate entrepreneur (or at least my version of one).

1. Seed your day with energy enhancers

Your energy is your secret weapon. You should protect and enhance it at all costs. When I talk about energy I am referring to both physical and mental energy. There is an esoteric component to this as well, but we will leave that discussion for another day.

Related: High Impact Entrepreneurs Accelerate Job Creation And Economic Transformation In South Africa

How can you enhance your physical energy? The simplest way is to get enough sleep, drink enough water, and clean up your diet. It really is as simple as that. Just get the basics right.

How can you enhance your mental energy? Remove friends and influences that drain you and replace them with a network of people who support you and can appreciate the level at which you are playing. I also suggest to my clients that they carry small symbols with them that can remind them of the goals they are working towards and other things that are important to them.

2. Train for mental toughness

Mental toughness is the ability to pursue your goals with a positive attitude amidst the challenges and chaos of life. The most important thing I want you to know about mental toughness is that it is trained. This means that you must put in the effort and time to develop a stronger mentality.

The two important skills to train are:

  1. Self-awareness. In other words, becoming aware of the moment that you start latching on to negativity or succumbing to images of a future that might never come to pass.
  2. Creating a strong counter visualisation. This visualisation ideally contains emotionally-charged images of the big goal that you are working towards, the person that you are becoming, and the things that matter to you.

Mental toughness does not ignore the problem. It simply allows you to keep moving forward while you figure things out.

3. Create a support network

It’s a great feeling when you finally find people who get it. They get what you are trying to build and the pressures and challenges you face. I’d love to tell you that such people are all around you, but the truth is that they aren’t. You must go looking for them. At events, on social media, at business forums, really wherever entrepreneurs congregate.

As with most things you need to realise the importance of time in building such a network. So, start sooner than later. One day you will wake up and realise that the people you once admired are now peers and form part of your network. It’s a great feeling. But start now.

Related: How To Control What You Can And Influence What You Can’t In Your Life

3. Zoom out

You are not your business. This is important and difficult for entrepreneurs to hear. Business is such a personal thing. Especially in the early days when you literally are your business. At some point however, you need to realise that you cannot let your business consume your life. It’s one component of your life, not its entirety.

So, make sure that you are looking after and making time for your health, your relationships, your energy levels, your creativity, and your hobbies.

4. Is it all about the money?

This ties in to the previous point but also to a greater purpose. I get why money is such an important metric early on. We need it to survive, and to that end, focusing on creating more money in your business is a great goal. However, money always seems like an important thing to chase, until we have enough but are still found wanting for something more.

I think there is purpose in you just being alive, but I also believe that we create purpose with our intentions and actions. You might not currently know what a crafted purpose looks like, and that’s okay. I would encourage you to consider what your life (and business) looks like in the bigger context of serving others.

The ultimate entrepreneur is an ideal that you must create for yourself. Don’t copy the greats. Build your own version 2.0 and make it damn good.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

Awaken Your Entrepreneurial Spirit

Got a great business idea? Here’s how you can awaken your inner entrepreneur and turn that idea into income – by Dr John Demartini, human behaviourist and founder of The Demartini Institute.

Dr John Demartini

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Dr John Demartini

Whether you’re keen to start a business in services or hospitality, food or retail, all entrepreneurial ventures have two things in common: you, and the people you want to serve. Together, you form a community bound together by values, and this is what determines your success. That’s because the more your venture allows you to live by your highest values or priorities, the more prepared you’ll be to weather the storms that are an inevitable part of entrepreneurialism and ultimately be able to thrive. On the other hand, the more you’re able to fulfil other people’s needs, the greater your chances of success.

1. Find your niche

A niche is a gap, a need that is currently not addressed by existing businesses. There are all kinds of niches; some are completely disruptive (like Uber, which revolutionised public transport), others simply improve upon an existing concept. But, just because you have identified a niche, doesn’t mean that it’s right for you. You need to make sure it’s a niche that speaks to your market’s needs, while also speaking to your individual needs or highest values.

Related: 7 Character Traits Every Entrepreneur Can Cultivate

To do this, you have to make sure that you are clear on your own highest values:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are your priorities?
  • How can you use your business to fulfil these?

If you can’t answer these questions, you may find that you don’t have the energy or resilience to invest in what is an undeniably challenging career path. At the same time, you also need to make sure that you are in tune with the dominant buying motives or highest values of your market. If not, you are simply assuming that there is a need for your product or service, when there might not be. The more you are able to answer the market’s highest need or value, the greater your chances of making a sale.

2. Think innovation

The most successful entrepreneurs are those who improve life for others. Again, Uber stands out as a great example. That’s why it’s not enough simply to have a good head for business: If you’re set on an entrepreneurial career, you need to cultivate an inventive mindset. You need to be constantly on the lookout for the gaps in current offerings so that you can address them and, in so doing, offer people an improved product or service. It’s about creating efficiency and convenience. But, as I’ve previously mentioned, innovation isn’t always new; sometimes, it’s just better.

Richard Branson stands out as a prime example of an entrepreneur who finds dinosaur companies with big brand names that overcharge people because they are well known. He offers to do the same thing at a fraction of the price. He’s not offering anything new; but he is offering improvement and greater efficiency.

Related: Why Conflict Resolution Is A Matter Of Matching Values

3. Focus on problem-solving

You need to be clear on the fact that entrepreneurialism isn’t solely about making money. It’s also about upgrading people’s quality of life. In this way, entrepreneurialism has an inextricably humanitarian component. Once you start focusing on how you can solve the problems that dog our society, you’ll have found a truly rewarding niche – one that’s not only financially rewarding, but one which allows you to service the largest number of people.

4. Keep looking for opportunities

The ability to identify and pursue opportunities is hardwired in most entrepreneurs; it’s part of their DNA. It must be, because this is the only way you will be able to keep refining, building and expanding your business.

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Are You Suited to Entrepreneurship

4 Entry-Level Jobs That Will Prep You For Entrepreneurial Success

Success is a journey, not a destination, so think hard about where to start.

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Entrepreneurship might look like an unruly beast, especially when larger corporations are involved. However, those in the daily grind of entry-level positions are already developing the necessary skills to bring this wayward creature to heel.

“One of the first truths you’ll learn about entrepreneurship is that you’re 100 percent responsible for your success or failure,” says fellow Entrepreneur columnist Mike Monroe.

Entry-level positions in many different areas – including sales, marketing, development, project management and customer service – provide the perfect environment for future entrepreneurs to learn that truth and hone their skills.

Learning to fly from the ground up

While the average entrepreneur is 40 years old, younger people eager to make their own way have plenty of developmental opportunities that can help them hit the ground running. According to a 2017 survey from Heidrick & Struggles, nearly 15 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies started in the sales department. These high-powered executives didn’t waltz into the C-suite on day one; they learned the tricks of the trade on the front lines with everyone else.

Related: Entrepreneurship Is All About Overcoming Obstacles

If you crave the life of an entrepreneur, don’t let the barriers to entry get you down. Take one of the following entry-level jobs and use your time in the workforce to get the experience you need to launch your own business.

1. Sales

Inbound or outbound, sales experience can give any would-be entrepreneur a leg up. Not only do you learn how to communicate effectively in a sales position; you must also understand the products you sell (and the brand behind them).

A job in sales will teach you to stop trying to convince people that they need what you have and start listening to what they want. Once you recognise that the market dictates what you sell, and not the other way around, you’ll be prepared to run a successful start-up.

2. Human resources

human-resourcesHR pros keep businesses running. If you work as one, you will quickly learn how much things like timely payment, accurate sick-day counts and health insurance matter to workers. To keep your team happy, you’ll need to know what employees consider to be important. What better way to learn that than to take a job where they let you know?

Jobs in HR also provide crash courses in communication skills and legal compliance. For example, it’s much better to learn that a manager can’t force an employee with folliculitis to shave his beard before the decision affects your pocketbook.

Related: Going It Alone In Business? 5 Reasons That’s A Really Bad Idea

3. Customer service

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: If you deal directly with customers, you learn how to handle tasks quickly while keeping a friendly face.

Customers range from the kindest people you will ever meet to those who become enraged when they can’t double their coupons. As an entrepreneur, you and your team will deal with all of them. Learn how to respond to customer complaints on someone else’s dime, so that when it’s your turn to do so, your learning experiences won’t have a negative impact on your bottom line.

4. Leadership

To be a truly successful entrepreneur, you must learn how to lead a team. Leaders invariably learn some tough lessons at the helm, but if you wait until you are running the whole operation, those lessons could cost you some of your best workers.

This may seem like an odd suggestion for an article on entry-level positions, but note that you don’t need to be in a leadership position to learn leadership skills. From your first day on a job, your supervisors will be sizing up your initiative-taking ability and your critical-thinking and time-management skills to determine whether you have the capabilities necessary to take on more complicated projects. Look for opportunities to listen effectively and motivate those around you – this will help you hone your leadership craft until you get the opportunity to take on the role for yourself.

Related: Start This Business With Zero Advertising Budget And No Need For Premises

These positions and skill sets provide invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs, but they’re hardly the only ones. Reporters, insurance adjusters, accountants, teachers and consultants – these jobs and many others are full of learning opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

If you have to work for someone else before you found your own company, don’t treat the opportunity with disdain. Learn everything you can on the job, so that when your time comes you can use those lessons to lead your company to success.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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