Business owners come in all shapes and sizes, from an endless variety of backgrounds and personalities. There is no set mold that makes a person ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for owning a business, but the myth exists that entrepreneurs have to have certain traits to be successful. For example, be creative… or extraverted … or a leader.
The problem is, what’s successful for one person may not be for another. There are several characteristics or personality traits that people attribute to entrepreneurialism, but that box is extremely limited. And, people are making decisions about entrepreneurism based on the box, not on why they’re called to entrepreneurism.
That’s why I’ve started using the word “entreprendre”—the origin of entrepreneurism. It means “to undertake; to begin something”.  I’ve found that the feeling of wanting to begin something is often at the heart of why someone feels called to entrepreneurism. And it may or may not translate into starting a business.
If you do feel called, here are some myth-busting questions to help you solidify that calling, and get on the road to success as you define it.
What is a successful entrepreneur in the first place? I can guarantee that it’s not only the tech engineers with an innovative new bit of software or mobile application to share with the world (although these individuals can certainly be successful entrepreneurs, too). One of the characteristics that we expect – mistakenly – entrepreneurs to have is extraversion, or the ability to get out there, network, and make connections. However, we all recognize Mark Zuckerberg as a primary entrepreneur of modern times. Mark started as a computer programmer (reportedly, a prodigy), a lifestyle that typically doesn’t lend itself to getting out there and making dozens of business connections. And yet, he started a social network! I have helped individuals who are successful at entrepreneurism, and most of them were people that no one would ever expect to become business owners. They have defined success on their own terms and are smart enough to shore up their weaknesses as needed.
Why am I being called to entrepreneurism? Explore what it is that is drawing you to the entrepreneurial life—what you think, hope and feel entrepreneurism will do for you. Sometimes, the call is telling you to start your own business; other times, it’s saying something else. For example, starting your own business has higher risks than a safe corporate job with health benefits and a 401K, but it also can have exponential rewards. What is your risk tolerance, and how does that affect your call to entrepreneurism? Sometimes it’s about taking something good (or not-so-good) and making it better, like entrepreneur Scott Griffith did with the car-sharing company, Zipcar. Remember, being ‘entrepreneurial’ is not just about owning your business; you can be entrepreneurial in other ways – your home decorating, relationships, cooking… “Entrepreneurial” is actually “characterized by the taking of financial risks in the hope of profit; enterprising.” Of course, ‘profit’ doesn’t have to be financial gain; it can be personal, relational, etc.
How am I going to be an entrepreneur? This is a holistic way you must approach your calling to entrepreneurism – it’s not as much about if you should be an entrepreneur, but how you are going to do it. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Businesses need structure. Are you going to be motivated by others telling you what to do and when to do it? Or, do you need people to allow you to control your calendar and how you set up systems?
- Business owners need people, whether inside and/or outside their venture. Do you need to collaborate with others in person on a regular basis? Or, do you need to be left alone much of the time, so you can work on your own?
- If an investor approached you to fund your business or idea, would a high command, authoritative style incentivize you or leave you feeling pushed, wanting to rebel?
Pay attention to signs—What people keep saying about you, your interests, etc. Calls are always trying to tell us something, and they aren’t always fully developed. You may have to explore further.
You may need an advisory team, or a support system that allows you to have a business (such as additional managers, or people you respect and trust to make some decisions and take some actions on your behalf). Entrepreneur Alyssa Rapp, of Bottlenotes.com, got some help from Netflix founder Jim Cook, to help with her company’s success. She also started her business based on a hobby she has – it’s not about bringing the next big thing to the marketplace, or reinventing the wheel with a product; it’s about doing something you love and finding the right people to help you make it successful.
Sometimes a person who seems to fit the mold of an entrepreneur won’t actually succeed as a business owner, and sometime an individual who seems a highly unlikely fit for entrepreneurism may be one of the most successful. Give me a call to talk more about your itch for entrepreneurism – I’m excited to be part of helping you and your business succeed!