In today’s 21st century, the word entrepreneurship conjures up feelings of optimism, success, and happiness. The world of entrepreneurship is viewed as a glitzy, almost heroic career, with a guaranteed pathway to riches and success.
You’ve seen how it works on T.V., social media, and the many YouTube commercials. Just dream up a great idea, talk to a guru about how to market that idea, make a website, and bang! You might as well buy your mansion now, purchase that Ferrari you’ve always wanted, and prepare yourself to date the hottest woman this earth has ever seen because you’ll be printing cash in a matter of days.
A successful entrepreneur is somebody people only pay attention to once they reach success. They say things like, “I could never be like them” or “they got lucky.” But what most people miss is what makes up a truly successful entrepreneur. They don’t see the struggles each successful entrepreneur had to overcome. All the struggles, the daily rejections, and the heart aches… the betrayals, the rumors, the criticism… the empty bank accounts, the lonely nights, and the tears while trying to make their dream a reality.
The only difference between the successful entrepreneur and your current self is…
They chose to try every day.
They chose to never quit every day.
They chose to show up every day.
They chose to work hard every day.
They chose to hustle every day.
They chose to learn from proven mentors every day.
They improved every day.
And they did all of this, despite feeling like quitting every day.
And eventually, they became the successful entrepreneur they are today.
This is a trick question, because you can be whatever you want to be. Cliché but true.
Let me give you a quick example. There once was a boy that grew up in Missouri, where he lived on a farm with his family of six. He worked a newspaper route, waking up at 4:30 every morning to deliver the Times before school and repeated the round for the evening Star after school. He received poor grades, often falling asleep during class. He was always distracted, drawing cartoons on the sides of ambulances for decoration and publishing works in the army newspaper.
He then grew up… Started a short-lived commercial art studio, went broke and moved to Kansas City to work at a Film Ad Company until he made enough money to start a cartoon company that resulted in a 12-and-a-half-minute, one-real film, of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland that was completed way too late and pushed him once again into bankruptcy. But he never gave up, moved to Los Angeles, and convinced a New York film distributor to sell six Alice comedies for $100 a month. He got married, his wife had little interest in film and did not believe in her husband’s decision to pursue film. He went three more years with little to no success, until one special day, he created a character by the name of Mickey Mouse.
The man in this story goes by the name of Walt Disney. This farm boy, who ran paper routes, did poorly in school, and failed numerous times entrepreneurially, created the Walt Disney Company, with a current market cap of $168.4 billion. And when asked what his formula was to success, he responded with: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them. It’s not enough to have a dream, you have to pursue that dream, and this requires courage.”
It’s important to realize that each of us are exactly like Walt Disney. Each of us may not have the ability to draw like Walt Disney, but each of us all start with the same level of intelligence and wherewithal when entering the field of entrepreneurship. Whether you admire Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Elon Musk, each of these billionaires started with nothing just like you. Lucky for us, studies done throughout the 21st century have recently given us insight into the characteristics and personalities of successful entrepreneurs, giving us a better handle on what we can control within ourselves to increase our chances of success. Therefore, we might as well jump right in. How many of these characteristics and personalities describe you?
With the uncertain and competitive environment of today’s new startup culture, entrepreneurs who thrive commonly have a strong sense of personal self-efficacy to execute their visions. Self-efficacy describes an entrepreneur’s “belief in their own abilities, specifically their ability to meet the challenges ahead of them and complete a task successfully” (Akhtar, 2008). For example, an individual with high self-efficacy will exert more effort for a greater length of time, grind through setbacks, set higher goals, and create better strategies when trying to complete a given task. More importantly, higher levels of self-efficacy allow many to take negative feedback in a more positive manner.
“I am NOT a product of my circumstances. I AM a product of my decisions” -Stephen Covey. More specifically to our scenario as entrepreneurs; does your future business success or failure depend on what you do or what the world does to you?
This very question defines an individual with an internal and external locus of control. An individual with an internal locus of control conceptualizes that their own decisions control their outcomes while an individual with an external locus of control trusts that factors such as chance, fate, and their environment control outcomes. Very few of us actually live by either extreme, yet it is important as entrepreneurs to develop a strong internal locus of control.
Those with an internal locus of control:
Let’s start with an important statistical fact. Accenture (global professional services company) stated that when surveying executives, 93% of them explained that innovation is critical to their company’s success. As an entrepreneur, innovation is a never-ending process. Many people believe innovation only occurs when the creation of the “big idea” occurs, but sadly… many fail to realize that true innovativeness actually happens in several steps. First you come up with an idea, then you create the solution to that idea, and then you continue that process over and over for the rest of the company’s existence.
Here’s why innovation will need to be at the center of your entrepreneurial journey. Whatever company you end up creating will fit inside of a specific industry, and no matter how new your company is, it will never be alone within that industry. For example, you manufacture flying cars. Although nobody currently manufactures these vehicles, you need to make sure you continue to stand out so when a new company does enter the market you can continue to be the best. The top companies in the world take their most popular products and make them better. Constant innovation makes brands stand out in the market and makes it easy for companies to scale at a quicker rate. And the innovative culture within a company starts with one person… The leader of the company. You.
Passion may be the most essential characteristic to a successful entrepreneur. Passion is required when convincing investors to support the venture, gathering a team dedicated to investing time and effort into the business, and finding customers willing to pay for the product or service. Passion is the game changer, “it’s the energy (that) gives you the power to focus on what excites you.”
At the inception of your product or service, passion will be what effects employees, customers, and investors. They are persuaded by it, and for good reason. As the entrepreneur, your passion displays a strong gauge of:
An entrepreneur with unwavering passion will ultimately sell more, earn more, and effect the world more through the success of their venture.
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”Oprah Winfrey // American Media Executive
Leonard C. Green opens the lecture at the beginning of each semester at Babson College with “Entrepreneurs are not risk takers. They are calculated risk takers.” The difference between risk takers and calculated risk takers is the difference between failure and success. Entrepreneurs are thought of as risk takers, ready to jump into a future of uncertainty. Most successful entrepreneurs are viewed as willing participants who are ready to risk it all: time, money, resources, etc. The problem with this façade, is that society often fails to add that the most successful entrepreneurs are “calculated” risk takers.
Here is the difference. A risk taker bets it all on the luck of the draw. If they fail, they fail in a way that ends up being so catastrophic that they can’t pivot or try again. They literally go all in with no chance of survival if something goes wrong. But that is not what makes a successful entrepreneur.
The most successful entrepreneurs find ways to reduce risk while taking risk. Sounds redundant, right? The most successful entrepreneurs actually take small steps toward their goals, while keeping resources, plans and extra bandwidth available to contend with the unknowns along the way. They are constantly asking themselves, “how do I take the next step without carrying the majority of the risk; how do I do it faster so I can save on investment of time and money; and how can I pivot along the way to make it better than I had initially drawn it up?”
It’s as simple as this: You will only find out how far you can go by risking more than you ever thought possible, but your journey will end before it even begins if you leave all your risk to chance.
No one is ready to be an entrepreneur. Whether you fit all of the characteristics listed above or not. Being a successful entrepreneur is likely going to be the toughest goal you have ever had to accomplish in your life. Entrepreneurship is hard as $#*!. But pay no attention to me, family, friends, or the crazy old lady that stares at you funny when you are getting groceries. Every person lives life differently. Some people will agree with what you choose to do and others won’t, you just need to do what you think is best because “following your gut” is how each entrepreneur became the success they are today.