I came to entrepreneurship on the birth of my first child. My corporate world didn’t look kindly at my first pregnancy 16 years ago and new to Australia, knowing a handful of people, I decided to start my own thing. I didn’t give it a second thought. I didn’t labour over whether it was right or wrong or whether I could or couldn’t do it, I just did it. My husband and I were new to the country and we wanted to build a new life. I wanted to contribute.
I don’t know that I recognised then any specific entrepreneurial attributes in myself. I am after all what I am; a product of my upbringing, my culture, my parents, strengths and weaknesses, my experiences and my education. But as with our human need for labels, after founding Taurus Marketing, theCaseStudycompany and TaurusFastTrack, I was called an entrepreneur.
I like it. It sits well. And in a country of 2 million small business entrepreneurs I am far from alone. Apart from my belief there is nothing small about small business, I have recognised in myself and others, that it takes a certain type of person to take on the role on of founding, running, and growing one’s own business.
These days, one doesn’t have to wait to have a baby to start a new business and I am permanently inspired at how young entrepreneurship starts. Take the example of our most famous young entrepreneur Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.
With the internet today, the demographics of entrepreneurship don’t matter; but there is something distinguishing about them as individuals, their physiology and their mannerisms. You can usually spot them in the way they move, make decisions, speak, listen and stand. They are snappy, fast thinkers, usually intolerant, and experts at multi-tasking. There is a difference in the way they see opportunities where others see problems, the way mistakes are learning curves rather than failures and the way they are willing to give anything a go.
So is there a science behind the profile of an entrepreneur? Why are some driven to go out on their own and create from scratch and others not? Is it the way entrepreneurs break the rules and make their own that distinguishes them most? And if passion or love for something is strategically targeted, isn’t anything possible?
My feeling is the entrepreneurial attitude is almost a way of facing life, personally and professionally and that it can be self taught, albeit with mentors and clever reading and courses along the way. And of course by surrounding yourself with the right people.
So if it is never too late to become an entrepreneur, what steps can you take towards entrepreneurship?
1. Have self belief
An entrepreneur focuses on his or her vision 24/7. It is a living and breathing thing. There is a firm belief we can and will achieve. Success is defined personally and not so much by others’ perceptions. There is little veering from targets.
Entrepreneurs are tenacious and steadfast at the risk of being stubborn with a firm commitment to keep going, even when the going gets tough, which it does. Self belief permits a high level of trust in one’s capabilities—the concentration and focus of making a vision a reality. Self belief is knowing that the achievement of objectives is part of life’s journey and not just wishful thinking. Self belief is the difference between dreaming of an outcome and actually having the confidence and drive to make it happen.
2. Follow your passion
I’m a big believer that we are all good at what we enjoy and enjoy what we are good at. We all know someone who after years of working in one field decides one day they are not satisfied with their ‘nine to five’ job and quit to pursue their passion for photography or painting or to write that book. Rule number two is recognise your strengths and follow your passion. Maybe it is passion for owning a business or for lifestyle, cars, food or fashion – or just time! Whatever it is, an entrepreneur tends to work hard doing what they love to do – it just isn’t work. Passion in your everyday life is a joy – and it overwhelmingly makes sense, we are much happier doing what we love.
3. See opportunities in obstacles
I never really thought of myself as good at problem solving or lateral thinking—I am anything but a logical brain, however organised I am. Coming from an academic family, they held special celebrations if certain subject results I struggled with were better than normal. But in my business, although it is mostly plain sailing after 16 years, I am the troubleshooter, the one where ultimately the buck stops, where problems are mine to fix.
In my life, challenges and problems are opportunities for change and the issues are mine to solve. As an entrepreneur, my successes are my responsibility, as are my failures. Each new challenge is a catalyst for change and a chance for increased excellence. When an opportunity arises to meet a need, the entrepreneur grabs it. Tasks that could be placed in the too-hard basket, are grabbed on to and solutions found.
There is a common misconception that entrepreneurs are big picture thinkers, almost haphazard and erratic, jumping from one big idea to the next. Some are, some aren’t. Big picture people are great if they have detailed people around them. While it is true that entrepreneurs can move quickly, some take years to have their ideas or inventions see success. Most entrepreneurs however set goals. They dream big but are deliberate in their focus and path towards reaching end goals.
When setting your goals, remember to keep them SMART—it helps. SMART as in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Stay focused.
5. Find birds of a feather
Forging your own path doesn’t mean you have to do so alone. Entrepreneurs usually mingle with their own—either through friendships or networking groups. Being ready to ask questions and learn from others who have ‘been there, done it’ is a clever entrepreneurial characteristic.
Richard Branson picked the brains of Freddie Laker before launching his airline. Pick your mentors wisely so that their successes and learnings provide invaluable guidance. Don’t waste time (personally or professionally) with negative, draining or unmotivated influences. Surround yourself with likeminded people who are interested in achieving their own visions of success.
We often become like the people we spend time with. Choose to be around positive, level-headed, confident opportunists and always be ready to answer objections and the hard questions—it could save you making mistakes.
6. Inspire confidence
If you practise something enough, it becomes a habit. From the way you approach people, to running meetings to handling things when things get tough, ‘being yourself on purpose’ is the great trait of leaders. From body language and verbal cues, the way you hold yourself and interact with others speaks volumes about you.
Entrepreneurs walk with direction and purpose. When they interact with others their body language is usually energetic, engaging and inviting. Act with confidence and you will radiate confidence. Listen with interest to what others have to say; you may hear something important. Portray your vision through your actions and choice of words. If you do it enough, people will perceive you as self-assured in your ability to realise your vision.
7. Measure outcomes
Entrepreneurs understand objective setting, the importance of process, accountability and measurement. They see the value of checklists, templates and how-tos. With your goal set and a strategy to reach it, you need a way to measure your success. You can’t hit the bullseye if you can’t see it!
An entrepreneur understands the need to be able to measure their own and others’ output to ensure success, improvements and higher goal setting. My job as an entrepreneur is to be constructively never satisfied. Having process for measuring outcomes allows you to evaluate your progress, success and if necessary, highlight when you need to modify your methods.
See it, believe it, achieve it: entrepreneurialism is not dependent on where you grew up or what your parents did for a living. It doesn’t depend on achieving the highest degree or being the smartest in class. It is not about where you studied or how much money you have. It is an attitude, a way of thinking both physiologically and behaviourally. And yes, maybe it does come naturally to some more than others, but as my mother and grandmother told me when I was a child, where there is a will there is a way.