Traits of Entrepreneurs (I)
What do they do?
Let me start by telling you a little about my own journey. By the time I graduated and went on to postgraduate studies, I was always at the top of my class (although it did not start this way from secondary school. But that is another story). So quite honestly, I found academics and mental issues relatively easy to process. Thank God for that, I passed all my employment aptitude tests almost effortlessly. That gave me the opportunity to get good job offers. In discharging all responsibilities assigned to me, I strove hard and with the support of the large organisations I worked for, I did very well in all my jobs.
But I always want to do my business. So I started ‘moonlighting’ early in my career, that is doing some businesses in the evenings and weekends, public holidays etc. I imported computer parts from all over the world, I have done poultry farming, business consultancy, etc. Some did very well whilst, of course, a few didn’t do so well. But my greatest tests came when I left the corporate world to fully run our small business. With the global meltdown of 2008, I found myself challenged beyond my wildest imaginations. I realized that the skills required to set up a small-scale business and grow are vastly different from those of running successful going concerns, where virtually all resources are made available. It was over this period that I fully really realized what my core strengths are and the areas I really needed to urgently work on. It was the best thing to happen to me.
So, as you commence getting into the thought of going into business, or may be due to circumstances you are already in business, it is very important that you step aside for a moment to make some self-assessment. I want you to, ab initio, realize your own strengths and your areas of weakness.
We will approach this assessment from a number of ways. First you must see and understand what entrepreneurs do, what they go through on a day-to-day basis. This will give you an appreciation of the demands that the choice you want to make will make on you. Quite a number of people contemplating going into business will rightly give up the prospects as soon as they realise and accept that they do not want to put in the long hours, or the frequent travels associated with going into business. The right decision at the right time is priceless.
Traits of Entrepreneurs:
Over a reasonable period, watch any of your friends or an uncle who is committed to his business and you will notice a few things:
THEY LOVE WHAT THEY DO AND THEY REALLY WORK HARD AT IT: Most successful entrepreneurs simply love what they do. That gives them passion and passion generates commitment. The intensity of their commitment makes it ‘easy’ for them to work hard at what they are doing. The reality about business is that you cannot decide to work on it only during ‘office hours’. Things will crop up at 4.30pm on a Friday; a delivery truck will fail to show up on Sunday evening for Monday production; a key staff will call sick and fail to attend a crucial meeting with the bankers; a customer’s cheque will be returned unpaid and you will fail to clear your goods at the port on time; payroll date will approach and you don’t have sufficient cash in the bank; the tender deadline is only 48 hours away and you still have not got the cost input from your suppliers, etc. You must therefore, simply be willing to ‘work’ anytime anywhere, whether or not it is convenient!
THEY THRIVE IN THE FACE OF CHALLENGES: I maintain that most rational people do not want difficulties in their lives. I think that is human nature. However, some loose focus and even get confused in the face of challenges, whilst others get the adrenaline rush and positively excited. Entrepreneurs definitely belong to the second group. They just kind of go ‘ok, now I must still do this’! The reality about life is that most good things will only come after a persistent and concerted effort is applied and maintained over a period. Entrepreneurs understand and accept this. I think it has to do with, the law of Entropy in the physical sciences (which measures the level of disorder in a system). It is almost similar to Murphy’s law (which states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong). Most entrepreneurs can tell ‘unbelievable’ stories of many difficulties they faced and even more amazing stories of how they handled the difficulties. Ask your friend or uncle. Sometimes when I look back on some of my own stories and read the stories of others, I realise that with resolve, the human capacity to solve problems is awesome. Be assured that you will have more than a fair share of stories that you will tell later. Just be ready and prepared! You may wish to read Dr. Tai Solarin’s ‘May your road be rough’.
CONFIDENCE: Entrepreneurs generally have high level of confidence. That is not to say that they live in some dream world devoid of reality. On the contrary, they are internally very realistic. They understand that though what they are trying to achieve may be a stretch of what seems possible to others, they have three things on their mind that makes them comfortable. First they have a very clear vision of the objective they want to achieve; secondly they have some road map, even if initially broad; and thirdly they are willing to raise and commit resources. Friends and relations, who really mean well to you, will cast doubt on what you want to do. You have to remain realist, positive and focused in the midst of doubt, fear and even distractions. Nobody ever expected that the CNN model will work, but Ted Turner had the vision and the commitment. Most consultants he worked with did not support the concept. Today CNN is a success and has redefined news broadcast.
THEY MANAGE RISKS: Contrary to the popular belief that entrepreneurs are ‘risk takers’, the reality is that successful entrepreneurs are very aware of the risks they are taking in any given endeavour. First they are able to identify the risks and secondly they assess the likelihood of any of the risks crystalising. Based on these two, they then put in measures to mitigate the likely occurrence of specific risk(s). In some cases, some risks simply can’t be mitigated. So the typical entrepreneur will decide whether or not he/she can ‘live’ with the consequences of the identified risk crystalising. This is where individual ‘risk inclinations’ and ‘risk profile’ come into play. The entrepreneur then makes a call and doesn’t look back.
You can read further on this topic at the following link from Entrepreneur magazine:
Next, I will discuss issues of aptitude and attitude as they relate to the entrepreneur.