Are you an entrepreneur?
The entrepreneurial personality – do you have what it takes? We look at the traits needed to go it alone
The differing attitudes of entrepreneurs aren’t recorded – but perhaps they should be. Regardless of your age, background, gender or ethnicity, your success as an entrepreneur is most likely to be down to your attitude to business. If you’re determined, prepared to make personal sacrifices, have the ability to plan ahead and take on board advice while remaining focused on your goal and also, of course, have a decent business idea, you will have every chance of success wherever you’re from and whatever age you are. To help you determine whether you have what it takes, in the sections below we describe the core skills you need to possess, or develop, to make your business a success.
It probably won’t come as any surprise to see this at the top of the list. To succeed as an entrepreneur you do need to be a confident person. In fact, even to think you have a chance of making a new business work in the first place, you need to be a confident person! And the harsh truth is that it is hard enough to start a business from scratch that it does take an unusually confident person to get there. David Lester, founder of a number of successful businesses, including Startups.co.uk, says “Entrepreneurs need to be both very self-confident and naive; self-confident enough to believe that their idea really is better than what is already on offer, and naive enough not to know about the problems they will encounter along the way.”
Can you work incredibly hard, all day, every day? It isn’t about putting in a couple of late nights, or making an extra effort for a one-off project. In launching your first business, you could find yourself on the wrong end of a potentially gruelling timetable that could go on for weeks and weeks, if not months. Or, in the case of Dylan Wilk, a whole year. When Dylan was setting up Gameplay.com during the 1990s, he claims he was permanently “doing 24/7 . . . I was working every single second of every single minute. Sure I had to give up a few things, like sleeping and eating, but I was willing to do that.” Are you prepared to make the same commitment?
Linked to your level of commitment is your ability to be motivated and, crucially, self-motivated. Being self-motivated is not the same as being pushed by someone else to do something. This motivation has to come from within. It has to come from your energy, your discipline, your focus. This is difficult enough when things are going well, but what about when things are going badly? “It’s really tough,” admits Dylan, who recalls just a few things that went wrong in the early days. “We were burgled around eight times; we had tens of thousands of pounds in stock stolen; we had someone register our name and then try to slap a writ on us – that was pretty hairy; we had moments where it looked like the business was going to go under. And, at times, I didn’t really know what to do.” So even the most determined of entrepreneurs have moments when they are not sure which direction to take. Even if they do know, some have simply had enough and can no longer be bothered to take it. Dylan adds: “You have to really believe in yourself and decide that, no matter what, you will not be beaten.”
Belief in yourself is not enough, however. You must also have a capacity to work for yourself, often by yourself. At first this might sound like bliss, with no more workplace politics and gossip. But what about the banter, the social life and, more seriously, the brainstorming of solutions and the bouncing around of ideas? If you are like most solo entrepreneurs, you will miss this. “The simple fact is that it can be very lonely,” says Andrew Ferguson, founder of the Breakthrough Network, which counsels people on new ways to work. “You can feel, professionally at least, very isolated at times.” Gwen Rhys, founder and director of networking organisation Networking Culture, agrees. “But there is a solution,” she says. “You need to build up a virtual team. You need to develop a circle of colleagues that you communicate with in much the same way you did in the office, except now it may be over the phone, via email, or face-to-face, but once a month rather than every day. You also need to make sure that you do get out there and mix with people. It is worth joining a professional group you connect with, even if it is only to learn that there are others who have been through what you are going through and identify with how you are feeling. This in itself can be a great source of support.”
Optimism and opportunism
All this talk about what can go wrong may sound daunting, and the last thing you will probably expect to be feeling is optimistic. However, Dylan says that this is exactly what you have to be. “There is no point doing something if you think it will not work,” he says. “But sometimes you just have to think of ways of making it work better.” Andrew is equally encouraging. “It’s an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never quite found anyone to pay you to do it. It’s your big chance to do something that makes you happy.” Of course, people with all these attributes still aren’t guaranteed success. But, if you think these traits are applicable to you and this article has made you even more determined to launch your own company, it sounds as though you have decided to join the ranks of entrepreneurialism, and there’s no better time to start planning your next move than the present. There are many advantages to becoming your own boss. We’ve summarised them here: 10 reasons to start a business