Do YOU Have What It Takes?
by Elena Fawkner
Fully one in ten adults in the United States today is an entrepreneur.
This phenomenon is by no means restricted to North America. The
leading country for entrepreneurship is Brazil with one in eight
adults an entrepreneur. Australia is not far behind the U.S. with
one in twelve. These countries - Brazil, the United States and Australia
- lead the way. Contrast, for example, Germany (one in 25), the
United Kingdom (one in 33), Finland and Sweden (one in 50) and Ireland
and Japan (less than one in 100). (Source: Global Entrepreneurship
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 1999 defined entrepreneurship
as "any attempt at new business or new venture creation, such
as self-employment, a new business organization, or the expansion
of an existing business, by an individual, a team of individuals,
or an established business."
Entrepreneurial Activity - a Historical
Entrepreneurship is a major contributing factor to the economic
well-being of a country both in terms of economic growth and job
creation. Traditionally, entrepreneurial ability tended to focus
on the following four attributes:
Initiative - the entrepreneur takes the initiative to
bring together the economic resources of land, labor and capital
to produce a commodity (whether a goods or a service) with the
hope that such production will create a profitable business venture.
Decision-making - the entrepreneur makes the basic business
policy decisions for the business, thereby setting the course
of the enterprise.
Innovation - the entrepreneur is an innovator, attempting
to introduce new products and new ways of doing things.
Risk-taker - the entrepreneur risks his or her time, effort,
business reputation and invested funds in the entrepreneurial
The Modern Entrepreneur
Until recently, the above attributes, especially innovation and
risk-taking, were the dominant factors that defined the characteristics
of those who chose to become entrepreneurs.
Now, however, with corporate downsizing being a fact of life, many
entrepreneurs find themselves thrust into the role by default.
The question for anyone either finding themselves in this position
involuntarily or thinking about leaving corporate life for the heady
world of entrepreneurship is whether you have what it takes to be
successful ... the "right stuff" in other words. Some
people do, in spades. Others simply don't. If you're one of the
ones who just doesn't, either resign yourself to working for someone
else or cultivate in yourself the qualities that successful entrepreneurs
share. Believe it or not, entrepreneurs are not just "born".
Well, some, of course, seem to be natural-born entrepreneurs, but
for the rest of us, the qualities of entrepreneurship can definitely
be acquired by hard work and application.
The "common denominator" issues facing all entrepreneurs
are planning, finance and implementation.
All entrepreneurs face the challenge of starting a new business,
be it through innovation (inventing something new or doing something
a different way), finding the right opportunity to get into, or
buying a franchise. Whichever road you choose, it will involve
Unless you have ready funds at your disposal, getting finance
is the next major challenge and cannot be attempted until your
business plan is in place. You will need to prepare funding proposals
and applications for loans, venture capital, and funds from angel
This is make or break time. Many people think just getting started
is the hard part - and it is hard. But where many businesses stumble
is not in the planning and financing stages but in implementing
their business plan. Why this is so is not certain. There are
various hypotheses including the idea that ideas people and implementation
people are two very different breeds and it is highly unusual
to find one person who can do both. More likely though, is the
simple fact that implementation requires such a broad range of
skills that no one person can possibly be adept at all of them.
The real challenge and skill of the entrepreneur, then, is to
recognize what you do well and then appoint employees or subcontractors
to do the rest. Of course, if you're running a business on a shoestring,
this simply may not be possible! So be brutally honest and objective
in assessing your particular strengths and weaknesses BEFORE you
cash in your day job and your 401K.
The areas to think about in terms of implementation are the same
as those encompassed by a broad definition of management: promotion
(marketing and advertising), public relations, sales, employees,
communications, legal issues, plant and equipment, risk management,
disaster planning, crisis management, insurance, technology, computer
systems, taxes, bookkeeping, finance, and the internet.
Equally important as the common issues shared by all entrepreneurs
are the personal qualities of the entrepreneur him or herself. To
start you thinking about whether you have the right stuff to make
a success of an entrepreneurial venture, here's a list of character
traits and work ethics common to successful entrepreneurs. Although
it is not necessary that you possess all of them, you should possess
Passion - entrepreneurs have a strong passion for their idea
or concept, so much so that their work is their play. If you don't
like what you do, you won't stick it out when challenges come
along, as they inevitably will.
Curiosity - entrepreneurs need to understand how things work.
They ask a lot of questions. Curiosity therefore triggers innovation.
Sponges - entrepreneurs are sponges. They devour information
about their industry and are always current on new and emerging
trends and technologies, not only in their specific industry but
in closely related industries. This habit of scanning their environment
is a rich source of discovery of new opportunities. Entrepreneurs
are ALWAYS looking for new markets, applications, products or
twists on an old concept.
Optimism - entrepreneurs think of problems as opportunities for
improvements and new ideas.
Forward looking - entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the
status quo and are always proactively carving out their future.
Careful about money - entrepreneurs are careful with money and
have a firm grasp on what things cost and their value to the business.
This allows them to recognize a true bargain when they see one.
Started earning at a young age - entrepreneurs commonly displayed
entrepreneurial leanings as a teenager seeking out entrepreneurial
activities such as babysitting, lawnmowing and lemonade stands.
Competitive - entrepreneurs are naturally competitive and don't
let the grass grow under their feet.
Time conscious - entrepreneurs know the value of time and how
to make the best use of it. You won't find entrepreneurs spending
much time on nonproductive activities. That said, entrepreneurs
typically also recognize the value of downtime and time with family
and will factor these activities into their schedule.
Risk takers - entrepreneurs are not afraid of taking calculated
risks. They typically trust their hunches and act on them.
Usually loners - entrepreneurs generally prefer a solitary work
environment as opposed to teamwork.
Professional - entrepreneurs are professional in their approach
to work. They operate as they would in a corporate environment
and don't allow themselves to be distracted by outside influences.
High energy - entrepreneurs have a plan and a vision and they
work it. Entrepreneurs are often health-conscious too, recognizing
that the fitter they are, the better their minds work. So entrepreneurs
will take time from their schedule to work out and eat well.
Flexible - entrepreneurs are nothing if not responsive to change.
Although they appreciate the importance of having a plan and working
that plan, they allow themselves room to react and respond to
opportunities that may suddenly reveal themselves.
Nurture entrepreneurial spirit - entrepreneurs seek out and nurture
the entrepreneurial spirit in their employees and reward them
Confident goal-setters - entrepreneurs are confident and set
long-term goals, both for themselves personally and their businesses.
They view money and financial security as a measure of accomplishment
and a source of peace of mind.
Persistent - entrepreneurs never give up. They persist until
Learn from failure - entrepreneurs learn from their failures
and those of others. Failure to an entrepreneur is nothing more
than an opportunity waiting to be discovered.
Self responsibility - entrepreneurs take the initiative and personal
responsibility for their success or failure (which is always a
merely temporary state).
Resource utilization - entrepreneurs utilize ALL of their available
Internal locus of control - entrepreneurs don't believe in luck.
They firmly believe that success and failure lies within their
personal control or influence.
The Future of Entrepreneurship
As we all know, increasing numbers of people are electing to work
from home either through telecommuting or running home businesses.
While this trend has commonly been attributed to the growth in the
number of working women wanting to be home for their children, over
half of all people now working from home are men.
A recent Purdue University study concluded a number of factors
seem to favor continued high rates of new firm formation:
1. Continuing high rates of change (change creates opportunities
for new firms).
2. Continued growth of the service sector (the highest growth
area for new firm formation).
3. Increasing number of virtual corporations in which firms outsource
their functions, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs.
4. Positive climate for small business - a general perception
that small business is a positive influence on the economic wellbeing
of the country giving entrepreneurs legitimacy and respect.
5. Growth in international business opportunities.
With the traditional corporate-employment track seemingly on the
decline, the trend of forming strategic alliances with other businesses
that are closely aligned with yours or with someone who can add
value to your product is emerging. In fact, futurists envision a
return to extended community living with shared resources but individual
living and working relationships with entrepreneurial activities
being the basis of these communities. Strategic alliances are a
first step along this path.
So, if you have determined entrepreneurship is for you, you can
be confident that you are part of the wave of the future. But understand
what it will demand of you and whether you are prepared to give
what it will take. The allure of entrepreneurship is undeniably
strong for many but make sure you're going into it for the right
reasons. Being miserable in your job does not automatically make
starting your own business the best idea in the world. In fact,
it could be the worst reason of all to get into business for yourself.
The right choice may instead be to find another job that you won't
be miserable in. But if, taking into account everything that's been
said above, you're adamant that you have what it takes, by all means
take the bull by the horns and create something absolutely fabulous.
Elena Fawkner is editor of A
Home-Based Business Online ... practical home business ideas,
resources and strategies for the work-from- home entrepreneur. http://www.ahbbo.com/
Copyright 2001, Elena Fawkner.
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