Of course, it’s not as simple as checking the box in a list of entrepreneurial characteristics to understand if you are the ideal material!
Life is way too complicated for that, and so are entrepreneurs.
So exploring in more detail, ask yourself:
Are you the type of person that likes to bend the rules?
I often find (as has research) that entrepreneurs want to’ change the game.’ They like to re-make the rules to give them an advantage. I do this all the time. For example, suppose a big company gives me an order and insists on their terms of business. In that case, I will always try and make them compromise in a way that suits me, like faster payment terms. Most corporate-minded people wouldn’t think it possible with a big company or just wouldn’t bother asking.
You will find that you will need to be looking for ways to buy at a better price, agree on better terms, or win an order against the odds. Another good example is when I secured an order with a big corporate, and I didn’t even have an office! I made a great website, talked the talk, looked good, and gave a strong presentation as to our company’s skills (which I truly believed in, by the way) – and all while we were a start-up with nothing behind us. That’s ‘chutzpah,’ or bottle, and you will need it to win if you plan to build a business against the odds.
|Don’t be afraid to reshape the world as you see it to suit you. Many people feel like they have to do things as they used to when they worked for another company or are shy about getting better terms when working with bigger companies.Don’t be – they are not better than you. You make the rules now, do business in the most advantageous way you can.|
Don’t forget this may not be you; you may have a team member who can do this for you.
Are you prepared to bootstrap your business and grow patiently?
Repeatedly, I have started a business with little or no money. Even now that I do have money, I still don’t waste any of it; I always bootstrap and start slowly. This can be very frustrating, but a lean approach will always pay off because it breeds prudence and patience, helping you build a truly sustainable business and outlast the competition.
This becomes even more relevant when you think about how many people have to borrow or sell part of their company to grow – the less you borrow or sell, the faster you will profit. The more you will own the business’s success.
Do you have the guts to find the funds when you are up against it? I have often had to get a bank loan, borrow up to my limit on credit cards or sell a favorite item to keep the cash flowing–will you do that when your back is against the wall?
|Many people forget that not only do you need to be good at selling, you also need to be great at buying and negotiating with suppliers. Great entrepreneurs are often as good at this (i.e., saving money) as they are at promoting their businesses.”Every penny saved is a penny earned.”|
Are you prepared to take on the ‘big boys’ to win?
Once again, you will need courage and maybe even a little bravado. I often play David in a market full of Goliaths. I love this as it gives me an ‘angle’ when approaching new clients, i.e., as a smaller player, I’m ready to serve and assist my new customers more effectively than the slow and inefficient competition.
Now I rarely try and provoke the bigger and meaner competition. Usually, I look for a chink in their armor – it may be a niche market they have underserved or overlooked. All the while, I exploit my position to get customers to choose me over a bigger rival, using a range of tactics from creative public relations to being able to undercut on price. I’m never afraid of taking on bigger competitors. It’s often part of a strategy to make them buy me out of a market as I have become a thorn in their side!
|Make sure you do detailed ‘homework’ on your competitors. Many people are lazy and don’t take the time to understand the competition fully and, therefore, often miss great opportunities or get easily crushed.|
Are you prepared to be flexible and reshape your dream based on customer reality?
Many people work so hard on a particular dream business idea; they become wedded to it. I have found this to be a big mistake. Almost all of my business ideas have had to change at least once after I have gone out and spoken to real customers. In one example, I started a business based on an idea I had gleaned from a business trip in the US in the pre-internet days, called ‘fax on demand.’ It was prevalent in the US, and I thought I could do the same in the UK, so I launched a business and bought all the expensive gear. After a year of only having sold a few systems, all I got from customers was, ‘that’s nice, but what about this new internet-stuff?’ So, one painful day, I disposed of all the expensive gear, changed the name of the business, and started down the path of a web design . . . and a pretty successful business it was too.
Now, if I hadn’t made the expensive decision to give up on my first idea and respond to customer demand, I would have gone out of business rather than building a successful one. You must be prepared to try an idea in the real world and keep tailoring it until you find the right formula for your customers. Become focused on satisfying their needs and not your ego, and you will have a much better chance of success.
One of the great keys to business success is to read the market constantly and make sure you steer your ‘ship’ along with the greatest flow of opportunity.
Don’t be afraid to give up older ideas and markets to pursue new ones; otherwise, you massively increase the risk of failure.
Can you get knocked down and keep getting up?
One of the hardest things for new entrepreneurs is the constant ‘no, no, no . . .’ you will hear from everyone about everything! People will reject your idea, your plan, your phone calls, your pleas for money or help. You will get knocked back more times than you will be able to remember. You will need to endure this, day in day out, and still, be able to get back up and try again the next day. The chances are, one day, you will fail altogether, and your business will no longer exist. Will you be able to get started again – get back on the horse?
Remember, it’s not all bad. If you are persistent enough, you will find lots of people willing to listen, help you, and push you towards your dreams – but you will have to fight to convince those people.
Will you be a fighter and roll with the punches?
Being persistent is critical to any form of success, but if you are in a startup, it’s more important than anything else, in my view.
What’s great about it is that you don’t need to learn it; you simply must ‘decide’ that you will make your dream work, no matter the odds.
After that, it’s relatively easy–don’t give up, and you will come out the winner (in one way or another).
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