For an employee at a company, the idea of setting out on your own and starting your own business can be extremely tempting. Not only does it represent a chance to be your own boss, but it allows you the opportunity to follow your passion. However, to be successful as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to shift from an employee mindset to an entrepreneurial one.
If you commit yourself to the entrepreneurial life, you need to be prepared for a tough journey. Although making this choice can be incredibly rewarding, prospective entrepreneurs should not be fooled by the glamour that the media portray around entrepreneurship. Always remember that there is an incredibly high mortality rate among small businesses. If your business fails, your credit rating will be ruined; your confidence will crushed; your family will be put under immense, unrelenting pressure… Setting out on your own is not a decision to be taken lightly.
The entrepreneurial mindset
Academic research on the psychology of entrepreneurs has shown that there is no single psychological typology (set of characteristics) that suggests an entrepreneur’s success is guaranteed. From my experience, I would like to highlight the following six characteristics out of the many shared by successful entrepreneurs:
- Perseverance: The ability to withstand repeated rejection and disappointment is an essential part of an entrepreneur’s makeup. Successful entrepreneurs are able to draw lessons from rejection, as well as prevent it from damaging their self-esteem. Essentially, you must be able to deflect the rejection away from yourself and use it as a spur to fix flaws in your business ideas.
- Flexibility: Entrepreneurship is a tough space to play in. Unexpected challenges and problems appear constantly. You must be flexible enough in your thinking to roll with the punches, solve problems as soon as they crop up, and recover quickly from setbacks.
- High internal locus of control: Successful entrepreneurs have faith in their ability to determine their own success. They see that their own actions, decisions, and responses are what will make or break them – not what the outside world throws at them. This means that you need to take responsibility for doing the things that need to be done.
- Learning and iteration: When a problem occurs, a successful entrepreneur sees it as a learning opportunity. The lessons an entrepreneur takes from any given situation are then used in successive iterations of the entrepreneur’s ideas to develop and refine them.
- Curiosity: A wide-ranging curiosity about how the world works and where things tie together is extremely common among successful entrepreneurs. Always keep your mind active – this will strengthen your ability to see things from different angles and think laterally.
- Optimism: Despite all the difficulties inherent in the entrepreneurial lifestyle, successful entrepreneurs maintain an optimistic view of life and the world. Being optimistic about a situation could mean the difference between seeing it as an unsolvable problem or an opportunity to be explored.
Entrepreneurs need support
Entrepreneurs are always told that they need to be passionate about their business. This is true, but the glamour of passion often masks another element that is essential to an entrepreneur’s success: commitment. While passion may lead you to start your own business, it is your commitment that will keep you going and allow you to persevere through the difficult times ahead.
With this in mind, as a prospective entrepreneur, you need to be able and willing to reach out to those around you for emotional support and financial backing when you need to.
Entrepreneurs have a drive to succeed, and their high internal locus of control often makes it difficult for them to admit errors or that they need help. To nurture your thinking and support your ideas, you need to be sure that you have the space you need to work out solutions on your own.
An environment that is accepting of failure is a huge support for most entrepreneurs. Being surrounded by people who understand that business failure is not shameful, but rather something to learn from and build on, will help you to persevere and try again.
Anyone who deals with entrepreneurs should have large doses of empathy. Being given academic textbook lessons on how to run your business is unlikely to address your needs. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who are able to share your experiences. This will enable you to draw your own lessons and will be a far more effective way of finding the support you need as you develop your entrepreneurial mindset.