What does it take to be an Entrepreneur?
Would you succeed as an entrepreneur? You can learn about the managerial and leadership skills needed to run a firm. However, you may not have the personality to assume the risks, take the initiative, create the vision, and rally others to follow your lead. Those traits are harder to learn or acquire. A list of entrepreneurial attributes you would look for in yourself includes the following:8
Self-directed. You should be thoroughly comfortable and thoroughly self-disciplined even though you are your own boss. You will be responsible for your success or possible failure.
Self-nurturing. You must believe in your idea even when no one else does, and be able to replenish your own enthusiasm. When Walt Disney suggested the possibility of a full-length animated feature film, Snow White, the industry laughed. His personal commitment and enthusiasm caused the Bank of America to back his venture. The rest is history.
Action-oriented. Great business ideas are not enough. The most important thing is a burning desire to realize, actualize, and build your dream into reality.
Highly energetic. It’s your business, and you must be emotionally, mentally, and physically able to work long and hard. For example, Tabitha Mageto and Remi Pageon, co-owners of Artisan Bakery in Virginia, often spend 18 hours a day in their shop. During the Christmas season, each pulls a 48-hour shift. “But that is better than working 18- hour days for someone else,” says Mageto.9
Tolerant of uncertainty. Successful entrepreneurs take only calculated risks (if they can help it). Still, they must be able to take some risks. Remember, entrepreneurship is not for anyone who is squeamish or bent on security.
It is important to know that most entrepreneurs don’t get the ideas for their products and services from some flash of inspiration. Rather than a flash, the source of innovation is more like a flashlight. Imagine a search party, walking around in the dark, shining lights, looking around, asking questions, and looking some more. The late Sam Walton used such a flashlight approach. He visited his stores and those of competitors and took notes. He’d see a good idea on Monday, and by Tuesday every Wal-Mart manager in the country knew about it. He expected his managers to use flashlighting too. Every time they traveled on business, they were expected to come back with at least one idea worth more than the cost of their trip. “That’s how most creativity happens,” says business author Dale Dauten. “Calling around, asking questions, saying ‘What if?’ till you get blisters on your tongue.’’
Keep in mind that necessity isn’t always the mother of invention. Entrepreneurs don’t always look for what customers need they look for what they don’t need as well. Aaron Lapin thought we didn’t need the hassles of the touchy process of whipping heavy cream to top our pies. He made millions selling his invention: Reddi Wip. Although we’d rather reach for a can in the refrigerator than whip our own cream, Reddi Wip isn’t a necessity. If you think you may have the entrepreneurial spirit in your blood, complete the Entrepreneurial Readiness Questionnaire in the appendix to this chapter. There is also some advice for would-be entrepreneurs in Figure 6.1.
Do you know anyone who seems to have the entrepreneurial spirit? What about him or her makes you say that? Are there any similarities between the characteristics demanded of an entrepreneur and those of a professional athlete? Would an athlete be a good prospect for entrepreneurship? Why or why not? Could teamwork be important in an entrepreneurial effort?