Theres no doubt it takes a special type of person to be an entrepreneur. Its definitely not for the faint of heart. It takes desire to succeed, courage, perseverance and a great deal of will power to continue to work at it in the face of the setbacks youll inevitably have to deal with. But what else does it take to be a successful small business owner?
Of course, it takes technical skills. That goes without saying. And, you cant just be good at what you do. You need to be very good at it before you even think about starting your small business. So, assuming you have those technical skills, what else do successful entrepreneurs have in common?
I would think being decisive, self-disciplined and a self-starter have to be a couple of the top traits. If you want to own a business so you can stay in bed in the morning or you think you might not have to work forty hours a week, you might want to stick with your 9 to 5 job. The truth is, youll be working far more than forty hours a week for quite awhile, and most often with very little money to show for it.
There wont be anyone telling you what to do, how to do it and when it needs to be done (except for your clients of course, and it seems to me they often want things done now!). So, youll need to be able to make decisions, and be disciplined enough to work at it every day, no matter how discouraged you might be.
And, the fact that youre your own boss means you should be self-directing too. It also means you should be able to prioritize and plan well, meet deadlines and be able to work until the job is done, whether that takes fifteen minutes or eighteen hours a day.
How well do you deal with stress? How do you deal with uncertainty? Successful entrepreneurs need to deal with both well. Running a business is stressful at the best of times, and can be extremely stressful when things arent going well. And things are rarely certain. That big client you have that you think is so loyal could simply decide to go elsewhere for no reason thats apparent to you.
Are you able to make short term sacrifice for long term gain? It might be really tempting, for example to take the first thousand dollars your companies earns and spend it on clothes or on your house or your car, but is that necessarily the best thing for your small business? Or should you be leaving the money in the company and using it to build your business?
Along with those technical skills we talked about earlier, most entrepreneurs have to be a jack of all trades, at least from the beginning. Lets say you build the best darn widget in the country. Assuming you already leased space and have all your tools, the first thing you might want to do is find suppliers for the parts youll need to put it together. Then youll have to negotiate terms with them, so now youre a purchasing agent as well as a manufacturer.
Customers arent going to come and find you, so you have to figure out ways to let people know who you are, where you are and what you can do for them. That means you also need to know something about marketing. Youre required to keep proper records, so youre a bookkeeper too. And you're responsible for all your small business' financial decisions, so you're going to have to know something about finance. Youll probably have to answer the phones and make appointments, which means youre also a secretary. Since you probably wont possess all those skills and you probably cant afford to hire someone to do most of those jobs, youre going to have to be willing to learn new things and be able to pick them up quickly. You wont see any direct money for these jobs either. Are you willing to put in the hours it takes to learn these skills and perform them without seeing immediate results?
Finally, procrastination and owning a business dont seem to go well together. If youre the type of person who tends to put off until tomorrow what can be done today, you might not be suited to owning your own business.
Nobody is going to be the perfect entrepreneur. I doubt theres anyone who has all the personality traits weve talked about. But, you should be willing to take an honest look at yourself. You should have some of the traits Ive mentioned and you need to know how to compensate for areas where youre weak, but thats a subject for another day.
Robert Browning said "The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It's as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer."
I think hes probably right, so what are you waiting for? The first step is making the decision. Stop just thinking about it and just do it. Dont wait for tomorrow or next week or next year. Do it today.