It feels like we are constantly on the brink of technological, ideological, and political revolution in the world today.
Things like P2P lending, Bitcoin, and an ever-increasing inter-connectivity between us is shaking up the establishment and the status quo of the business world that our parents knew.
This shake-up is a call to action to the people who are listening, but we don’t simply need more people to drive the wheels of progress. We need more of the right type of people to steer it in the right direction.
This calls for Entrepreneurs who are driven to work in the interest of the whole. Big ideas are exciting only when they affect the greatest number of people.
You are about to find out what it takes to become this type of entrepreneur and how your skills and passions can cause enormous disruption in your (any) industry in order to steer it in a new and exciting direction.
First, What is an Entrepreneur?
Having a plan, being in a position to execute it, and having the proper motivation to do so are the three essential requirements to being a successful entrepreneur.
To start a new enterprise is to defy all opposing conditions to establish something new in a complex world full of ambiguity. Motivation can come in many forms, but entrepreneurs are often powerfully motivated to achieve something for its own intrinsic value.
Further, they are drawn to the responsibility they gain in the process and the mission they form in order to leave an imprint upon the world.
Lastly, they rarely start out with all the resources that they will need have to find success. If they did, chances are these resources would be available to others and the opportunity to create something new will already have been missed.
Walter Kuemmerle, in a landmark study on entrepreneurship found that successful entrepreneurs are:
- Be comfortable stretching the rules.
- Be prepared to make powerful enemies.
- Be willing to start small.
- Be able to change strategies quickly
- Know how to close a deal under pressure.
The Missing Link
While these suggestions are good advice for someone considering starting a company, they do not reach the heart of what creates an entrepreneur.
A certain type of person who thrives at all five of these practices may not have the reason or desire to become an entrepreneur. Some may have the desire but not the motivation.
Someone who is determined to be an entrepreneur most likely does not start with all of the skills necessary, but is driven by a motivation that pushes them through all of the many failures and challenges they will face.
What separates a success story from a failure is the motivation to keep trying. Someone who is motivated to achieve or create something for its own intrinsic value will not be stopped by temporary difficulties, but strive to develop the disciplines required find a way to reach his goal.
A good place to start in pursuing entrepreneurial potential is to take stock of your current situation. The way that someone approaches conflict and processes information is indicative of the world perspective that they have cultivated over the years.
It is unavoidable that everyone makes decisions about the future through the lens of their past, and this is certainly not an inhibitor to success, however, if someone is ever able to adjust their orientation around challenging circumstances, a certain level of self-awareness is required.
The same tactics for analyzing a business’ strategy can be used to analyze a personal strategy. The appropriation of resources and application of personal capabilities function the same way whether concerning the assets on a balance sheet or the positive characteristics of a person.
Daniel Goleman, in his essay What makes a leader? (1998), outlines the importance of emotional intelligence as a characteristic of a good leader. His premise is that you do not have to be born with this characteristic, but it is something that can be learned, which bodes well for those with the right motivation.
Although technical ability is valuable to everyone, the development of strong character grounded in self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and social skill will enable success in areas that technical skill alone will not.
When circumstances change and a specialized competency is strained, emotional intelligence will aid in adapting to new requirements and applying strength in different ways. According to Goleman, there is a link between a company’s success and the emotional intelligence of its leaders.
The Importance of Character
In his essay Level 5 Leaders, Jim Collins (2001) points to the example of Darwin E. Smith, who was made chief executive of Kimberly-Clark in 1971, and the way he led the transformation of a dying paper company by merit of his disciplined and measured character.
Using his character as a foundation, he quickly learned the situational traits that he was lacking. Personal drive plays a major role in this, but so also does the environment in which you are situated.
It is always possible to have some control over with whom and what you surround yourself, so it is important to identify positive mentors to look up to. It is a good tactic never to be the smartest person in the room.
There is a great deal of opportunity to shape yourself into an effective leader and entrepreneur, but most importantly, character and passion take preeminence over technical skill.
Don’t Worry, It’s a Process
Striving to strengthen your personal characteristics for an entrepreneurial endeavor is a process. Once initiated, effective leadership has the potential to stand by its own strength to overcome other challenges that arise.
Kuemmerle’s study reveals the necessity of starting small when building a business. This carries over to the process of building oneself into an entrepreneur. It is essential to initially focus on the foundational personal traits such as character and competency that enable the cultivation of higher traits such as conviction and commitment.
The five characteristics outlined in his study are building-blocks for someone in the early stages of starting a business. As a company matures, the entrepreneur must mature with it as he assumes greater levels of leadership.
This personal growth is important because the foundational characteristics of the individual feed into the greater character and culture of the organization that he is leading.
The visions formed on a personal level shape the strategies and long-term goals of the business that, if cultivated by a strong leader, will facilitate tremendous success.
It Takes Discipline
The discipline practiced by an entrepreneur will emanate outward to those around him, but every company has a unique inspiration and purpose, which must be its central focus when searching for identity.
The most vital personal discipline is to align each individual activity toward a single goal that supports the purpose of the enterprise, while maximizing the efficiency of its capital and human resources.
There are many tactics by which to tackle this including a strong organizational hierarchy, but however essential and fundamental any of these systems are to business, they will only serve as controls to avoid subversive behavior.
A much healthier approach is to have disciplined people, thoughts, and actions, unified by a common goal. These characteristics, present in a disciplined leader, trickle down until they become ingrained in the culture of the firm.
It Takes Passion for a Higher Purpose
Collins talks about how the best leaders are able to be motivated by their passion for meaning and significance, not as a characteristic of their own lives, but as a quest for higher purpose and its own intrinsic value.
Achievement speaks for itself and many entrepreneurs are satisfied simply by being a part of it.
They realize that character is not defined by achievement, but that achievement will always reflect character.
Therefore any entrepreneurial achievement must stem from the character of the entrepreneur who achieves it. Here should lie a personal passion that inspires an individual to make an impact upon something bigger than him or herself.
Ideas that are greater than the sum of their parts attract a certain type of person who has a superior vision that encompasses multiple disciplines.
This visionary perspective is the most profound motivational factor of entrepreneurship. It instills a feeling that a single person can make an impression of who they are upon the world.
Are You Wasting Time by Reading This?
Yes! … and No.
A successful entrepreneur might consider time spent speculating about his own abilities is just a waste of time. But this is an important step in the process.
An entrepreneur is someone who desires to create something remarkable despite the challenges that stand in the way.
If entrepreneurship is to be defined as “the process by which individuals pursue opportunities without regard to resources they currently control”, it must be the case that in order to create a business, a true entrepreneur would be able to create himself into who he needs to be to succeed.
Any shortcomings in the five traits mentioned above may hinder the success of his or her endeavor, but an emotionally intelligent individual will ultimately learn how to redress these errors in order to be stronger each day.
The essential requirement of motivation forgoes any doubt in the mind of a successful entrepreneur because, although there are missed opportunities and failures, there will always be another day to try again.
Many entrepreneurs do not initially identify themselves as such, but are motivated by an understanding of how to utilize what is available to them to reach a certain goal. With this self-awareness, he can then allocate his resources in the best way possible.
This management is a key role in business development, but innovation is also required in order to sustain relevance over the changes of context that occur in time.
This is where Kuemmerle’s fourth trait comes into play. Be able to change strategies quickly
Being able to adjust a strategy is not only a sign of strong emotional intelligence, but it is key to identifying opportunity and capitalizing on them to make real change in a business and maybe even steering the direction of the industry to a new place.