Do You Want to be a Successful Entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurs are more likely to achieve success when they possess or develop a broad set of skills, mindsets and personality traits that help them in all areas of their lives and the many different stages of business. When certain mindsets are developed they really change the personal and business outcomes.
Your journey as an entrepreneur will be full of good days and bad days. The good days are when everything just flows, and, like a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces fall into place. Great days!
On the bad days you will feel alone, isolated, full of doubts, often tired and bewildered at why all the hard work isn’t paying off. And it’s these low days that will test your resolve. You may even be tempted to turn away from your dream as a result.
So, what is it you need in your mindset tool box that will keep you going?
Today I’m going to talk about the 6 critical elements that, in my opinion, you need to be aware of and build strength in to improve your chances of success.
Confidence – Courage – Tenacity – Outcome Orientation – Passion – Self-Improvement
One of my favourite quotes about confidence is:
"Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong." Peter T. McIntyre, Philosopher
But take care not to mix confidence with arrogance! Entrepreneurs who have no basis for their confidence are more likely to fail. Entrepreneurs who base their confidence on their experiences and overcoming challenges build legitimate confidence that is derived from their abilities.
When I moved to the Middle East to follow my husband’s career, I wasn’t really prepared for life as a house wife and I knew I would have to find something to do. I think I originally planned to do some kind of education, I’d wanted to do a law degree for decades so perhaps this was the opportunity. Within weeks I was dying of boredom.
One afternoon I was at the local hotel pool, trying to think of a way of talking my husband into the idea of me returning to the UK alone, when I tuned into a conversation on the terrace restaurant nearby. Two men were taking about needing an accountant with commercial experience and, this being the middle of the desert, they knew it wasn’t going to be easy to find the skills they needed. As fast as I could, I was dressed and walking towards the table – I had nothing to lose. I apologised for listening in but told them quite simply I could do the job and I was available. I had no idea what the job was, no idea what the salary was – just an overpowering conviction that it was going to be a great opportunity! And if it wasn’t then I could just walk away with no regrets.
Now this wasn’t false confidence – I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I also had confidence in my past experience and training. By this point I had already set up more than one successful business and, more importantly, been through a few liquidations so I knew was “failing” looked like. And it hadn’t killed me!
That was Thursday afternoon, I started at the zoo on the Sunday and within 3 weeks the zoo director was fired, and I was put in his place while they looked for a replacement. I’ve never run a zoo before – but I learned a lot. One of the main lessons was that animals are a lot easier to manage than people!!
There is one thing and one thing alone that every great entrepreneur absolutely must possess: courage.
And courage is very rare in our world. Numerous surveys of the population at large have shown that, above everything else, most people value security.
Most people will tolerate just about anything–a bad marriage, an intrusive government, a horrible boss, a job that they hate–if only that thing can make them feel more secure.
It’s sad, really.
But entrepreneurs aren’t like that.
It takes courage to forego the predictability of a corporate job.
It takes courage to sacrifice your nest egg to your start-up.
It takes courage to take the risk of failure.
It takes courage to make your dreams into reality.
And it takes courage–lots of it–to hand over the reins when your start-up grows beyond your ability to manage it.
That’s why entrepreneurs are–rightly–the true heroes of our modern world.
Being an entrepreneur requires guts. To the traditional way of thinking, we are conditioned to turn up on time, behave in class, not challenge authority and accept the status quo – the traditional way is that you must work hard to earn money and that security can only be found in working a job with good benefits. But the truth is, in this day and age, there is no longer true security in working a job, I have seen some of the best employees get laid off from what they thought was a secure job.
To be an entrepreneur you have to be willing to jump into the deep end. And that takes courage. But courage is just the beginning. At a fundamental level, most entrepreneurs need to repeatedly overcome adversity and pursue opportunities with very limited resources. In my experience the least resources result in the greatest creativity and ingenuity. Entrepreneurs find ways to overcome problems!
Courage does not mean bravado. Nor is it the opposite of fear. Courage means exclusively believing that a better outcome will arise despite moments of uncertainty. Successful entrepreneurs of successful enterprises understand that continued effort is required. When they have a bad day, courage prevails even if what they really want to do is take the day off and hide under the duvet! Courage means recognising when to change or adapt, when to let go and move on to the next thing to keep your business competitive and heading forward.
It’s not hard to dream big. But it can be really hard to show up when the opportunity comes to make those dreams happen.
As my sister once wisely said “Get up, dress up, show up!”
“You’ve got to be willing to risk the chance of looking like a failure.”
Courage can be learned and nurtured! When I was 16 I was a mouse. I lacked fear, but I didn’t have courage, I was just a normal small-town girl who wanted to see a bit of the world. For 3 years I worked in my first job at Nat West – a job that daily tried to crush my spirit and I knew I had to escape. Joining the WRNS was that escape and after all the training, experience and support of 5 years I left the Navy feeling like a LION – I learned that there are only limitation you place on yourself, never let someone else dictate your dreams and if you really want something YOU have to go and get it not wait for someone to give it to you.
One of the dangers of setting up on your own is the expectation of instant success. I frequently review business plans that are completely unrealistic – with forecasts of £1m turnovers in the first year selling products at £10 each! (for those of you trying to work out the numbers that’s 100,000 sales, over 80,000 each month, 2740 every day, 7 days a week from day one)
Success usually follows great persistence and tenacity. Setting up and launching your own business is not an easy thing to do. Persistence is key. You may not succeed at first. Most successful entrepreneurs have gone through multiple failures before hitting the big time. They learned from what did not work and evaluated how to adapt and change their business plan to eventually reach the point of success. Establishing your own business takes time, energy, resources and money. It may take a while before you get the pay-off.
Winston Churchill said “When in hell, keep going” – and it’s well documented that he had enormous struggles with his mental health and yet lead the nation through its darkest hours in the 2nd world war. If you listen to any of his speeches, he talks about never giving up no matter how hard the struggle.
One of my favourite quotes is Eleanor Roosevelt “A woman is like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water!” And it’s true – until you are tested, you really don’t know how you would cope with certain situations (it counts for men too, but the quote wouldn’t be so good if it started “People are like teabags!!”
The ability to keep going when all around you would have given up is one of the keys to many truly successful people. I recently had the good fortune to meet Nick Jenkins from Dragons Den, the guy who founded Moonpig. One of the nicest business people I have ever met. He put everything into Moonpig and was almost out of money completely when he discovered that TV advertising was not as expensive as he thought. He saw a tiny competitor taking a TV ad out and it gave him the impetus to try it – Moonpig never looked back. He could have given up at the very point when the business was getting to a tipping point and thankfully he kept going, risking everything he owned in the meantime.
A quick warning here – don’t confuse tenacity with bloody mindedness. Keeping going when you believe something is an essential mindset ONLY if the number stack up. You must make sure the business basics are in place – that you are making the right margin and the business idea is sustainable.
When an Entrepreneur (or anyone for that matter) has extraordinary clarity on their outcomes, they can focus their drive and ambition to success in a way that allows them to overcome obstacles, no matter how big they are. By taking the time to clearly define what it is that they wanted to do and thinking about their life, and what it was that they wanted to accomplish, they are more likely to flourish and achieve! First have vision, then BELIEVE!
Having a clear goal, writing it down, making it public – especially to anyone working with you – gives you a much higher chance of success, no matter what you do.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet and listen to Sir Steve Redgrave, Kris Akabusi and Ben Hunter Davies – all gold medal winners, and all very personable. Equally all laser focused on getting an Olympic gold medal. They all tell similar stories about goal setting, drive and visualisation.
If you closed your eyes right now and could see yourself in say 1 – 3 – 5 – 10 years’ time, what would you like to see? How would it feel? What would it sound like? Who would you be mixing with? What would you be wearing? What would it smell like? What would you be tasting?
Once you have awakened to what success looks and feels like, you visualise the many other opportunities open to you. Without a clear goal it is easy to allow yourself to drift. Truly successful people develop the ability to focus and concentrate to maximize their time, energy, money and resources.
Ben Hunter Davies speaks about “What makes the boat go faster” – every part of their preparation and training for the Olympics was to give the team the best chance of winning goal. He’s been in 3 Olympics before and never made it to the final, so he knew this was his last chance. As part of a 9-man team plus an extended support team, every action, every minute of every day was focused on what it would take to win. Millimetre by millimetre they fought their way through 4 years of battling for the gold medal. They were the underdogs, and no-one expected them to get into the final let alone win GOLD.
Successful entrepreneurs have a real passion for the market they are entering and are committed to reaching their potential and fulfilling their goal. Passion and commitment keeps entrepreneurs going when times are tough. Without passion and commitment, you won’t be prepared to make the sacrifices required on your journey to success. If you don’t love what you do and believe in yourself, it will be difficult to convince the rest of the market to invest and believe in you.
"A man of conviction is often more to be desired than a man of experience." Curt Siodmak, American Screenwriter
Entrepreneurs are often cited as unreasonable. They make enemies, cause disruption and challenge conventional norms. Entrepreneurs are not normal, and their behaviour can be disturbing to people who just don’t get it.
My very first business was one of my greatest successes, yet I didn’t have the passion required to continue and sold out after only 3 years. My second business I had even less passion for and sold in less than a year. Both business are still going so, on the surface it appeared I was successful in terms of making money and growing quickly but both made me really unhappy.
Chasing cash will not make you happy – cash makes life easier of course, but if you are only chasing cash then at some point you’ll have the money, but you won’t necessarily have happiness. And you might feel like I did, trapped and obligated – and very unhappy!
Successful people change themselves – not in a deliberate attempt to not be themselves, but to become their best selves. They are constantly educating themselves and gaining experience that will lead them to the goals they desire. They truly understand the importance of acquiring greater skill sets, which in turn gives them a confidence boost and greater self-worth.
They are constantly ‘renewing their minds’ and understand that this is the key to their transformation and growth.
It’s important to remember that everyone starts out as a novice! Expertise is not something you were born with – though some of us have natural talents that make somethings easier for us that for others. I’m never going to be a Prima Ballerina or an Olympic pole vaulter for example – but I am a world class problem solver, it’s part of my DNA that has made it easier for me to do the work I’ve chosen to do.
When I left school, I had 5 O’Levels in the subjects I enjoyed because I found them easy. All my higher education happened after I was 21 when I went to college to get my accounting qualification, then a Master and finally a Law degree. But I also constantly pushed myself to get more business experiences, sometimes at the cost of worse pay and conditions just to get exposed to new challenges. I have always read books, articles, newspapers – I’ve invested in course (some really bad ones, so now I can be more discerning and invest in the good ones).
I’ve also come to recognise that I don’t need to be an expert in everything – but I do need to learn just enough to be able to recognise who is an expert and how to engage with them.
Pushing yourself outside your current knowledge allows you to expand your thinking and ideas and your skills.
Although many successful businesses are often attributed to one person, they are usually the “face” of a bigger team of specialists. You don’t have to build your empire on your own – in fact I would argue you can’t build it on your own. Using the resources around you, is the only way to accelerate your business growth. Others can help you so use their expertise to build on what you know. Use their experience, key skills and their network – anyone they know to pave your route to success. Build a support network of people who share in your vision and these people will become members of your team, allowing you to work together to reach your goals.
Partnerships are also a great way to strengthen the foundation of your business. Your ability to inspire and communicate your vision effectively to the people who can take your ideas and drive your business forward is what will bring higher level of success.
No one wins alone. There is always a team – even in solo sports. Take tennis or golf, there is always a coach, caddy, physiotherapist, nutritionist. Even the opponent is part of the team in providing the foil to battle against.
I joined the WRNS in 1985 when I was 19 years old and it was the place where I learned the most about team, collaboration and training. In 1989 I was posted to the Falkland Islands, where there were about 60 females and 6000 males in the military. It was pretty inhospitable, and the threat of reinvasion was still quite high – we were constantly on high alert. Everyone knew what the mission was – everyone knew what their job was.
During my time there, HMS Endurance was serving as protector vessel, moving troops round the islands and between the Antarctic islands of South Georgia and the Ice shelf. It was designed for life in ice flows. On the way back from the Antarctic Ice shelf, in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere winter, the oceans were unusually still. There was a blanket of silence broken only by the noise of the engines pushing through the icy waters. Suddenly, over the almost hypnotic, steady thrum of the engine, the ear-splitting sound of the metal hull of the ship being literally ripped open and thousands of gallons of freezing cold water started to flood into the bilges. The ship hit a huge underwater iceberg that carved the hull open like a giant can opener. Over 600 miles from help, with a 65ft long tear in the side just below the waterline, the battle was now on for survival. The training kicks in and all hands are on deck with a specialist disaster recovery unit at the water entry point fighting for survival.
It’s a testament to the tenacity, survival skills and teamwork of the whole ship’s company that there was no loss of life, though the ship was decommissioned within a year as it never really recovered.
So, what are You Waiting for?
Courage build confidence. Joined with the tenacity and perseverance required to achieve your vision and goals, and the passion to achieve – add in the continual learning and the potent “Entrepreneurs brew” is complete!
Go out there and conquer the world!
Not quite ready? I can help! Click here to contact Christine by email alternatively you can book a call with the Business Mentor of the Year 2020, author and speaker. Helping business owners get their businesses exit ready so they can enjoy a happier, richer future. Christine saves them THOUSANDS and increases the value of their businesses by MILLIONS.