When we think of entrepreneurs many of us picture the men and women who’ve made it big – scoring a mega-hit after a thousand and one failures and two thousand and one misses, but what actually makes a true entrepreneur? What are her characteristics and unique traits that ensure a fighting, inventive, and intuitive spirit?
The entrepreneurial spirit, first and foremost, looks for and pursues opportunities without collecting massive resources. MBA graduates on the other hand, tend to look for and seek out lowest-risk opportunities with the highest return on investment (ROI) and with the most resources available to them.
Some of the major myths that plague entrepreneurs are:
- You need a big vision – you have to have big dreams to pursue your dreams.
- You have to have a Business/Financial/HR strategy before you can start.
- You need money, and lots of it.
- You need skilled people.
- You need to have a risk-taking mindset.
- You need relevant training to be amazing.
In the coming weeks I’m going to break apart these myths. We’ll not only understand what an entrepreneur isn’t but we’ll narrow our focus onto what an entrepreneur is, including their personalities, habits, thinking style, and other characteristics.
Reinterpreting the world around them
Entrepreneurs see a need and fill a need. Many of us have traveled a lot, are very observant of our surroundings, and love talking with people to learn what kinds of services or products people need. We’re constantly looking at the world around us, and at the products and services already offered, thinking “I can do better.” We also read a lot, meet a ton of people, and finally, over time, those dots start to connect…
Entrepreneurs are more likely to use what’s immediately available around them to make their products, rather than seeing out special raw materials. They find creative uses for things that they already have on hand to craft unique, rare, and variety-filled items. The best example of this is a Pakistani Ralli quilt, or any quilt for that matter, that is created using the scraps and tatters of fabrics past it’s prime.
An example of sourcing abundant local available raw materials is that of Bernice Dapaah, CEO of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative in Kumasi, Ghana making bicycles out of bamboo. Her goal is to empower women, create jobs, and also create a fantastic affordable product with a smaller environmental impact than traditional aluminum-framed bicycles.
Another example is that of Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of the company Bert’s Bees who literally grew her company from scratch. Starting with a pile of unused beeswax and a used pickup truck she grew her business into a huge line of products. She literally started with nothing – not even a phone to take orders on, and lived in of an off-grid cabin in the North Woods of Maine, USA.
You can download the entire Roxanne Quimby Story.
Quimby once said that the reason for her success is that she likes to live on the edge, with no predictability or planning. Entrepreneurs like her do tend to live lives in which we have less to lose, which helps us take calculated risks and fear less. In contrast, traditional business schooling grooms students of business to be very risk-averse and afraid to go out there and take even small chances.
Taking calculated risks
It can be imagined that a typical MBA graduate it well versed in the calculated and measured risks of getting a car from 2nd gear into 5th gear on an open highway. Entrepreneurs, however, are in the business of finding the car, getting it to start, and driving it in 1st and 2nd gear up that bumpy dirt road and over to the main highway of “big business.”
Entrepreneurs think different and are not afraid to try new things. They always calculate the risk of what they can afford to lose and still keep going. Investors are more careful – they always try to minimize risk, hit targets, to get the biggest return on their investments.
Nothing to lose
Entrepreneurs are not afraid of losing anything because they tend to live their lives as if they have nothing to lose. They are great risk dividers to spread the danger thin – forming partnerships with others and working with the slack resources they have available to them. This habit actually enables them to make really quick intuitive calculations and decisions regarding affordable losses. They always know exactly where they stand and what they can afford to lose and still keep pushing forward.
Entrepreneurs are also keenly aware of who they are and understand both their own strengths and weaknesses. For the most part they’re not arrogant, and admit that they don’t know everything (but of course are always ready and willing to learn). Most of all, entrepreneurs are great at knowing who to hire to make a killer TEAM and headhunt the right candidates for their team to fill in the gaps of what they themselves are unable to do.
Entrepreneurs will never say “I’m better than you” they are likely to say “I love what I do – I’m always learning – I want to grow and learn with you.”