The word “entrepreneur” almost always conjures up thoughts of sleepless nights, exciting highs, challenging lows, and rewards that almost romanticize the idea of risk. And why not? for the vast majority of us, starting our own business is not always the most obvious choice, or is sometimes given the title of a dream surrounded by the illusory “one day”.
But for Kenner, being an entrepreneur is much more than just quitting your job to pursue a passion – having an idea is the easy part, but real courage and perseverance play a leading role in executing it.
Being an entrepreneur myself for the past twenty years, going from being a newspaper salesman at a brokerage firm (since 1988) to starting and running two businesses of my own, I have had the special pleasure of being able to witness the entrepreneurial dream first hand. Whether it’s realizing a vision and seeing it come full circle, or being in the trenches working tirelessly to kickstart a concept.
The essence of an entrepreneur hinges on the ability to balance the precarious act of being assertive yet sensitive, or thrifty yet generous. You must be a leader, crisis manager, mentor, motivator and friend, and have a basic understanding of multiple knowledge areas. It’s this combination of versatility, resilience, and tenacity that defines the entrepreneurial mindset, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not genetic. It is like any skill that is honed, practiced and learned over time.
In fact, the skills that make up this mindset are transferrable and applicable to any other career or role as well. Whether it’s a project manager or a marketing and sales executive, the lessons of the entrepreneurial textbook can be applied to a range of leadership roles.
Which brings us to the ultimate question: is there a way to train your mind to think like an entrepreneur, and if so, what are the basics to achieve that mindset?
Learn to believe in yourself
This is probably the number one rule in the entrepreneurship playbook because the business world is cutthroat and full of naysayers, with failure being a very real possibility. Therefore, every successful entrepreneur must develop self-confidence. With my middle-class upbringing and the fact that I was a first-generation learner, all I heard was (as many of us still do) – some people are just born to be entrepreneurs. But as I delved deeper and deeper into learning and understanding the areas that fascinated me, which in my case was technology and finance, I realized that learning is about believing you can and vice versa. I wrote down 10 Commandments—a practice I still follow—that listed all of the reasons I wanted to start my own business and why I was worthy of it. It’s what psychologists call self-affirmation, and it’s a powerful tool to increase belief in yourself.
Cultivate good habits
Although a very broad term, good habits in a business context could be defined as conscious actions and decisions that can have a transformative effect on how you lead and how you are perceived as a leader. For example, in his book Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about the benefits of the simple habit of remembering people’s names. Being skeptical about something so trivial, I decided to give it a try and make a conscious effort. Every time I met someone I would memorize their name and over the years I’ve seen it transform my interactions with people. I realized that as humans we have an innate need to be noticed, seen and heard, and remembering a person’s name is the first step to doing so. For leaders who need to interact and network with multiple stakeholders, employees and colleagues, a simple habit like this can go a long way in cementing their reputation and liking.
As a personality trait, the ability to make decisions stems from confidence, but it involves much more than just that. Determination is the ability to make decisions in a timely and confident manner. For entrepreneurs, it is a crucial skill that needs to be honed and developed as they constantly have to make small and big decisions across the board; often in stressful environments where the stakes are high and indecisiveness can mean the difference between a good outcome or a catastrophic fallout. As an entrepreneur at the helm of my second business, I’ve always stuck to the visualization guide. I imagine all possible outcomes of a decision; whether negative or positive. This helps me in two ways, firstly it helps me to create a list of pros and cons for each of my decisions and secondly it allows me to mentally prepare myself for all the good, bad or ugly possibilities that could come from my Decision.
Take risks and don’t settle
In her Ted Talk, author and Stanford Instructor Amy Wilkinson discusses how comfort and a place for change are diametrically opposed. Essentially, Wilkinson implies that entrepreneurs must be able to take smart risks and step out of their comfort zone in order to grow their business.
When I decided last year to invest my own money in starting my second company, I made an assessment based on the hard numbers, by considering various possible global financial events, as well as variables such as people and partners that might affect the financial Could affect profitability of my business. In short, I calculated my risk tolerance.
Taking risks may not be a natural instinct for most, but it is an important part of entrepreneurship. It’s less about being reckless and more about being intentional with your decisions. The most important thing to remember when taking risks is to calculate risk appetite. I’ve always found solace in calculating results based on facts and figures.
Also, I believe goals can be great motivators, but they can also be limiting. Truly successful business leaders are never truly satisfied after achieving a goal, always aiming to move on to the next big idea that can make an impact. I experienced that when I was still managing my first startup. I had realized the entrepreneurial dream – started something from scratch, built it into a well-oiled machine for success, and brought it into the custodial capacity of a NASDAQ-listed company. I could see the finish line but it wasn’t enough. My experience with this company opened my eyes to a larger problem that I could potentially help solve, which ultimately led me to the concept my current startup is built on.
Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is a challenging but comprehensive process. And for those who have always envisioned themselves at the helm of their own business, it’s important to reiterate and remember that it’s a set of skills and attitudes that are learned through hard work, dedication and vision can – drown out the voices of all those who say otherwise.
The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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