So you didn’t follow the Elon Musk path of creating a computer game at age 12 or cold-calling a corporate banking maven to snag a paying internship? You can still become a compelling, talked-about entrepreneur if you follow a few best practices.
Entrepreneurship begins not just with a dream, but also with the motivation to back it up. To offer a domestic parallel, we all know the apartment dweller who always thinks about how life will change “when I own my own place” -- a place that will never exist because he can’t muster the energy to toss his recyclables in the bin down the hallway.
Don’t be that guy: Take the initiative to realize your dreams and join the founders’ ranks. You can start by learning from successful leaders who’ve gone before you.
Yes, entrepreneurs can be made.
Many people think that entrepreneurs are born, but that’s simply not true. Perhaps the desire or hardwiring to be an entrepreneur is somewhat innate, but plenty of folks have built booming small businesses based primarily on need or circumstances.
Of course, you do need to exhibit a few basic traits to succeed as your own boss. Not being afraid of hard work is the first one. Another is being able to handle financial uncertainty. Those are no-brainers for entrepreneurs, even ones with tons of cash in their pockets when they begin the journey.
Confidence, creativity and people skills are additional must-haves for entrepreneurs. Yet there are other less-discussed attributes that separate the best entrepreneurs from those who will never own their own place, so to speak.
1. They aren’t put off by failure.
It’s one thing to get accustomed to hearing the word “no.” But entrepreneurs don’t just accept rejection: They look for ways to overcome it with effective communication and moxie. Plus, they don’t accept failure as an end but rather as a reason to pave a different path. In other words, they see possibilities, not barriers.
Take the story of Sophia Amoruso. As the founder and CEO of Girlboss, she had been riding high until a couple years ago, when her star power turned sour. Facing tremendous backlash, she reimagined her role and overcame the critics with resolve and more than a modicum of transparency. Her genuine approach won her allies when she needed them most and pulled her career out of what could have been an unstoppable nosedive.
2. They sell from the heart.
Mike Monroe, digital strategy manager at Vector Marketing, walks around with a vision in mind. Wherever he goes, he talks about his company’s vision rather than its products. He’s selling ideas, not things, which he recommends as a tried-and-true concept. “Paint specific details about how the product or service will improve the customer’s life, and that vision drives the sale,” he explains.
Don’t mistake selling for talking nonstop about the greatness of your offerings to anyone within earshot. Certainly, you need to be the lead salesperson for your business, but you must temper your desire to hustle with the realization that people hate a hard sell. Wear your company’s vision on your sleeve, but remember that closing the sale will be much easier if you don’t push too hard.
3. They seek out mentors.
Mentorship is critical for entrepreneurs because mentors share vital resources and foster connections. Consider Natalie Cofield, the founder of Walker’s Legacy, named for self-made millionaire Madam C. J. Walker. Cofield leaned heavily on mentors to guide and inspire her in her career. She is now seen as a role model for female entrepreneurs of color because she realized how crucial that role is and built a business out of it.
Not sure how to find a mentor? Look first to the people you already know or are connected to in person or online. LinkedIn is a terrific place to forge contacts and make new friendships. Mentorships can be informal or formal, but all successful ones involve trust and honesty from both parties.
4. They banish distractions.
Founders live in a constantly changing environment filled with distractions. Smart ones learn early how to focus on what’s important and push the rest to the side. Anit Hora, founder of Brooklyn-based skincare company Mullein & Sparrow, has learned to balance her life just as she balances ancient Indian medicine and Western herbalism in her products. By carefully evaluating the value of each meeting and networking event, she remains in control of her time, which in turn creates a healthier work-life experience.
Without a doubt, some days will be filled with unexpected urgencies. However, the more you’re able to set boundaries, the better you can accomplish high-priority goals.
5. They live their purpose.
Is writing checks to local nonprofits the extent of your community support? It’s time to re-examine the way you think about charity and giving. For instance, if your mission is to support local businesses, everything you do should bolster your objective.
Take a page from the founder of Nic & Luc Jam, Leroy Bautista. Bautista invented a hot-selling line of sauces and related items, all derived from ingredients that were sourced from produce grown near his headquarters. His business plan inherently helps other local businesses. Bautista’s tale proves you can live any purpose -- even one that might seem limiting to those on the outside of your vision -- and make a profit, too.
Worried that you might not have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? You might just be missing a few key building blocks. Look to the qualities that have made other founders stand out and add them to your own entrepreneurial blueprint. You may own the place sooner than you think.