An entrepreneur is someone who sees an opportunity and creates the organisational structures to pursue it. The entrepreneurial process involves all of the functions, activities, and actions associated with pursuing that opportunity. If you decide to establish your own business or remain where you are, entrepreneurial behaviour can be learnt and used to strengthen your existing management skills – even open new doors for you. Here’s how to sharpen your entrepreneurial skills…
1. Develop appropriate personal attributes.
Though entrepreneurs come from a wide variety of backgrounds, the literature can provide an accurate picture of these innovative types.
Wayne Bygraves in ‘Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship’ refers to the 10 Ds that characterise entrepreneurs: they dream or vision what the future could be like; they’re decisive, and doers, showing dedication, determination, devotion, and attention to detail they’re in charge of their destiny, expect dollars as a sign of their success, and distribute ownership of their businesses among key employees.
John Miner in ‘The Four Roots to Entrepreneurial Success’ sees entrepreneurs as having high personal achievement, characterised by a need to succeed, with a strong belief in themselves (that they can make a difference), an energetic personal commitment to their organisation (existing or new), a desire for feedback, a desire to plan and set goals, and a preparedness to take the initiative.
How do you measure up?
2. Learn to work with people.
Entrepreneurs are in some respects loners, preferring their own company; but they realise the influence others can have if they are to achieve their goals. They can expect to spend a great deal of their time selling their ideas to others, so it’s important to adopt an encouraging style, a sharp human-interest focus, a desire to help others, empathy, and strong positive relationships. They must be willing to persuade others to their way of thinking. Entrepreneurs, being the type of people they are, often rapidly advance in the system; but then, when frustrated by the constraints of the organisation, they reject the system to form their own.
3. Seek innovation and change.
Connecting ideas with opportunities is a form of constant engagement for entrepreneurs (some call it innovating). Because of this desire to innovate, entrepreneurs search out new ideas and encourage new product development. Although entrepreneurs may like to give the impression of being risk-takers, their desire to maintain control ensures that detailed preparation eliminates (or significantly reduces) any risk. They always like to check things out before engaging.
As an entrepreneur, explore ways to obtain the competitive advantage; and be ready to bend, if not break, a few rules. If necessary, be prepared to ‘sail close to the wind’ and use unconventional persuasive techniques.
Fundamentally, however, the idea of the entrepreneur as a person who always takes high risks is a myth. The leverage that you, as an entrepreneur, can bring to the use of capital is the key to your sustaining success while being both thorough and cautious in your assessment of viable projects.
So the message for you is to aspire to innovate, but make sure you always do your homework first.
4. Look for role models.
Environmental factors (external influences, if you like) have a significant effect on the development of entrepreneurs. Knowing successful entrepreneurs makes the act of becoming one yourself seem much more credible. Some workplaces – Silicon Valley, for example – tend to attract people with entrepreneurial flair. Though your role model may be working in the industry, don’t discount the influence your family and friends can have as well.
5. Gain industry experience and management know-how.
Industry experience and management know-how – preferably with accountability for profit and loss – are indispensable qualities of successful entrepreneurs. More than 80 per cent of all new businesses are founded in industries the same as, or closely related to, the ones that the entrepreneurs have previously experienced. Additional skills are always a bonus, but make sure you focus your energies in familiar areas where they will get the best results.
6. Exploit timing.
Timing is more than recognising and responding to windows of opportunity. In fact, successful entrepreneurs resist the temptation to rush into new enterprises before they have had a chance to gather all of the resources they will need. For the entrepreneur, timing is not about speed but selecting the moment of engagement. Be prepared for when your moment arrives.
7. Make entrepreneurship a lifetime focus.
Leopards don’t change their spots, nor entrepreneurs their dreams, desires, ambitions, and decisiveness. If you believe entrepreneurship is your destiny, then go for it!