Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Yes; we all do in fact.
I’ve listened to many people talk about their start-up businesses and generally such individuals are encouraged to speak about their personal qualities and characteristics. Admittedly, there is something shared amongst these people and it frequently revolves around a semblance of persistence. However, what is far more common is realising how different and sometimes how introverted they all are.
I’ve heard how Steve Madden (designer of Steve Madden shoes) is incredibly insecure and often has a relatively pessimistic outlook on life. I’ve listened to Angie Hick (the co-founder of Angie’s List) talk about her reticence in approaching strangers when she had to go door-to-door selling subscriptions for her business. There is Eileen Fisher (iconic clothes designer), who if you ever hear speak is sometimes so timid and quiet that you would think she could be blown over by a brisk wind.
There is of course those on the other side of the spectrum which better fit the archetypal entrepreneur – in so much they are men, bullish and have an ego as big as their bank balance. It feels that such people are thought to embody the type of attributes necessary for a start-up, but there is no conclusive research to say either way.
What I also find interesting is how entrepreneurs can at times be successful and unsuccessful, yet their characteristics remain predominantly the same. How should we interpret these people? Are their attributes still something we should emulate? I remember hearing about the atheist Bible seller, who set up an app that translated the Bible into Spanish. This is a fairly well documented story of Trevor McKendrick who in 2012 decided he could set up a better app than what was already out there for people who wanted to read and listen to the Bible in Spanish. The reason this story came to prominence was that first he was an atheist, and secondly, it started making over $100,000 a year. This was off the back of doing about an hour or two maintenance on the app a month.
To pause the story there, most people would assume that if they took all the personal traits and advice of Trevor McKendrick, then they too could go on to achieve something similar. However, Trevor decided to set up another company – something that he actually ‘believed in’ – and created a virtual assistant service that can help businesses with their back-office tasks. This company takes about 10-20 hours worth of administrative tasks per week and outsources them to a number of contractors. As Trevor himself describes it, ‘I’ve traded a totally passive, one hour a month income for the complete opposite, where I’m on-call 24/7’.
Therefore, whatever the personal attributes are for any given entrepreneur, they bare little consequence on how well they succeed in business. This is because the most important factors in building a successful company do not lie with individual characteristics. Instead it depends on whether there is enough demand for a particular product or service and if the company has enough money to capitalise on the opportunity. And most would do well in emulating entrepreneurs who understand these things best.