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The dictionary describes an entrepreneur as ‘A person who engages in business enterprise, usually with some personal financial risk.’
Under this definition, anyone who runs and owns his or her own business can be classified as an entrepreneur because they are taking a risk with their finances every day. But what are the qualities of a successful entrepreneur? Simply owning a business and having risks doesn’t mean that you have successfully accomplished your goal. The dictionary only scratches the surface of what it takes to be an entrepreneur in today’s competitive business world. One must also take into account an individual’s personality, actions and behavioral patterns—which all contribute to a person’s ability to earn the title of a ‘successful entrepreneur.’
Although it may seem easy enough, becoming a successful entrepreneur is not rudimentary. You have to have a product or service that consumers really want, an organized form of sales and service, and quality marketing advertising. For many of us, the journey to earning the title begins with a burst of excitement about turning our passion into a business (followed by flashing lights of the word “success”). The experience of getting a new idea is wonderful, what follows can be the most exciting and emotional journey you will ever experience. But there is a long, hard road you must travel to take your idea from conception to reality.
I’ve been there. I traveled this road many times, I have had my share of light bulb moments, and I have learned some key points along the way that make the difference between a dreamer and a successful entrepreneur. I learned the old-fashioned way—trial and failure. But, for all my failures came a triumph that made every misstep more than worth it. Here are some helpful tips on how to avoid some of those mistakes I made, and that you take with you on your entrepreneurial adventure.
Dream big: To achieve the kind of success that you want, you need to dream big. Every success story starts with big dreams. Have a clear and concise vision of what you want and where you want your idea to go. Actively visualize success in your mind so that it actually starts to become reality. Speak it into existence! Be the person now that you imagine yourself being when you reach your goal. Dress the part now, speak the language now, talk about the places your business will allow you to travel to, research them, tell your friends and family what’s going to happen. The more you speak, the more you’ll believe and the more inclined you’ll be to make things happen. People may look at you like you’re crazy, but imagine how they looked at the Wright brother’s when they thought of creating the first successful aircraft.
Be a leader. Leadership is one of the areas that many entrepreneurs tend to overlook, according to leadership coach John C. Maxwell, whose books include The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (Thomas Nelson, 1998) and Developing the Leader Within You (Thomas Nelson, 1993). Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Becoming a great leader isn’t easy, it requires successfully maneuvering a team through the ups and downs and the major challenges that a new business faces.
To groom yourself to be a quality business leader:
Hire shrewdly. Nothing is more important. Do extensive research and check references. You can’t rely solely on what’s said in résumés and cover letters. It’s best to ask everyone you respect for solid candidates. Then have a trial period for the new employee before you hire.
Fire fast. If quick efforts to remediate an inadequate employee do not work, fire the person respectfully. One bad employee can infect the success of the team.
Look good. Unfortunately, we live in a shallow, beauty-obsessed society. Although leaders are not expected to have Hollywood looks necessarily, it’s worth a bit of primping to look your best at all times. You can show off your own personal style while still having a polished look.
Prioritize decisiveness over inclusiveness. The best leaders know when to encourage team involvement in decision-making and when to act unilaterally. It’s not about making friends, it’s about making the best decisions for your business.
Work long hours. I’d rather disappoint you with the truth than anesthetize you with lies.
Motivation rises and falls upon success and setbacks. Being motivated despite the challenges of business is a skill that’s required in order to sail through the storms. Tough times do not last, but tough people do. Stay motivated at the highest level.
Last but not least, when it comes to entrepreneurs, failure is an option! Every entrepreneur faces times when winds do not blow in his or her direction. Stick to your boat and keep floating. Winds always change direction. Optimism is an essential requirement for being an entrepreneur. That new direction might land you on a beautiful island you had no idea existed. Embrace setbacks and look for the opportunity to expand and grow your business.