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What is an Entrepreneur?

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Entrepreneurship is an important engine of growth in the economy. In this lesson, you’ll learn about what is an entrepreneur and the key characteristics and skills that a successful entrepreneur possesses. Some examples of entrepreneurs will also be given.

Risk Takers

Meet Eddie. He’s an entrepreneur, which is a person who starts a business. Eddie recently graduated from college with a degree in computer programming and has developed an app that he believes will make him a small fortune. So, instead of working nine to five for a software company in Silicon Valley, he decides to start his own. He wants to challenge himself and work the way he wants to without answering a boss. He’s using a small inheritance to fund the start-up. As an entrepreneur, Eddie is not only starting a business but is risking his personal wealth to establish it.

Eddie is also trying to convince some friends from school to form an entrepreneurial team with him. An entrepreneurial team is a group of people that help spread out the risk of the new venture and also bring in different talents and skill sets to it. Eddie has a friend who majored in accounting and another who majored in marketing. He’s hoping they may come along with him and bring their skills and some cash. If he can build the right team, he can create synergy, where the group can achieve more together than they can apart.

Examples of Entrepreneurs

Eddie hopes that his entrepreneurial gamble will pay off as well as the gambles of other well-known entrepreneurs, such as:

1. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft. There are probably not many people who have not been touched by one of his products, such as Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer.

2. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computers, which produces Macs, iPods, and iPhones, as well as Apple TV.

3. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.

4. Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.

5. Evan Clark Williams, founder of Twitter, a well-known online social networking.

6. Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flikr, which hosts images and videos on the Internet.

Who Is An Entrepreneur?

“Well, you know that I’m not an entrepreneur, so I can just try to think like one.”

1. An entrepreneur is a starter. An entrepreneur is an initiator, a challenger, and a driver. Someone who creates something new, either an initiative, a business or a company. He or she is the beginning (and sometimes the end) of a venture, project, or activity. The entrepreneur might not be the ideator, but he or she is definitely the one who decides to make that idea a reality.

2. An entrepreneur is the driver. The entrepreneur is the person in charge, the leader, and the person to look to for leadership. He or she is the one who pushes forward and inspires a team to follow. The entrepreneur is the one who sits in the driver’s seat and has the ability to change direction, accelerate, slow down or even stop a venture.

3. An entrepreneur is accountable and responsible. The entrepreneur is ultimate responsible for the destiny of its venture, which can be a company, a project, or any other endeavor. The entrepreneur is the one who has the highest stakes at the venture, thus the one who needs to be empowered to fully direct the endeavor.

Being an entrepreneur is not directly related to having an equity stake in a company, but instead showcases leadership-related points. Why do we tend to associate entrepreneurship with equity ownership (as value), instead of understanding it as the one that has the highest stakes in an endeavor, which sometimes gets translated into entrepreneurship?

What is an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship is more than financial gains

We tend to associate entrepreneurship with direct financial benefits and risk, but not only when the entrepreneur has equity in the company, he or she is exposed to financial upsides and downturns. Corporate ventures and corporate entrepreneurship allows “corporate entrepreneurs” to benefit of the upsides of their projects without having equity stakes.

Corporate entrepreneurship does exist

Traditional corporate culture tends to disregard the entrepreneurial approach. However, with the proliferation of new startups and disruptive innovations, corporations have been forced to embrace the entrepreneurial approach to running and operating their business. An entrepreneurial approach is not only more agile and dynamic but also results in a more lean operation. By providing a strong level of staff empowerment, you create a strong sense of ownership, which results in better outcomes for any endeavor.

Passion is the real drive

There is another element that really dwells at the center of any entrepreneur: passion! An entrepreneur possesses an interior fuel and stamina that drives his or her actions; this superior energy helps to overtake and surpass the different challenges and it injects strength to continue pursuing goals when difficulties arise. Anyone can be an entrepreneur and behave like one- regardless of whether or not they happen to be an equity holder. Ultimately, it’s all about the attitude when running the show.

If you’re ready to enter the world of entrepreneurship, here are a few important tips to keep in mind.

1. Learn from others’ failures.

Rather than admiring the small percentage of businesses that grow to become successful, study those that end up failing. Gottlieb said this research will greatly increase your chances of success because most companies have made common mistakes that have led to their demise. He said that having the humility to learn from the mistakes of others before making them yourself is the secret to success.

2. Make sure this is what you want.

Because entrepreneurship entails so much hard work, it is critical to ensure you’re following the right path, Amini said. “If this is something you really want, then think long-term and be persistent,” she said. “The vast majority of great entrepreneurs failed multiple times before they finally found the business idea that took off and brought them success.”

3. Solve problems.

Entrepreneurs should always be in search of problems to solve, and not the other way around, said Ajay Bam, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of California, Berkeley Haas School of Business. In other words, “they should not start with a solution looking for a problem,” he said.

4. Be passionate.

Successful entrepreneurs are driven primarily by a need for achievement and the desire to make a meaningful difference, Bachenheimer said. “The most important traits are passion and persistence, but these must not be confused with arrogance and stubbornness,” he said.

5. Get advice from those who have done it.

Amini advised would-be business owners to find mentors who are successful, as well as to read books, network with people they admire, and look into great educational programs to help them throughout the process.

Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Do you have the qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

Although there is no “one size fits all” theory for entrepreneurship, a few guidelines may help those with a good idea become successful entrepreneurs. The following insights can help you embark on your next entrepreneurial venture with due diligence.

1. Passion and Motivation

If there’s one word that describes the fundamental trait in entrepreneurship, it would be passion.

  • Is there something that you can work on over and over again, without getting bored?
  • Is there something that keeps you awake because you have not finished it yet?
  • Is there something that you have built and want to continue to improve upon, again and again?
  • Is there something that you enjoy the most and want to continue doing for the rest of your life?

Your demonstration of passion and motivation will determine your success in any entrepreneurial venture. From building and implementing a prototype to pitching your idea to venture capitalists, success is a function of passion and determination. (For more, see: Turn Your Passion into a Profitable Side Business.)

2. Risk-taking

Entrepreneurs are risk-takers ready to dive deep into a future of uncertainty. But not all risk-takers are successful entrepreneurs. What differentiates a successful entrepreneur from the rest in terms of risk? Successful entrepreneurs are willing to risk time and money on unknowns, but they also keep resources, plans and bandwidth for dealing with “unknown unknowns” in reserve. When evaluating risk, a successful entrepreneur will ask herself, is this risk worth the cost of my career, time and money? And, what will I do if this venture doesn’t pay off?

3. Self-belief, Hard work & Disciplined Dedication

Entrepreneurs enjoy what they do. They believe in themselves and are confident and dedicated to their project. Occasionally, they may show stubbornness in their intense focus on and faith in their idea. But the flip side is their demonstrated discipline and dedication.

4. Adaptability & Flexibility

It’s good to be passionate or even stubborn about what you do. But being inflexible about client or market needs will lead to failure. Remember, an entrepreneurial venture is not simply about doing what you believe is good, but also making successful business out of it. Market needs are dynamic: changes are a recurring phenomenon. Successful entrepreneurs welcome all suggestions for optimization or customization that enhance their offering and satisfy client and market needs. A product you develop for yourself alone may qualify as a hobby, but a product for the market should satisfy market needs.

5. Understand Your Offering and Its Market

Entrepreneurs know their product offerings inside and out. They also know the marketplace and its dynamics inside and out. Remaining unaware of changing market needs, competitor moves and other external factors can bring even great products to failure (for example, Blockbuster).

6. Money Management

It takes time to get to profitability for any entrepreneurial venture. Till then, capital is limited and needs to be utilized wisely. Successful entrepreneurs realize this mandatory money management requirement and plan for present and future financial obligations (with some additional buffer). Even after securing funding or going fully operational, a successful businessman keeps a complete handle on cash flows, as it is the most important aspect of any business.

7. Planning (But not Over-planning)

Entrepreneurship is about building a business from scratch while managing limited resources (including time, money and personal relationships). It is a long-term commitment, and attempting to plan as much as possible at the beginning is a noble impulse. In reality, however, planning for everything and having a ready solution for all possible risks may prevent you from even taking the first step. Successful entrepreneurs do keep some dry powder in reserve, but more importantly they maintain a mindset and temperament to be capable of dealing with unforeseen possibilities.

Do a feasibility analysis; identify time and capital thresholds; and take a deep dive with your limited resources. If your thresholds are crossed, look for alternatives and be prepared to take the next exit.

8. Networking Abilities

How do you tap your network for solutions? Many people seek comfort in commiseration: friends, colleagues and neighbors are happy to complain with you about “the global slowdown,” poor demand, or unfair competition; but that won’t improve the bottom line. What do successful entrepreneurs do? They reach out to mentors with more experience and extensive networks to seek valuable advice.

Having such networking abilities, including more experienced mentors, is a key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.

9. Being Prepared to Take the Exit

Not every attempt will result in success. The failure rate of entrepreneurial ventures is very high. At times, it is absolutely fine to take the “practical” exit route and try something new, instead of continuing to make sunk-cost investments in the same venture. Many famous entrepreneurs weren’t successful the first time around. But they had the serenity and foresight to know when to cut their losses.

10. Entrepreneurs Doubt Themselves—But Not Too Much

You may ask yourself, Am I an entrepreneur? And the very question may put you in doubt about the answer. Even if you don’t have the flair of Steve Jobs or the hair of Elon Musk, if you have the courage to ask yourself intimidating questions – Can I do this? Do I want to do this? You have the stuff to be an entrepreneur.

Instead of worrying about fitting the image of the perfect entrepreneur, check in with your gut. Is it on board?

The Bottom Line

Personal qualities and their correct demonstration with the right stakeholders are the determining factors for success or failure as an entrepreneur. A realistic self-assessment checklist against these suggested guidelines will ensure you take the right steps in the right direction to succeed.

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