Entrepreneurs are one of the most misunderstood individuals in society. After all, they take risks, work their tails off without any guarantee of making a dime, and yet they are often looked down upon unless they actually “make it big.” But how can you tell if you’re an entrepreneur?
Many people do not know what the word “entrepreneur” means, much less the struggles & failures they actually experience while trying to accomplish something in life. So what exactly is an entrepreneur, and how can you tell if you are entrepreneur at heart?
Definition of an Entrepreneur
First, let’s look at some common definitions of an entrepreneur. If you flip through a dictionary or check online then you may find a variation of the following common definitions: 1. An initiator or a financial backer of new businesses. (Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2006) 2. One who assumes the financial risk of the initiation, operation, and management of a given business or undertaking. (business.gov) 3. Someone who attempts to profit by risk and initiative. (scottish-enterprise.com) These definitions are great, but sometimes they can be vague. Especially if you are trying to discover if you have the main traits of entrepreneurship. Below is a list of traits that most known entrepreneurs seem to have in common.
Common Traits and Characteristics of Entrepreneurs
1. Some are Loners. Many entrepreneurs have introverted personalities (they are shy). This is especially true in their personal lives. Although some entrepreneurs do enjoy socializing, some entrepreneurs will only socialize to help his or her business succeed. In their personal life, they tend to isolate themselves. Some notable examples of these “loners” are Bill Gates, Daniel Ludwig, Howard Hughes, and John D. Rockefeller. These individuals were known to be very shy and distanced themselves from society. (In fact, many of these entrepreneurs were not even known by their own employees or neighbors).
2. They Have Faith in Their Ideas. They may not necessarily have a high self esteem, but they do have an extreme amount of self confidence & faith in their business ideas. This is what allows them to find the courage to tackle difficult projects and take calculated risks. In other words, they have faith in their plans, goals, & ideas about making money. This “faith” is usually developed through careful experimentations with money making ideas and/or research.
3. They Take Risks (kind of). While many people have the misconception that entrepreneurs are gambling risk-takers, this is usually not true at all. Entrepreneurs will occasionally take a very cautious & calculated risk to try a business idea, but only after they have crunched numbers & brainstormed about it. For instance, take Bill Gates. He started dropped out of College (Harvard) to start a business dealing with personal computers & software programs. From an outsider’s perspective, this was an extremely crazy & risky move. However, in reality Gates had probably brainstormed about this idea & weighed the risks thoroughly before making this decision. In fact, he had been experimenting with programs & had evidence & a vision that he could start a profitable business. So contrary to popular belief entrepreneurs are not risk takers, do not gamble, and in most cases they don’t even like to use their own funds for their businesses. Any decisions they make are usually well thought out, researched, calculated, and/or experimented with beforehand.
4. They Are Always Thinking. Entrepreneurs always seem to be thinking. What are they thinking about? Usually about making money, improving the business, financing, plans, goals, marketing, etc. In fact most entrepreneurs will set aside time just for thinking. For example, when one former classmate was asked if they remembered any special gifts or talents that young John D. Rockefeller possessed, the only thing they could remember about him was that “he seemed to always be thinking.”
5. They Do Not Like Authority. Most entrepreneurs dislike authority. They don’t like to be controlled or bossed around by people. They also don’t like a boss telling them their idea won’t work. They feel threatened when they feel that they have no control over a situation.
6. They Hate Working for People. Most entrepreneurs hate working for companies. They are known to quit or get fired from jobs often because they feel that they are undervalued, underpaid, and unmotivated. This usually happens early in their life while they are trying to “find themselves.” They try to work at jobs, but quickly realize that they could be making more money, or handle more responsibility on their own. They then start experimenting with ways to make money on their own.
7. They Love Independence. Independence & money are probably the 2 most powerful motivators for any entrepreneur. This is because they realize that if they have enough money, they can be independent (both financially & in other ways). So they begin to think of ways to make money (as much as possible) so that they can achieve the independence that they crave. They LOVE having creative control & being their own boss.
8. They Have Passion & Energy. Entrepreneurs are known to have a high level of passion and energy. They can get an adrenaline rush from a new idea, high level of sales, etc. Passion is the “gasoline” that an entrepreneur uses to drive a business or idea to success. Without passion, forget about it! It will never work!
9. They Work Hard. Many entrepreneurs are extremely hard workers. They are not afraid of physical or mental labor and they are not lazy. If they have a business idea, they will work to get it going. In fact, many entrepreneurs will work long hours (14 hour days) to get their business going without even seeing a penny for months (or sometimes years). Why do they work so hard when there is no guarantee of money? Because they believe that they can make money with their business idea, so they have no problem working on it. They may not make more than $5 for the next year or two, but if they succeed they can quickly become millionaires.
10. They Are Creative. Most have a high degree of creativity. Once an entrepreneur starts to brainstorm ways to make money, all kinds of creative things can happen. After all, most every business in the world was started from just one single idea. If you have one creative idea, it could be the foundation for the next multi-million dollar business!
11. They Are Scammers. Well, not really scam artists, but one thing I find funny about many entrepreneurs is that some of their first money making ideas are borderline scams. For example, Mark Cubin (billionaire) once claimed that he “gained about $1,100 from starting a chain letter.” Warren Buffet reportedly purchased packs of Cokes from the store & resold them individually for a profit when he was young. These little experiments with money are often short-lived, however, because they will soon realize that in order to really succeed they need to provide a useful service or product at a profit. They then start to focus on providing society with something they want or need, instead of making just a quick profit.
12. They Don’t Like School. Did you know that some of the most wealthy & successful individuals in the history of the world had little or no college education? Even today, most of the world’s millionaires & billionaires were high-school or college dropouts (such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs to name a few). Why? Because most entrepreneurs quickly realize that school (particularly college) is an extremely inefficient way to learn information. Thus, they quit paying the ridiculous prices of textbooks, classes, etc. and focus on ways to learn only the information they need to succeed. School is not to be confused with an education, because there is a major difference. School is merely one way to obtain knowledge. It also happens to be the most inefficient (and expensive) way to obtain knowledge for the entrepreneur. An education, on the other hand, is vital to an entrepreneurs success. Fortunately, an education can be obtained for free by visiting libraries, surfing the web, consulting individuals, etc.
13. They Quit Quitting. Starting a business can be extremely stressful, especially during the first few months. Many give up or quit when they have problems, or after realizing the hard work they will have to do for sometimes little or no pay (at least initially). However, a true entrepreneur will learn to hang in there & tough it out to see the real financial rewards. Sometimes you will have to alter your plans or find solutions, but you should never give up completely. Yes, your business idea may fail. But that doesn’t mean “QUIT.” Instead, that simply means “something isn’t right, fix it & try again.” Don’t be afraid to fail. After all, the most wealthy & successful people on earth have also usually experienced the most failures & set-backs.
14. They Have Discipline and Organizational Skills. Just think of all the things you must do when starting a business: file taxes, keep records, pay expenses, handle money, deal with customers, set goals, deal with employees, etc. Doing this in an organized & efficient manner requires extreme discipline & organization skills. A successful entrepreneur will learn to organize these tasks in an efficient manner so that the business can succeed & begin to grow. They are also usually very detailed & keep very clean & concise records. They are also very punctual with appointments & deadlines.
15. They Are Cheap. Many times, they will make difficult financial sacrifices to ensure the business succeeds, particularly in the early stages. This involves living cheap & being cheap. Unfortunately, this habit sticks with them even after they become wealthy. This is especially true for the “rags to riches” entrepreneurs. In fact, if you look at the lives of most true “millionaires” you will find that they probably live on a smaller budget than someone who makes $20,000/ a year. John D. Rockefeller was so cheap (even though he was one of the wealthiest people in his time) that he actually made his son wear dresses from his older daughter’s “hand me downs” until he was a young man. Sam Walton (Wal-mart founder) was notorious for borrowing change from friends & family. These stories are funny, but also make some interesting points that most people miss:
- They have such discipline, they can resist the temptation to spend their money.
- They understand how money & society works. Thus, they don’t spend money when they don’t have to spend money.
- Part of being wealthy is not just making a lot of money, but keeping a lot of money.
These are just a few of the traits and characteristics that most successful entrepreneurs seem to have in common. Not every single entrepreneur will have these traits. Every individual is different. However, if you feel yourself constantly thinking about ways to make money, and you fit several of these characteristics, then you may very well be an entrepreneur! Good luck with your ventures!