What makes an entrepreneur?

So business is going good for me.  Having thrown the towel in on my corporate career just over a year ago, I stumbled around in the dark for a bit. Slept …

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14th March 2008 at 6:43 pm

So business is going good for me.  Having thrown the towel in on my corporate career just over a year ago, I stumbled around in the dark for a bit. Slept late, did some jobs around the house that I’d been putting off since I bought it (7 years ago), and then dropped into a bit of interim work.  After that I drifted into freelancing and finally in November I set up my company – more to appease the tax man, that because of any major intent to ‘build’ a business.

It may be true to say that after going through a similar exercise about 10 years ago and being tempted back into the world of work, I had it in the back of my mind that this time I would fill my boots and grow something this time that extended beyond ‘just me.’  But that was it.  No driving ambition.  No laser sharp business plan.  And still no damn business cards.  (Just can’t seem to get round to sending them to print).

But all of a sudden it is more than just me.  A couple of people helping me deliver (and impress) clients.  A web site on the way.  And I’ve even caught myself networking a bit.  Which led me to reflect on the whole ‘what makes an entrepreneur?’ question.

I did a bit of research on the web (after the fact) and found a couple of interesting links.  This one may make you chuckle.  And this one doesn’t offer any surprises, but gives a good summary.

But for me, having met a few successful entrepreneurs, and now wearing some shoes that see me taking decisions for the good (and growth) of my own business, it comes down to a couple of very simple traits:

Entrepreneurs are good at spotting the opportunity. And by that I don’t mean some high brow, rarified talent.  They spot jobs they can do and, importantly, they can see the money to be made from a piece of work or sale.  And the other thing is that they are prepared to take risks (large or small) and put themselves out there.  In most instances that means that once they’ve spotted the opportunity, they are quick to grab it and say ‘yes’.  They are prepared to answer the question, ‘How the heck am I gonna do that’, after the work is secure.

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk/blog

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  1. Sherry Borzo says:

    Hey Sara, Great post. It lured me in because I’ve been on a mission to figure out what the heck it REALLY means to be an entrepreneur for about the past year or so. The journey came out of my own desire to be one and feeling like I was such a fraud, fraud, fraud.

    Anyhow, I’ve been interviewing them on my podcast and I would say one thing successful entrepreneurs do well is delegate. That isn’t to say that there are not those forced into “do it myself” slavery initially but those who succeed, the really “cool entrepreneurs” who go around in their jeans and a cup of coffee perpetually in their hands, and don’t act frantically rushed every time they speak to anyone, have aligned and collaborate with others and let pieces of their business be done by others.

    Another really big quality I’ve noted is that those who are doing well seem driven more by passion first then letting money come through that drive. Personally I like that a lot. If I see dollar signs as the carrot I know my attention span may be short but if I feel I have a mission, a purpose, I’m excited.

    As for me a year later into this journey I’m still in the myself-chains but I feel less like a fraud and am definitely on a mission to be sustainable.

  2. Being an entrepreneur means losing all your hair through stress! Haha. I’m 18 months in and I’ve got half what I started with! I’m joking of course but the one thing that no-one ever prepares you for is the stress levels, that’s for sure. But that slight terror of it all going wrong and having to go back to the old 9-5 job is part of what makes it so fun!

  3. Will, I couldn’t agree with you more. It seems to me that the risks and stresses have been underplayed by the home-working lobby and turned into surreal pantomime by Alan Sugar and Dragon’s Den. The reality is as you describe.
    With stress and fear, though, comes counter-balancing excitement and hope. I think entrepreneurship is a little bi-polar in that way!

  4. I must admit that setting up my own business was very scary but 5 years on it has been the best thing sI’ve ever done. I wouldn’t have done it if a good friend of mine hadn’t already run a company for a few years which made me think – if he can do it so can I

  5. Phin Wenlock says:

    Sherry, your comment about passion is supported by the masses! We recently surveyed our users (online business support service VentureNavigator) to find out what drove them to start businesses and ‘financial reward’ came a distant third (6.9%), behind ‘passionate about the idea’ (41.4%) in top position.

  6. Gavin Ingham says:

    Great points. Passion and a willingness to take a risk are essential for being a good entrepreneur however, and with many businesses failing in the first year, perhaps the better question is not, “What makes an entrepreneur?” but “What makes a successful entrepreneur?”

    At that point I would add that a successful entrepreneur also needs the ability to see the bigger picture, to be able to forumulate a viable plan and to take consistent action in that direction.

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