Knowing Yourself Before Building Your Small Business

In an uncertain global economy, when employers and employees feel no loyalty to one another and rarely look out for one another’s interests, entrepreneurship can seem like a dream come true. However, not all personalities are ideal for the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Though there may be more than one path to entrepreneurial success, these five traits are helpful in getting started.

Entrepreneurial Skill #1: Expertise and a Passionate Belief in Something

Most entrepreneurs begin business based on this trait alone. At least five to ten years of professional experience or more than 1,000 personal contacts are recommended. Your personal network will be a critical component to your earliest marketing efforts.

Running a full-time entrepreneurial business means accepting change and making sacrifices in pursuit of something you wholeheartedly believe in. Know what impact you want to make, what legacy you want your company to leave, and let that guide you in establishing your marketing message and building your business.

Entrepreneurial Skill #2: Expertise in Business

Regardless of the type of business you are starting, it is critical to understand the basics of business thinking. You may need help getting your records organized, learning elements of small business taxation, creating and interpreting your financial statements, or developing a strategic business plan, marketing plan, and financial plan. Take some small business courses, consult with an accountant and attorney who specialize in your field, or call the Small Business Administration for assistance.

Entrepreneurial Skill #3: A Customer Orientation

The most successful businesses in the world listen to their customers and make adjustments to meet their needs. Many companies uncover deep emotional needs and create new products and services to address them. Be sure to talk with your customers, as often as possible, and build long-term relationships with them over time.

Entrepreneurial Skill #4: Openness to Lifelong Learning

The business environment is constantly evolving, and to stay on top of your game, it is important to remain open to learning about new ideas and new technologies that can enhance your professional development and business growth. This may require you to participate in professional organizations, attend classes, read, or do research on the Internet or at your local library. Make sure you have the skills to learn and grow.

Entrepreneurial Skill #5: Be Willing to Sell Yourself

Every small business is intimately linked with its founder and top leadership. As you seek out ways to market your products and services, do not forget that you are also selling yourself: your expertise, your passion, your talents.

Entrepreneurial Skill #6: Positive Orientation toward Risk

Many large corporations watch the ranks of entrepreneurs to help them enter a new market. By buying up smaller companies that have already proven themselves, larger companies reduce their risk. Having a positive attitude about risk-taking is crucial to small business development. Remaining independent means you have given up the relative stability of corporate benefits programs and accepted a new lifestyle. Investing in your business wisely requires an understanding of market risk.

Entrepreneurial Skill #7: Perseverance

Starting a business can be overwhelming. Getting the appropriate paperwork filed, developing your logo and other elements of your company identity, establishing a customer base, reinvesting in your business, and managing the demands of life outside of the business all take time and compete for your attention. It is important to determine the work-life balance you are seeking, flex as needed, and persevere despite challenges.

Four Routes to Entrepreneurial Success

In his book, 4 Routes to Entrepreneurial Success, John B. Miner identifies four paths to entrepreneurial success based on what drives the company’s founder: the personal achiever entrepreneur, the supersalesperson entrepreneur, the real manager entrepreneur, and the expert idea generator entrepreneur.

The personal achiever is devoted to building the business, working long hours, seeking out feedback, planning for the future, and working toward goals while also managing crises. The achiever tends to have a broad base of skills and be good at everything.

Supersalespeople are particularly adept at the soft-sell, tapping into the emotional element of a product or service. If this is you, seeking out management assistance and focusing on customer relationship development may be your best bet.

The real manager feels at home in a hierarchical, competitive business where logic and decisiveness are valued and has a knack for managing ventures to achieve major growth.

Supersalespeople and real managers may do well as business partners, particularly for service-oriented businesses.

Idea generators are the kings and queens of innovation. They make new connections and invent new solutions, develop new processes, find new market niches, and otherwise out-think the competition. Idea generators are visionaries; they need to exercise caution in the pursuit of new inventions, planning a little before proceeding.

Whether you see yourself in these four profiles or consider yourself a different type of entrepreneur, it is crucial to maintain awareness of your strengths and weaknesses throughout the development of your enterprise. The seven entrepreneurial traits identified above are a good starting point in knowing yourself.