When you think of the word ‘entrepreneur,’ it conjures up all kinds of images: the classic ‘rags-to-riches’ story, corporate hotshots running international brands, scrappy startups in Silicon Valley… the list goes on.
You might also think of some supplementary words that seem to show up a lot these days, like ‘hustle’ and ‘grind.’
Of course, a dictionary is a solid start in answering the question, ‘What is entrepreneurship?’
Merriam-Webster defines ‘entrepreneur’ as ‘one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.’
But any entrepreneur will tell you there’s a lot more at play than that. And it’s difficult to nail down a clear definition of entrepreneur because everyone seems to have differing opinions.
I would personally go so far as to say that just because someone owns a business doesn’t necessarily mean they’re an entrepreneur. And vice-versa: a lot of incredible entrepreneurs are tucked into someone else’s organization and still thriving. Gasp!
That’s because some of the chief characteristics of an entrepreneur involve longevity, resilience, and the willingness to do things that aren’t your ideal cup of tea. You’ve got to be ‘in it to win it,’ no matter how many failures it takes to get there. Spoiler alert: failure is part of the deal – it’s how you bounce back that really matters.
That’s where hustle and grind come in.
PJ Leimgruber, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of influencer marketing platform Neoreach, can personally vouch for the need to get your hands dirty as you explore your new business and its potential.
Being an entrepreneur means you have to wear many hats and be forced to do things you aren’t good at, and learn from those mistakes. But when you have that ‘a-ha’ moment of discovering your personal zone of genius, you can zoom in on those areas to make the business succeed.
And as you grow, you’ll turn a corner where you can do the things you’re great at and love doing, and find people who are better than you at the things you hate doing.
And when it really clicks, is when you have a team of people who each independently love and are amazing at their respective roles.
But getting there, getting over that hump, means lots of discomfort and ‘doing things poorly’ to learn.
If you’re unsure about whether you have the characteristics of a true entrepreneur – and how exactly to go about it even if you’re certain you’re up for it – this ebook is for you.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Before we dig into the finer points of how to become an entrepreneur, let’s get a little philosophical.
What really makes an entrepreneur?
For starters, they’re not just chasing money. While many pursue entrepreneurship to be more financially comfortable, there’s frankly no guarantee you’ll ever get rich. In fact, many entrepreneurs go years without paying themselves a salary, let alone a big one.
If money is your only motivation, you’re better off with a lofty desk job and a good savings plan.
To be a ‘real’ entrepreneur, you’ll need a lot more fuel than the desire to have more cash. We’ll get into this a bit more in Chapter 2, where we help figure out your entrepreneurial skills and your ‘why’ behind your motivation.
For now, let’s look closer at some of the most common traits of an entrepreneur.
I don’t mean to shock you, but it takes a lot of work to build a business from scratch. You have to be driven, passionate, and determined. You need to be a self-starter. To have a reason to wake up at the crack of dawn. And to stay up… until the crack of dawn.
In all reality, your business choice might not even require you to burn the midnight oil or have periods of extreme stress or exhaustion. But you should be willing to endure these challenges to achieve your vision, if that’s what it comes down to.
When you’re your own boss, there’s no one breathing down your neck to make sure you’re cruising through your to-do list. You might be thinking, “Well, yeah… that’s the whole point.”
But what’s obvious in theory isn’t always that way in reality.
When given the time and freedom to do as they choose, many will struggle – like, really struggle – with staying on course and being able to effectively juggle all the moving parts. That’s why you can find a million resources, consultants, and coaches on topics like time management and ‘self-help’ for entrepreneurs.
The resourceful entrepreneur doesn’t just wait around for new knowledge and opportunities to come up. They’re constantly seeking them. They’re watching their surroundings, asking questions, and absorbing everything they can – then viewing it all through the filter of ‘how can I apply this?’
This is one of the core qualities of an effective entrepreneur. They don’t shy away from their obstacles and challenges. Instead, they’re constantly looking for new approaches and perspectives for solving them.
For small businesses, a shining example of this is the never-ending quest to operate at low costs.
Consider Justin Gold of Justin’s nut butter company. When it was time to scale-up and leave his home kitchen, he couldn’t afford a $50,000 industrial peanut butter mill. Instead, he bought several older, cheaper ones and used them together. On top of saving money, the end result created truly unique nut butters that his competitors couldn’t mimic.
Resilience goes hand-in-hand with resourcefulness and drive. While the hamster wheel in your brain is turning furiously (drive) to solve new problems and optimize your decisions (resourcefulness), you should be prepared to handle when things go wrong (resilience).
And trust me, things will go wrong.
Tim Kock, dropshipping entrepreneur who’s made more than a million in revenue across his stores, says that you’ve got to prepare for the winter.
For me, being an entrepreneur means being able to deal with ‘winter’ and ‘summer.’ Sometimes, everything seems to work perfectly and other times nothing seems to work at all.
In summer, you have to prepare for the upcoming winter. In winter, however, you have to fight through with the confidence that summer will come.
Just like in nature, summer and winter will always rotate.
When you encounter a roadblock, you’ll need to find an alternate route around it. Resilience is falling and getting right back up to try something else.
Consider the quote from Thomas Edison (you know… the guy who invented the lightbulb):
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
And did you know that Walt Disney (you know… the guy who created Mickey Mouse) was fired from his first newspaper cartoonist job in 1919? His editor said that he didn’t have any good ideas and lacked imagination.
Just a reminder: Disney World has been dubbed ‘the most magical place on Earth.’ How’s that for bad ideas and no imagination?
I could fill this entire ebook with examples of entrepreneurs who failed before they made it big, but you get the point.
Keep your head up!
It’s one thing to have an amazing vision and relentlessly pursue the process of bringing it to life. It’s another thing to convince people that your vision is legit.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re opening, startup entrepreneurship requires buy-in from all kinds of people and entities like employees, customers, vendors, and investors. Your business – and every business in the history of mankind – relies on the fact that other people believed in the founder’s mission and supported it in some way.
Sure, you can just hire salespeople down the line. But starting out, it’s all you.
You’ve probably heard about the incredible disaster that was the Fyre Festival in 2018. It was sold as the luxury music festival of the century, but failed to deliver in basically every possible way. So how did the founder, Billy McFarland, manage to defraud investors, employees and hopeful festival-goers out of millions of dollars?
He’s persuasive as hell.
Granted, some might argue that he’s also a delusional sociopath… but the takeaway here is that your attitude and your ability to rally the masses can get you almost literally anywhere you want to go.
Just don’t lie to people, okay? Glad we had this talk.Check out this persuasion framework, a super-handy toolkit to help with your sales and other persuasive communication skills.
This is a big one. While some (like Billy McFarland) might argue that this isn’t really one of the characteristics required of an entrepreneur, empathy is an incredibly powerful way to understand the people you’re serving with your business and your efforts as a whole.
When you can understand their struggles, motivations, needs, and wishes, you’re better equipped to deliver on those things.
It’s also a trait of many of the world’s best leaders. This is important especially if you’re going to be managing a team.
Empathy is like a channel that keeps you connected. It helps you to communicate and share your vision with them, and to be supportive and understanding through leadership instead of just being some jerk who just barks orders all day.
This leads to people genuinely wanting to work with and for you. And everyone knows that happy employees are the best employees.
As you set forth to ask yourself the critical questions for getting started, it would probably help to have a tangible list to see if your motivations, ideals, and goals are in alignment.
So we made you a little self-evaluation worksheet that covers some of the fundamental characteristics of an entrepreneur. It has 12 statements for you to think on.
We’ve created a master file for this worksheet (and all the worksheets and templates in this ebook). This way, you can have all your work in the same place. You can find the worksheets here. Note: You won’t be able to edit this file directly, so follow our directions inside the doc to make a copy in your own Google Drive, or download a copy to use in Excel on your computer.
For each statement, rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5:
Here are the statements:
As you work through it, take any notes you find relevant: obstacles, opportunities, ideas, etc. Go crazy.
Generally speaking, if your final score is below 40, you may need to focus on building your skills and mindset before you set off on your venture.
Which may lead you to ask: Can entrepreneurship be taught? Can entrepreneurship be learned? Can entrepreneurship be developed?
While some might argue that it’s strictly inherent, I believe you can certainly build your entrepreneurship muscles just like you can build your biceps.
Now that we’ve discussed an entrepreneur definition and some key concepts, as well as the most notable characteristics of an entrepreneur, let’s talk about starting your business!