Tag Archives: Risk

What it Takes to be a Successful Entrepreneur

Do you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? Are we all born with the innate ability to be a successful entrepreneur or does entrepreneurial success only belong to those with certain inherent gifts?

While there is no need to re-hash the classic debate on nature vs. nurture I would submit that while certain people may be more predisposed to having entrepreneurial success due to personality, character, life experiences, etc. there are some things that anyone and everyone can do to increase the likelihood of finding success as an entrepreneur.

Here are some of the things that I came up with and please do chime in via the comments below on anything that you would like to add to (or remove from) the list:

#1 A Willingness to Learn

A willingness to learn might even better be termed as a “hunger for learning” because let’s face it – if you start your own business then even if you have a board of advisors (which most small businesses do not have anyway) there will be a lot of things that you will just have to learn on your own. There is no calling your boss for instructions on how to complete a certain task or accomplish a certain goal because YOU are the boss! If you don’t have a healthy appetite for just figuring certain things out as you go along and a willingness to constantly be learning new things then you will likely struggle as an entrepreneur.

#2 A Proper View of Risk

Note that I specifically did not title this “A Love of Risk” or something that maybe is stereotypical when non entrepreneurs describe entrepreneurs. I am of the opinion that, when done a certain way, entrepreneurship is actually less risky then employment. There are many risks inherent to starting a business but there are also many risks inherent in NOT starting a business and relying on an employer for your livelihood.

Regardless, an entrepreneur does deal with different kinds of risk on a daily basis and a cool head, smart decision making skills, and long term planning chops are all positive characteristics of an entrepreneur.

A successful entrepreneur usually has a firm grasp of both personal and business financial principles. Many entrepreneurs, with otherwise great talent and business acumen, have cut short their chance at making their company a success by rushing out to get a business credit card or bank line of credit, not developing a budget, and spending a ton of money on non-essentials; rather than focusing on keeping costs low and growing their business.

#3 A Vision for the Future

While it is perfectly acceptable (and quite common) for most employees to simply plod along and complete their daily tasks without so much as a thought for the day following, this kind of attitude in an entrepreneur often has disastrous consequences. A successful entrepreneur is usually quite adroit at seeing the big picture and focusing on the organization as a whole rather than simply the day to day operations of what the business does. “The E-Myth Revisited” is the classic book that delves deeply into the closely related concept that a successful entrepreneur spends the majority of their time working on their business rather than in their business.

What Other Qualities of a Successful Entrepreneur Would YOU Add?

Are successful entrepreneurs born or made?

What are some additional qualities that you would say are key to being a successful entrepreneur?

How are the qualities important for entrepreneurial success different than say, becoming a successful attorney, accountant, etc?

Author Bio: Joel Ohman is a Certified Financial Planner™ and serial entrepreneur. He is the founder of a number of different financial websites for helping consumers learn about health insurance, car insurance, and other financial topics. He is a first time writer at Saying What You Mean.

Joel Ohman, Guest Blogger

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Filed under Business, Leadership, Risk, Uncategorized

Leadership, Risk, and the Need for Shoulder Pads

During his interview at the NFL pre-season game between the Patriots and the Red Skins, quarterback Jason Campbell jasoncampbellbriefly explained how he’s learned to deal with the direct pressure the quarterback and the head coach receive when things aren’t going well. He spoke of staying focused despite all the negativity. Campbell’s comments made me think about the need for and effects of risk-taking on a leader’s life.

Risk is a carnival ride that can swing a leader on a pendulum’s path from the exhilaration of reward down through the gut-wrenching sweep to reproach.

When times are good, it’s all about being carried off the field held high on the shoulders of an appreciative team—doused in champagne as the boisterous noise bounces off the lockers and fills the room with a cacophony of happiness. When times are not so good, the unfortunate flipside is the relentless click of cameras in an otherwise quiet room at the press conference announcing the canceled contract—enduring the jeers and insults of angry fans, and the lonesome concern as the unknown future lays ahead.

Sometimes the drama in the business world can be just as hyperbolized as it is in the sports arena. I’ve never seen an executive doused with champagne, but I have seen company leaders accept awards as grateful employees stand to their feet cheering wildly. On the other side of the coin, the press is filled with coverage of fallen CEOs and scorned Board Members. Ultimately, no matter how public the deification or the demise, there comes that moment where the leader is left alone to either smile or scowl.

The majority of leadership triumphs and tragedies are played out every day in simpler ways and smaller venues. A manager and her team share shrimp teriyaki at the local Benihana in celebration of the project completed on-time and within budget. A toast at the local bar to honor the sales person who landed the big account. A director quietly empties out his desk following the third straight quarter of missed projections. A woman flushes with hurt and anger as she accidentally over hears her co-workers mocking her outspoken ideas for improving departmental productivity.

When people think about influence and leadership, they imagine the glory, the power, and the devoted followers. Rarely do people take the time to consider the vulnerability of leadership. Calculated or foolish, risk is risk. A risk pays off or it doesn’t meet expectations. Either way, it is the leader that made the go-no/go decision who is held accountable for the outcome. Stepping up to leadership requires strong character, applicable skills, credibility, trust, and a quality set of emotional “shoulder pads.”

Even with body armor though, sometimes the pain of failure still gets through. For example, in the Patriots-Redskins tombradygame, Tom Brady’s arm was twisted when he was tackled resulting in a sore shoulder. In most non-sports related cases, leaders aren’t physically sacked by opponents (we hope); but being proverbially pinned to the wall comes with its own level of discomfort. How well a person absorbs the blow of failure and rebounds speaks volumes about his or her worth as a leader. People are always watching and assessing. Everybody loves a winner. But winning often masks true character. Over the long run, people follow winners who also lose well. Effective leaders who take educated risks that pay off more often than not develop loyal followers not necessarily because of the leader’s win-ratio but rather because of how the leader handles the loses. The real winners, the people truly worth following, are the people who:

  • Handle disappointment with dignity
  • Hold themselves and others equally accountable
  • Acknowledge and share lessons learned
  • Come back stronger the next time

Though the upside to winning is attractive, it is the unsung reality of the downside to risk that either consciously or unconsciously holds people back from getting in the game. There is safety in watching from the stands or from a cozy chair in the den. Sports spectators have strong opinions. Yet most armchair quarterbacks don’t actually expect the head coach of their favorite team to call them up and ask for advice on the next set of downs. However in business, it’s common for people who have consistently shied away from leadership responsibility to be puzzled and dismayed that their suggestions aren’t taken seriously or that they aren’t as influential as they’d like to be. It’s unrealistic to expect a team to defend you on the line of scrimmage when you’re not willing to risk taking the snap. When it comes to leading, you have to be willing to persevere through the good and the bad. As you build your personal influence and take on more leadership responsibility, wear your shoulder pads.

React to the wins and the losses with equal amounts of humility and professionalism so that either way people feel good about following you.

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Filed under Business, Influence, Leadership, Risk, Uncategorized