What Can We Learn from Entrepreneurs?

Several of my clients are what I would call true entrepreneurs. A few have had serial successes in creating and building businesses in the traditional entrepreneurial sense; others are what I would call “closet entrepreneurs” housed in a corporate setting. The characteristics are the same, regardless of the playground on which they are playing. There is a fabulous book which actually does a phenomenal job of capturing common behaviors, or “rules” as the author frames them, which offer the ripest ground for entrepreneurial success. The Intelligent Entrepreneur is worth a read, if you want to be inspired by three extremely successful entrepreneurial stories of Harvard Business School graduates, and their deviation from the standard path toward success. Below, I am offering my “CliffsNotes” version – as I actually believe we can ALL learn from these perspectives, regardless of what our chosen career path may be:

1. Make the commitment. We have to give up the safety net and just go for it. This may mean never going (or looking) back to the traditional approach of  the employer-employee corporate mother ship. We must continue to look forward – not backward – after we have taken the plunge.

2. Find a problem – then solve it. This may be alleviating “pain” in a customer segment, or increasing “pleasure.” Either way – when we identify the problem (or opportunity), the more personal it is to us, the more passionate we will be to offer a solution.

3. Think big. If we don’t have the vision or courage to do this with quiet confidence, no one else will either. Entrepreneurs do not put blinders on – they have large expansive horizons.

4. Realize we can’t do it alone. We need to surround ourselves with folks that augment or extend our own individual capabilities. Diversity of talent is critical and realizing we need others is the secret to scale.

5. Realize, also, you must do it alone. Being on your own is lonely – plain and simple. Often there is no one to ask… except your own inner voice. Self doubt can be pervasive. Power through. We must have discipline. At the end of the day – we own it.

6. Manage risk. Risk is synonymous to entrepreneurship. Running out of runway (AKA, money) is at the forefront of every entrepreneur’s mind. Facts and accounting practices become often unwelcoming, yet vital, friends.

7. Learn to lead. This is all about leading your team which in some cases may be a team of one toward the vision!

8. Learn to sell. We have to sell everything as an entrepreneur. We educate the market about our new idea. We persuade with passion and, if we really love and believe in our product, this enables us to attract and sell our customers.

9. Stay persistent. It is really easy and very tempting, especially in these tough times, to cave. We have to develop and nurture a savvy stubbornness – not to be confused with naive bullheadedness.

10. Play the game for life. What I have learned is that when we are really in love with what we are doing – it becomes a way of life. We drink in the elixir of truly making difference – a lasting impact – and doing so by optimizing our unique gifts and talents.

Does it get any better than that?

Though these may be coined as the necessary steps toward success for an entrepreneur, I also believe there is not a single individual, in any capacity, that cannot benefit from these perspectives. Do you agree?