Small Business Start-Up - Are You an Entrepreneur?
By Peter Main
Many people have a real desire and inclination to start up and run their own business either as a sole trader, or as a small or potentially large company. Often they are put off even before they start by a number of sometimes well-meaning and sometimes not so well-meaning people who advise them that you need to be a special type of person to be an entrepreneur or to run the risk of setting up and running your own business. Sometimes this advice is touted by people who like to see themselves as somewhat of an icon in the business community, rather than anything that is actually based in fact.
The United States small business Administration gives some very useful guidance on the qualities needed in order to be an entrepreneur or to set up your own business. These tend to be focused on an individual's personality or characteristics of their identity. But the real value of this is that most of these characteristics can be learned or changed within an individual's own frame of reference.
It is important for the individual to be comfortable with taking risks. This does not mean taking unnecessary risks it means being able to look at a situation relatively objectively, decide on what the risks are and are not, and feel comfortable with taking a risk that they know is a risk in the first place. Often people think that in order to be an entrepreneur you have to take a lot of unnecessary risks. This is far from true - it is the ability to evaluate risk and decide which ones are worth taking and which ones are not this is the key to understanding this process.
An entrepreneur needs to be relatively independent. Perhaps the best example of this is that an entrepreneur shouldn't be someone who seems really unsure as a person. They need to be able to think on their own, make judgments on their own and be comfortable to a large extent with their own judgment. This does not mean that they do not seek advice or help from other people when they need it. It does mean however that they have enough faith in their own judgment to evaluate other people's advice and opinions before deciding whether they valid or not.
An entrepreneur needs to be able to negotiate with people. This is key whether they are negotiating in a formal sense around a legal contract of some sort, funding either from a bank or a business start-up advice center or an angel, in any event they need to be able to negotiate well. This is a skill that can be learned, in fact it is very important to learn how to negotiate well otherwise instinctively it can be done quite badly by virtually anyone.
There is a real need for someone who wants to be an entrepreneur or start up their own business to be relatively creative. This again is a skill that people think they either have or they haven't. This tends to be a misunderstanding of what creativity really is. Everyone is creative in some way or another and everyone has creative skills. Often these are blocked internally by peoples own self-doubt or self judgment or labels that have been given to them by other people in their life. It is important to recognize that creative thinking in this context refers to the ability to think in terms of process about a situation rather than black-and-white thinking or the need for certainty in a given situation.
There is also a real need to have some sort of support network in place for an entrepreneur or anyone running their own business. This is largely because of the pressures involved however much a person trusts their own instincts or judgment, they still a large degree of pressure emanating from the very nature of being our entrepreneur or starting your own business. Having a support network can be invaluable in terms of encouragement and in terms of being an outlet for pent-up emotions, or simply as a form of escapism from the reality of what running a business involves. A support network can be a formal or informal process, simply family, friends, work colleagues possibly. It may be a more formal process by way of some type of trade association or professional gathering where common problems can be resolved.
Peter Main is freelance writer who has spent almost twenty years in the insurance industry, working at Lloyd's of London. He writes extensively about small business insurance and in particular about how understanding the various factors that make up the different liabilities that small business's may have to deal with, such as health insurance.
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