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Are You Entrepreneur Material?

The Critical Qualities That Separate Entrepreneurs from the Pack


It may start as a fantasy of owning your own business or being able to work from home and set your own hours, but as your plans develop, you might find yourself wondering, am I entrepreneur material?

Consider these qualities drawn from real-life entrepreneurs in order to see if you fit the bill.

1. You see failure as a learning opportunity.

Photo by Flickr user Ben Stanfield
There are few successful entrepreneurial stories that don't involve lots of failure. Steve Jobs might be one of the most famous examples of how many failures can add up to huge success.

In addition to being a visionary, a genius and a productive company-builder, Jobs was also a serial failure. He was fired from the company he started, and his subsequent technology company, NeXT, failed to find an audience that believed in Jobs' vision of a sleek personal computing device. However, when viewed in light of his enormous personal success in building the empire that is Apple today, Jobs’ early failures were a vital proving ground.

Ask yourself: Can you use failure as an opportunity to learn and improve?

2. You have unshakable convictions in your ideas.

Did you know that when Anita Roddick first opened the Body Shop in Brighton, UK in 1975, two nearby funeral parlors strenuously objected to the name of the business? Roddick carried on and built an extremely profitable enterprise with locations all over the world.

The lesson? Being an entrepreneur can be extremely lonely. Some will think your ideas are crazy. Read more about "going it alone" as a entrepreneur on About.com.

3. You have an appetite for risk.

Photo by Flickr user Jamieson Teo
Despite only a cursory knowledge of ice cream making, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield plunked down $8,000 in savings and a $4,000 loan to turn a dilapidated gas station into a ice cream shop serving the most imaginative flavors they could come up with. Over the next few years, despite having limited knowledge of core businesses needs like bookkeeping, the duo's business flourished despite the odds.

For every Ben & Jerry's, there are thousands of businesses that go belly up in the first year of operation, especially in the restaurant trade. Can you stomach the risk of losing everything? If the answer is no, a less risk prone venture might be for you. If you're gung-ho, read more about the rewards of taking risks.

4. You know how to make your ideas actionable.

In the book “The Lean Startup,” author Eric Reis tells the story of the founders of Groupon. The “social coupon” site couldn’t work without a social component, so the guys behind Groupon made the task of building an audience primary, even if it meant scrimping on things like technology and professional design. They cobbled together readily available consumer-grade technology and services like Filemaker and WordPress and sent out a PDF coupon to an email list they managed by hand.

Perfectionist tendencies, while common to high-achieving individuals, can hamper your entrepreneurial aspirations. That’s why, while you want to get it right, you need to possess an action-oriented frame of mind. Do you know how to get out of daydreaming mode and into action?

5. You know when to get out of the way.

Photo by Amanda McCormick
As an entrepreneur, you are ideally building something sustainable and larger than just your effort. Serial entrepreneur Seth Godin remarked in a recent appearance in New York that the difference between an entrepreneur and a freelancer is that the freelancer makes money only when he shows up.

“The entrepreneur is attempting to build something bigger than himself and knows that every moment that he's doing something someone else could do, he's potentially wasting valuable money and time,” said Godin.

The ability to delegate is a critical skill for an entrepreneur to either possess or develop. Your goal is to keep the business solvent and growing — when you can delegate tasks to trusted staff, you should.

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