5 Things I Learned Entrepreneurship Is NOT
The perception of entrepreneurship is glamorized. While I won’t be dismissive of the perks of entrepreneurship, there’s a lot more to it than what meets the eye. There are enough books that are devoted to the dream of entrepreneurship. But along with what entrepreneurship is, there is also a lot that it isn’t – and that’s what I’d like to talk about today.
The superhero status that is accorded to most successful entrepreneurs is misleading. Passion and drive alone cannot make one a successful entrepreneur. Money and funding alone are not enough for success. Quitting the day job is the easy part when it comes to entrepreneurship – adrenalin takes you through the initial phase but sustaining once this rush subsides, managing the less dramatic everyday activities with discipline and precision – now that’s what separates the successful from the unsuccessful lot.
Entrepreneurship is not about playing safe
You can’t be a successful entrepreneur if you want to play it safe. All successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common – they were not afraid to take risks. Be it a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg or the inimitable Steve Jobs, all of them took risks before they got success. To be a successful entrepreneur you have to be willing to step into unchartered territory. Taking a little bit of dramatic license, I’ll even go on to say that entrepreneurship is all about ‘going where no man has gone before’. Because if you cannot get out of your own comfort zone, then you cannot look for opportunities to solve problems. And the essence of entrepreneurship lies in having the capability to look for problems and then solve them.
Doing it all alone
Entrepreneurs have the alpha quality. They are leaders who have the charisma to inspire. However, no man is perfect, and no man can achieve everything alone. It can be very tempting to be caught in the blaze of entrepreneurship and want to do everything yourself – after all, it is justified that you want everything to be perfect. However, it is very essential that budding entrepreneurs have the capability to self-assess and gauge where they need help. For example, you might be a great technology expert but might not have great business acumen. What do you do then? The simplest and the most effective thing to do is look for help. Get the right team in place. Have the right set of partners and employees who have complementary skill sets. Success in entrepreneurship lies in identifying hurdles – whether it is for the business or for the self.
Get comfortable – what is that?
The kind to get comfortable don’t become successful entrepreneurs. This is so because entrepreneurship, much like software development today, is all about constant iterations. You might have made a great product, but can it be improved? Complacency is the death of an entrepreneur. While it can be tempting to bask in the glory of initial success, you have to keep thinking of the ‘next big thing’. And if you do get comfortable, wonder, “how will my business adapt to change?”
For every business, there comes a need to adapt, to pivot. Whether it is a change in the business environment or the need for something better than what you have to offer, you need to ensure that the business can adapt instead of tunnel visioning. Look for the next move so that you don’t suffer from pivot paralysis – the inability to adapt and adjust because it is too late. Elon Musk co-founded PayPal and then founded Tesla and Solar City. To stay successful as an entrepreneur, adapting is essential.
Being afraid of failure
Nobody likes to fail. But to be an entrepreneur you will fail. You will give it your all and still fail.
While everyone keeps saying that failure is not an option, I say, failure is all about perspective. And perspective is essential to entrepreneurship. When do we fail? We fail in the truest sense when we do not learn the lesson the obstacle is trying to teach us. It does sound philosophical, but successful entrepreneurs have this program of perseverance that keeps running on a loop in their system. Remember that even Steve Jobs was fired from Apple before he flipped the switch and made it the company it is today.
Failures are very important teachers and have quite unfairly been projected in the wrong light – because what we often perceive as failure is, in reality, only redirection…a redirection that will push you harder to reach your potential.
Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who have a clear vision. They have their eye on the end goal. It is about having the confidence to make decisions and push the envelope further. But at the same time, this strong vision has to come with the willingness to embrace change.
Entrepreneurs have to make themselves open to criticism as in criticism lies opportunity. They have to cultivate the habit to listen keenly, to the explicit and the implied, from their customers, their colleagues, their employees…and while you need the confidence to make the right decisions always (well that’s what the objective is at least), you need to make sure that your vision does not make you detached from the people whose needs you are trying to meet and whose problems you are trying to solve.
Bruce Bachenheimer, clinical professor of management and executive director of the Entrepreneurship Lab very aptly says, “At its core, [entrepreneurship] is a mindset…entrepreneurship is about … the ability to recognize [and] methodically analyze [an] opportunity, and ultimately, to capture [its] value.” Entrepreneurship is a tough journey with no finish line and it is only the ones who can persevere who find success in this journey.