Four qualities essential for graduates to become successful entrepreneurs
In the US, graduation is called ‘commencement’, as it is perceived as the beginning of the rest of your life. The end of study, the start of reality.
For many, commencement - or indeed graduation - marks the beginning of the traditional job hunt season for thousands of people. Of course, there is always the option to startup your own business, however, to be a successful entrepreneur, academic knowledge and professional skills alone are not enough. In my eyes, there are three main ingredients for entrepreneurial success.
The right attitude
In real estate, they say it’s all about location, location, location; for entrepreneurship, it’s all about attitude, attitude, attitude. Nobody will succeed if they’re incapable of dreaming and unable to believe that dreams can become a reality.
But be aware, optimism must be combined with healthy realism. Obsessive determination will turn dreams into reality as long as you’re willing to get your hands dirty. Be result oriented, and more importantly, be prepared for the times when circumstances do not act in your favour.
You may risk losing all you have created on more than one occasion, making the ability to turn major setbacks into positive momentum crucial for entrepreneurial success. The real test is strength of character. It is true that you cannot teach someone how to be a successful entrepreneur, but it is equally true that no-one is born an entrepreneur – it’s all about developing the right attitude.
Secondly, while they say it is lonely at the top, a successful entrepreneur will most certainly never be a lone wolf. Most entrepreneurs succeed because they have outstanding interpersonal skills. You need to surround yourself with good people – the best you can find – who are willing and able to help the enterprise succeed.
You need not know everything yourself – finance, marketing, production, negotiations, staffing – but a great deal of knowledge is needed in order to do business well. Therefore, knowing who has the right knowledge is often more important than knowing it all yourself.
Respect the talented people you work alongside, rather than fearing them, and they may just deliver for you. You do, however, need to understand the basics yourself, which is why so many opt to study generic business programmes such as the MBA.
A bit of good luck!
Thirdly, be aware of the quirks of Lady Luck. Being fortunate remains the biggest factor for entrepreneurial success; just being in the right place with the right concept. An entrepreneur absolutely needs luck. Lots of it. Ultimately, the best ideas and hardest work can fail simply because of bad luck. With no guarantees as an entrepreneur, you need to be willing to take risks.
The good news is that an entrepreneur can influence luck by preparing for a variety of different outcomes. Reducing risks by carefully managing them is one skill you will want to acquire, otherwise entrepreneurship becomes synonymous with gambling.
Luck does bring opportunities but you need to recognise them as such and your business needs to remain nimble enough to grab such opportunities in such a way that delivers good fortune. Of course, strategy and the ability to stay focused are vital but never underestimate the importance of luck in life.
A shrewd entrepreneur will make sure that their business is in a perfect position to take advantage of every inch of good fortunate it can find. And, should it be hit by misfortune, they will persevere because things may end well after all.
And remember, learn as you go along
I have another piece of advice for anyone hoping to become a successful entrepreneur; forget all about the American concept of commencement! Setting up a company is one thing, but making sure it has sustainable success requires a mindset which is very different to that suggested by this sharp separation of learning and doing.
In fact, to quote some sobering American statistics, after just two years a third of new American companies have failed and after four years more than 50%. Even the lifespan of listed companies has dropped dramatically in recent times, from many decades to just 15 years.
This means surviving beyond the average business lifespan a success in its own right. There are many reasons why certain companies survive and thrive the way they do and while luck in most definitely an element, it is not to be forgotten that successful entrepreneurs know that they should never stop learning.
Entrepreneurship is a learning process. Some entrepreneurs may choose to embark upon a formal learning process, for example, by progressing through higher education. Perhaps even more importantly, entrepreneurs learn informally – this is sometimes referred to as reflective learning.
Reflective learning is a system which involves continual, conscious self-analysis of what you do well and what you don’t do so well. After all, there are many lessons to be learned from our mistakes and setbacks.
Combining that essential belief that you are one of the winners with an awareness that you are far from perfect (yet need to be) is crucial not only for becoming successful, but quite simply to survive in a challenging business environment – as long as you continue to learn from your actions.
The main thing to remember is that commencement is not a once in a lifetime experience; it is a daily requirement.
This article was first published on Business Zone.