Some business owners will do anything to increase profits. Others are working in a field because they genuinely love sharing their knowledge. Still other entrepreneurs are always looking for their next move in the business world. And some simply love inventing and innovating. No two entrepreneurs are alike, but Joe Abraham has identified four basic profiles that most business owners fit into in his book, Entrepreneurial DNA: The Breakthrough Discovery that Aligns Your Business to Your Unique Strengths. See which one best describes you.
The Builder DNA
If you’re driven and always looking to be several steps ahead of your competitors, you may be a Builder. Builders like to create businesses and sell them. They’re not in it for the long haul; instead they’re looking for an exit strategy. They love working, and don’t mind risk. They like to be in control and helping to solve problems. Builders do well in high-growth companies and startups.
On the flip side, Builders don’t like being out of control, and they don’t like it when results fall short of expectations.
While there’s not one single profile of what an entrepreneur looks and acts like, there are certain characteristics that are pretty consistent across the board. How many of these can you identify with?
This list is adapted from Making the Jump into Small Business Ownership, by Jeff Levy and David Nilssen.
1. Competitiveness. We’re not always competitive with others; sometimes we want to best ourselves. As Levy and Nilssen say in the book: “Entrepreneurs love winning. They see challenge as the journey and enjoy the victory as much as – or even more than—the actual reward.”
2. Decisiveness. My husband calls this characteristic in me “bossiness.” Many employees don’t like making decisions, because they know someone else will make them for them. That would be us entrepreneurs. We’re accountable for our decisions and try to learn from our mistakes. It’s been a lesson for me, but when we’re not defensive about our mistakes, we can identify the unique opportunities they present.
Today we celebrate George Washington’s birthday. And while fifth-grade history taught us that he was a great military man and our first President, we know less about his life as an entrepreneur. Technology may have made the game different, but we can still learn a lot from the man about entrepreneurship.
1. Find a need and fill it. Over the years, Washington ran a fishing operation, a flour mill and a whiskey distillery. He found tremendous success with these ventures, simply because there was a need for them. Rather than taking the easy path (he knew nothing about whiskey), he took the path most likely to lead to success.
Lesson learned: Look for markets that aren’t oversaturated, or find a new angle to address an existing need.
2. Know when to fold them. After realizing that his tobacco crop was too highly taxed to turn a good profit, he cut it out in favor of wheat. He recognized that continuing to raise a crop with low margin wasn’t worth his time, so he stopped raising tobacco.
Lesson learned: It can be hard to let a product or business go after you’ve invested in it, but if the negatives of keeping it outweigh the positives, move past your emotional attachment to it.
When I started my company five years ago, it didn’t occur to me that this might be a permanent thing. In fact for years, it felt like I was just this side of working as a barista at my local coffee shop. It’s only now, five years in, that I realize:
I’m an entrepreneur for life.
Once you own your own business, it’s hard to imagine going back to working for someone else. Sitting in a cubicle, answering to a boss. Getting a steady paycheck (although, yes, that would be nice). Not having the creative license you had as a business owner. Sure, some do it, but my bet is many of us aren’t cut out to go back to that life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about entrepreneurs and risk. Is it a given that all startup founders and entrepreneurs are automatically more open to taking risks than other people? Are there levels of risk they take? How can they mitigate their risk?
Naturally, questions like these are never cut and dry, but here’s my take on the topic.
Riskier Than Everyone Else? Maybe.
It takes guts to start a business from nothing. It takes even more to hang on until that business is successful (if it ever is). So yes, there is a lot of risk there. Riskier than others? Depends who you’re comparing yourself to. Right now, it seems to be risky simply to assume you have a job to report to tomorrow in the corporate world. The unemployment rate is skyrocketing. People are getting laid off or fired at an alarming rate. Suddenly, starting a business doesn’t sound so crazy.
Even with a shaky economy, there are some industries that are a little more successful, and are worth considering for your next business venture.
1. Mobile Apps. You’d think this market would have slowed, but it shows no signs of stopping. People are app crazy, and with the industry set to hit $17.5 billion by 2012, it’s a good time to jump on the bandwagon. Remember too, that while Apple still has the largest portion of the app market, Android is right behind it, as are several other operating systems that are lesser known. Cater to all systems, as well as tablets, for maximum bang for your buck.
2. Anything Green. People are also getting the green fever, as eco and organic options are coming down in price. This covers a wide range, from cleaning products to jeans, so find your niche where your interests lie, then make them green. Bonus: many city, state and national government programs offer incentives for environmentally friendly practices, so look into that as well.
3. Temporary Staffing. Thanks to the economy, many businesses are still uncomfortable bringing on staff full time. Temp solutions provide exactly what many companies are looking for: access to skilled workers, without the commitment or the benefits.
One of the best books I’ve read in a while, Carol Roth’s The Entrepreneur Equation gives a very honest look at what being an entrepreneur really means. Roth addresses people who think they want to start small businesses, but who in fact, may not be prepared for what it will really entail. In her words, “You can do anything you put your mind to, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” And I agree. As I said in a previous post, just because you’re passionate about something doesn’t mean you’ll be a good business owner.
Running a business is hard. It’s like a baby: it requires a ton of sleepless nights in the beginning, needs constant attention, and still might grow up to be a disappointment! Think long and hard before jumping into business ownership.
1. Your spouse will consider her/himself a widow. A major cause of both marital and business strife is trying to maintain your marriage while starting a business. Putting in long hours at work means you take away from family time, and some partners simply aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. If you do become an entrepreneur, communicate clearly about what your partner should expect the first year, and strive to designate family time each day or week.
2. You’ll lose your hair. Even if you don’t, you can’t begin to prepare for the amount of stress running a business causes. You’ll lose sleep worrying about having money to pay vendors and employees, getting new clients, losing bad clients, traveling, paying bills…the list goes on and on.
“I want to be my own boss.”
How many times have you heard this as a reason someone wants to be an entrepreneur? Maybe it was even your reason. But let’s really analyze the question: who’s REALLY the boss?
Sure, you call the shots. You can work from home in your underwear if you want. You pick your company name, what computer you buy, even the brand of coffee you serve in the break room. But trust me, you’re far from your own boss.
1. Your Client is the Boss
You’ve got customers, right? And you do whatever you can to make them happy, right? Kind of like you did for your last boss? You see my point. Customers are what keep entrepreneurs on their toes because without them, we’re sunk. We strive to make our businesses better so that we get more customers. That may involve some ass-kissing occasionally.
I needed a break from the how-to marketing books I’ve been reading. Raising Eyebrows: A Failed Entrepreneur Finally Gets it Right by Dal LaMagna, founder of Tweezerman, was just what I was looking for. LaMagna uses his story, hopping from one failed venture to another, then finally hitting bullseye with his beauty tool company, to teach tools to entrepreneurs.
I personally love learning from others’ failures. I’d rather you tell me how you failed to keep me from making the same mistakes than for you to simply give me advice with no basis. That’s why this book resonated so well with me. The first half of the book, I’m thinking, how the hell does this idiot go on to found a mult-billion dollar business?? And I think that’s the point.