It takes a lot to be a successful entrepreneur. But before we look at the attributes, let’s first take a closer look at the history behind the development and meaning of the word entrepreneur.
The History Behind The Word Entrepreneur
The earliest definition is found in the 13th century, where we learn the word’s root. The origin of the English word entrepreneur comes from the French word ‘Entreprendre’, which can be translated to mean ‘to do something’ or ‘to undertake’.
Then in the 16th century, we see the first mention of business used in the definitions. An entrepreneur is defined as someone who undertakes a business venture.
Richard Cantillon, in the 18th century ascribed to a definition that added a risk component to the definition. Therefore an entrepreneur was someone who undertakes a business venture with no guarantee of profits, Entrepreneurship is rather the bearer of risks inflicted by changes in market demand.
Then during the 19th century, three economists posted views on Entrepreneurship. They were John-Baptiste Say, John Stuart Mill, and Alfred Marshall. This is the first century in which we begin to see the definition include actions and special skills required of entrepreneurs.
Jean-Baptiste Say determined that the entrepreneur is someone who earns profits by shifting resources from areas of low productivity to areas of high productivity. He stated that the entrepreneur requires possession of knowledge and judgment so that the entrepreneur is constantly aware of the costs and prices of his goods and can determine how to compare opportunities.
John Stuart Mill described the entrepreneur as someone who assumes not only the risk of a business venture (as a capitalist) but also the management of the business venture. It is this addition of a management component that builds on Say’s judgment requirement.
And then there is Alfred Marshall who emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship by tying the resource component (from Say) and management component (from Mill) together. Marshall claimed that four primary factors are necessary for production: land, labor, capital, and organization (which is the key factor to coordinate the other three resources).
And now, for the 8 vital attributes:
1. To Do Something
Most entrepreneurs remember the feeling, even to this day, after a short period of re-entering the workplace as an employee and being sacked because they were too good at what they did.
Yes, it sounds back to front, doesn’t it?
But someone in management was threatened by my success in procuring leads for the company, and so decided to relieve me of my duties.
But in retrospect, all such people are extremely thankful, because on that day they declared that they would never again work for anyone else. That was the day that they decided ‘to do something.
And that’s what it takes. An entrepreneur, for whatever trigger that sets them off to enter the world of ‘Entrepreneurialism’, takes charge and does something.
They did it for freedom. They did it for family. They did it for income. They did it for something.
And the very fact that within a few short weeks a lot of them were making more money than we had ever made working for someone else, by working fewer hours in their own business – confirmed that by deciding to do something, and then doing it, was definitely the pathway they were going to travel on for the rest of their working life.
2. To Undertake
If you’re going to be an entrepreneur you’re going to have to undertake. That doesn’t mean you’re going into the funeral business, although I’ve heard that it’s very profitable and that it will never die out.
No, I mean that apart from wanting to work for yourself, you have a product or a service that you believe in, and you want to sell that to your customers.
No matter whether it was a cleaning business, publishing company, web design business, or a hair and beauty salon, we undertook to provide a professional service, establish our unique selling position so that we stood out from the crowd, and provide impeccable customer service.
We undertook to do things with a spirit of excellence, and while doing this made it our mission to learn as much about not just being the technician in our business – but rather being the owner of the business that was working not only in the business but on the business.
3. To Risk
We have risked, and at times have failed. That is why it is called risk. In the early days, we took risks that literally cost us everything.
With more experience and wisdom under our belt, we learn the power of operating from a position of calculated risk rather than all-out ‘red-blooded’ risk where we had a chance of crashing and burning.
The risks that we take today generally have an exit strategy in place before we enter the venture or at least a boiler fund of finance on hand if things don’t go to plan. We also endeavor to create a range of income-generating sources in the process, just in case one doesn’t produce as anticipated.
We no longer enter business transactions with rose-tinted glasses on. We do our research. We put all the correct legal in place. We seek advice from a range of professionals and mentors, but at the same time listen to our ‘gut’.
4. To Profit
If a venture is not profitable within a reasonable time frame of expended effort, a successful entrepreneur is not afraid of closing it down.
However, time frames may vary. For example, low-cost online ventures might only require a month or two of testing to see whether they are going to produce. However, a venture that requires a much larger investment of staff, stock, and leases may require a year or two.
But if they are not profitable in the proposed time frame, then we are not afraid to kill projects. The facts are, some ideas will never work, and are better off dead before they kill you.
We have learned to never allow our identity to be so caught up in a project that we are afraid to cut the lifeline.
The end of any business doesn’t necessarily mean the end of you – especially if you cut off the life supply long before it cuts off yours.
5. To Know
Even after being involved in a number of businesses for many years, a successful entrepreneur realizes that there was still much that they didn’t know. That’s when some entrepreneurs hire a business coach.
Some, quickly develop a love/hate relationship with their coach. Some hated them because their business coach asked them the hard questions. But on the other hand, they loved their business coach because they help them double their income in the next twelve months of operation, or maybe even earlier.
Successful Entrepreneurs, surround themselves with mentors from a range of industries to keep them primed – and from time to time pull in coaches who are experts in an area are exploring so they can learn more.
To be successful as an entrepreneur you must know you, know your business, know where you’re going, know how your business is running, know whether your business is sick or healthy, and know where the next trend is coming from so that you can be a leader and not just a follower.
To know, and to then apply what you know, is power indeed for the successful entrepreneur.
6. To Judge
There are two judgments that you can make as an entrepreneur: wise judgments and unwise judgments.
Wise judgments will provide you with positive results that will grow your business.
Unwise judgments will provide you with negative results that will impact your business, and if you are willing to learn from your mistakes they can actually become the building blocks for future success as an entrepreneur.
The important thing is that you don’t sit on the fence. You must pass judgment and make judgments. There is an element of risk involved in this, but if you surround yourself with wise counsel – either coaches or mentors – you will minimize the impact if for some reason you make a mistake.
7. To Manage
When it comes to being successful as an entrepreneur, the first one whom you need to manage is you.
Time and Task management are important (though someone once told me that you can never manage time – it should rather be termed as ‘you’ management) and I have found that if you can manage yourself, then you will be in a better position to manage others and your business affairs.
Here are the two best time management strategies that I have used:
Mary Kay, who created a cosmetic empire, managed her time by making her list of 6 every day: the 6 most important things that needed doing. Whatever wasn’t completed was transferred to the next day and so on.
Giorgio Armani works on 8 projects simultaneously. One hour per project. That means 8 projects per day. When the hour’s up one project is put aside and another is commenced.
8. To Produce
Alfred Marshall, back in the 19th Century, proposed that this included land, labor, capital, and organization, but in the 21st Century it now includes such things as technology plus more, and who knows what the years ahead will add to that list.
Entrepreneurs are the producers of this century and are bringing wonderful changes designed to create better lives for all of us.
To be a successful entrepreneur, we produce products and services for our clients to make their lives better, but the spin-off from this is that we lift the lid on our own earning capacity so that we can bless our families from our efforts.
Now that’s what I call success and the attributes of a successful entrepreneur.
What other Vital Attributes do you think are essential for a successful entrepreneur? Let us know if your comments below.
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