Everyone calls themselves an entrepreneur these days. That little financial debacle in 2008 leveled a lot of global business playing fields. It also displaced folks from the workforce . Subsequently some individuals hung out their shingles and started their own companies. They had to. They are unintentional entrepreneurs.
Then there are the folks who are self-employed contractors for one or a number of companies. They run their own businesses as well as any small business or venture seeking constant funding in the form of individual sales. They tend not to think of themselves as entrepreneurs, simply folks doing their jobs. Yet they cover their own expenses and make profit, year after year. They are self-employed solo-preneurs.
There are quite a few students engaged in university entrepreneurship programs as well. It’s a formal career path: students are learning just what it takes to create a viable business. The students find out that entrepreneurship isn’t a matter of handing in homework for a grade. It’s not just a question of having a great idea and expecting everyone else to make it happen for you. It’s not just telling your parent’s friends that you are enrolled in the entrepreneurship program at the local university, or printing up business cards and pitching at the local pitch competitions. And besides, there are at least 4-5 other courses competing for your time and attention. It’s hard, 24/7/365 work. More than the 3-credits you are earning for your participation in each course.
If you take a peek at Wikipedia, there are at least nine different definitions of the term “entrepreneur.” Ultimately entrepreneurs are defined more by their behavior: their willingness to assume risk and deal with uncertainty and the unknown to create viable conditions in which to transact commerce. They are also defined by their personality traits, which run all the way from the leader to the visionary, based on their ability to define their purpose and passion, communicate it to others, and pursue it to a defined endpoint or endpoints. Or not.
Therein lies the problem.
There are quite a few folks out there today who have the ability to get things started but perhaps not finish them. So they start companies, take courses, join in partnerships, and chase lots of bright shiny objects. They have lots of objects they are juggling in the air, simultaneously, earning incremental income perhaps from 50-60% of their endeavors, but not hitting a home run with any of them.
They aren’t focusing on specific interests which, if pursued not only with logic and passion, but process and discipline, could result in a true revenue-producing entrepreneurial venture. Instead, they are all over the place. They dabble in a bit of this and a little of that. Because they can do it all, get things off the ground, acquire the first customers, true. But they don’t have the stamina to sustain their venture over time. And they don’t have the persistence to keep all of their ventures going, simultaneously, either.
- Do you treat your venture like a hobby? How many of these hobbies do you have?
- What are your core competencies which you bring to the table time and again? Are these the processes and disciplines necessary to create and sustain a venture?
- Which skill sets do you need to acquire in order to complete what you started?
- Are you capable of going it alone, or will you need partners? How will you identify whether they are a good fit for your vision and leadership?
- What’s your business plan?
- What’s your business model? (Hint: not the same thing as a business plan)
- What’s your exit strategy?
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, manufacturers, and technical startups. Her book on sales and engineering collaboration strategies, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.