Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Mind Your Own Business
What makes someone a successful entrepreneur? It certainly helps to have strong technology skills or expertise in a key area, but these are not defining characteristics of entrepreneurship. Instead, the key qualities are traits such as creativity, the ability to keep going in the face of hardship, and the social skills needed to build great teams. If you want to start a business, it's essential to learn the specific skills that underpin these qualities. It's also important to develop entrepreneurial skills if you're in a job role where you're expected to develop a business, or "take things forward" more generally. It's very easy to get lost trying to rate ourselves against our peers or even rate ourselves around society when it comes to success. Its actually depressing at times and inconclusive as you often get side tracked comparing apples to oranges. In our quest for success, we often look for some sort of ranking system to gauge how well we are doing and unfortunately decide to use others as the measure. It is often an inaccurate scale as so many factors come into play, so many that it makes it unfair to compare yourself to others on any level. There are so many circumstances that dictate success it makes it impossible to find multiple people with identical circumstances to compare us to. Since we cannot compare ourselves to others, we must become our own competition and strive for perfection daily in order to move forward. We ultimately set the velocity at which we move. The results however are none that can be compared to others as every situation is as unique as the next. The real point here is why do we worry about what others are doing if we ultimately shouldn't compare ourselves to them. The answer is jealousy and should end immediately. If you are someone that often finds yourself worrying about what others are doing, how they are doing it and where their wealth comes from, then start minding your own business and instead focus your energy on yourself and your work which is what will get you there, not finding out if your neighbor is in the Mafia or indeed a real estate guru. The best way to check if you are yourself is to ask yourself if you often form conclusions when faced with an individual who has attained a higher level of monetary success. Do you often find yourself guessing that perhaps this person was given wealth from past generations or that they are involved in negative activities that have led to financial success? One should rather focus our energy and efforts on our own growth and not criticize others whose level of success is above ours. If you find yourself in such a negative position where a friend or relative seems to feel that way, then identify them as one whose lack of effort and lack of motivation is ultimately going to be the reason they fail, and separate yourself from that energy instantly. Defining Entrepreneurship Some experts think of entrepreneurs as people who are willing to take risks that other people are not. Others define them as people who start and build successful businesses. Thinking about the first of these definitions, entrepreneurship doesn't necessarily involve starting your own business. Many people who don't work for themselves are recognized as entrepreneurs within their organizations. Regardless of how you define an "entrepreneur," one thing is certain: becoming a successful entrepreneur isn't easy. So, how does one person successfully take advantage of an opportunity, while another, equally knowledgeable person does not? Do entrepreneurs have a different genetic makeup? Or do they operate from a different vantage point, that somehow directs their decisions for them? Though many researchers have studied the subject, there are no definitive answers. What we do know is that successful entrepreneurs seem to have certain traits in common. Check for yourself if you have these traits: * Interpersonal skills. * Critical and creative thinking skills. * Practical skills. Optimism: Are you an optimistic thinker? Optimism is truly an asset, and it will help get you through the tough times that many entrepreneurs experience as they find a business model that works for them. Vision: Can you easily see where things can be improved? Can you quickly grasp the "big picture," and explain this to others? And can you create a compelling vision of the future, and then inspire other people to engage with that vision? Initiative: Do you have initiative, and instinctively start problem-solving or business improvement projects? Desire for Control: Do you enjoy being in charge and making decisions? Are you motivated to lead others? Drive and Persistence: Are you self-motivated and energetic? And are you prepared to work hard, for a very long time, to realize your goals? Risk Tolerance: Are you able to take risks, and make decisions when facts are uncertain? Resilience: Are you resilient, so that you can pick yourself up when things don't go as planned? And do you learn and grow from your mistakes and failures? Interpersonal Skills As a successful entrepreneur, you'll have to work closely with people - this is where it is critical to be able to build great relationships with your team, customers, suppliers, shareholders, investors, and more. Some people are more gifted in this area than others, but, fortunately, you can learn and improve these skills. The types of interpersonal skills you'll need include: Leadership and Motivation: Can you lead and motivate others to follow you and deliver your vision? And are you able to delegate work to others? As a successful entrepreneur, you'll have to depend on others to get beyond a very early stage in your business - there's just too much to do all on your own! Communication Skills: Are you competent with all types of communication? You need to be able to communicate well to sell your vision of the future to investors, potential clients, team members, and more. Listening: Do you hear what others are telling you? Your ability to listen can make or break you as an entrepreneur. Make sure that you're skilled at active listening and empathetic listening. Personal Relations: Are you emotionally intelligent? The higher your EI, the easier it will be for you to work with others. The good news is that you can improve your emotional intelligence! Negotiation: Are you a good negotiator? Not only do you need to negotiate keen prices, you also need to be able to resolve differences between people in a positive, mutually beneficial way. Ethics: Do you deal with people based on respect, integrity, fairness, and truthfulness? Can you lead ethically? You'll find it hard to build a happy, committed team if you deal with people - staff, customers or suppliers - in a shabby way. Critical and Creative Thinking Skills As an entrepreneur, you also need to come up with fresh ideas, and make good decisions about opportunities and potential projects. Many people think that you're either born creative or you're not. However, creativity is a skill that you can develop if you invest the time and effort. Creative Thinking: Are you able to see situations from a variety of perspectives and come up with original ideas? (There are many creativity tools that will help you do this.) Problem Solving: How good are you at coming up with sound solutions to the problems you're facing? Tools such as Cause & Effect Analysis, the 5 Whys Technique, and CATWOE are just some of the problem-solving tools that you'll need to be familiar with. Recognizing Opportunities: Do you recognize opportunities when they present themselves? Can you spot a trend? And are you able to create a plan to take advantage of the opportunities you identify? Practical Skills You also need the practical skills and knowledge needed to produce goods or services effectively, and run a company. Goal Setting: Do you regularly set goals, create a plan to achieve them, and then carry out that plan? Planning and Organizing: Do you have the talents, skills, and abilities necessary to achieve your goals? Can you coordinate people to achieve these efficiently and effectively. And do you know how to develop a coherent, well thought-through business plan, including developing and learning from appropriate financial forecasts? Decision Making: How good are you at making decisions? Do you make them based on relevant information and by weighing the potential consequences? And are you confident in the decisions that you make? Core decision-making tools include Decision Tree Analysis, Grid Analysis, and Six Thinking Hats. You need knowledge in several areas when starting or running a business. For instance: Business knowledge: Do you have a good general knowledge of the main functional areas of a business (sales, marketing, finance, and operations), and are you able to operate or manage others in these areas with a reasonable degree of competence? Entrepreneurial knowledge: Do you understand how entrepreneurs raise capital? And do you understand the sheer amount of experimentation and hard work that may be needed to find a business model that works for you? Opportunity-specific knowledge: Do you understand the market you're attempting to enter, and do you know what you need to do to bring your product or service to market? Venture-specific knowledge: Do you know what you need to do to make this type of business successful? And do you understand the specifics of the business that you want to start? Conclusion: As a dreamer, you need to understand its significance and mind your own business. Never lose track of your vision for your life. Do not ever get so busy making a living that you forget to live your life.