What It Takes to be an Entrepreneur

What it takes to be an entrepreneur

I’ve been studying and interviewing female entrepreneurs and I’ve noticed some common themes.

In no particular order, this is what I’ve found:

Passion

Starting your own business is hard. Period. Whatever you are doing, make sure you are passionate about it. Why are you doing this? If it’s just for the money, trust me on this, it’s not enough to keep you going through the tough times. Did I mention there will be tough times? Being passionate about what you are doing will help you overcome the obstacles and give you the motivation you need to carry on.

Clarity

When I started my coaching business my mission was to “help everyone achieve their dreams!” It was a grand idea but the problem is, it’s so vague. You need to know what need you’re filling. Is there a gap in the marketplace? Is it a need to express your talent? And you need to know who has that need and is willing to pay for it. You should be crystal clear on what value you’re providing and who your ideal client is.

This will help you in a couple of ways. First, you can quit wasting your time on people who don’t want what you have to offer. Instead of talking to everyone, you can target the people who see the value of what you have to offer and want it.

Second, it makes it a whole lot easier to talk to others about what you’re doing. I used to hate going to networking events. I either got tongue tied or I could see their eyes glaze over and I knew I lost them. When you are passionate about what you do and you can specifically talk about the value you bring, people are a lot more receptive. You’re enthusiasm is contagious.

Support System

It is so much easier when you have supportive people in your corner. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I got a running partner that I realized how important it was. Many women I’ve interviewed or read about had supportive spouses who not only provided emotional support but were willing to jump in and lend a hand. It doesn’t have to be a spouse, it could be another family member, friend, coach or mentor.

Learn as you go

I recently wrote about “Not knowing is the path.” I used to have this belief that I had to know it all before I could begin. I now know that part of the journey, the exciting part if you ask me, is what you learn along the way. Sure, it means having to step outside of our comfort zone and that’s why so many people don’t do it. But as I’ve said, the entrepreneur’s journey isn’t all about building a business, it’s who you become in the process. You don’t have to know how to be an entrepreneur to start. You just have to be willing to learn.

Ask for Help

Along with “learning as you go” is not being afraid to ask for help. We don’t like to ask for help because we think we’re suppose to know it all and asking makes us appear weak, but guess what? Most people want to help and won’t look down on you for asking. As I’ve mentioned, there are things you need to learn so start asking questions.

Don’t be afraid to invest in experts such as lawyers, accountants, and other professionals. They can help you shorten your learning curve and prevent costly mistakes.

Know Yourself

Know what you like and don’t like to do. Know what you value. Know what your strengths are. Know what skills you have and what skills you need. Know what usually trips you up (fears, self-limiting beliefs) and strategies you’ve used to push through them in the past. Self-knowledge goes a long way in helping you determine what you want to create such as what business model to use (subscription base, brick and mortar store, online retailer, etc.

Believe in Yourself

I didn’t believe in myself for the longest time. I literally thought there was something wrong with me and was constantly trying to fix myself by trying to be more like other people. This turned me into a cranky bitch because I was constantly at war with myself.

After working with a coach, I realized that there was nothing wrong with me (other than the usual human frailties…) What a huge relief. Once I stopped fighting my true nature and accepted myself as the unique person I am, I was able to see all that I had accomplished. And if I was capable of learning how to walk, read, write, drive a car, knit, cook, etc, then I was capable of doing anything else. And so are you.

Sweat Equity

There’s no way getting around it. It will take action, aka hard work, to create a business, especially if you have a limited budget. You’ll probably be doing most, if not all the work in the beginning but learning your business is a good thing and worth the time. This is why it’s important to be passionate about what you’re doing. It will help keep you motivated and get you over the bumps.

If you look at this list, none of it is insurmountable. Whatever dream business you have, with creativity, clarity, passion and hard work, you can make it happen.

Not Knowing is the Path

Not knowing is the path

I’ve taken up meditation. I’m horrible at it. But at the end I say a little prayer to acknowledge the blessings in my life. I don’t have a set prayer, I usually just say something off the top of my head and yesterday I said, out of nowhere, “Not knowing is the path.”

Whoa! This struck an immediate cord with me.

Not knowing is the path.

Maybe there’s something to this meditation stuff after all. But what does that even mean? A couple of things came to my mind.

  1. Our strength lies in our vulnerability.  Do you think you have to know all the answers before your begin? That’s how we’re trained, isn’t it? But none of us know it all. NO ONE. In The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge says that mentality weakens us as individuals because “the search for understanding, knowing there is no ultimate answer, becomes a creative process.” He goes on to say, “Then curiosity, previously buried under the belief that ‘I know the answer’ is free to surface. The fear that ‘I don’t know, but perhaps he or she does,’ or ‘I don’t know but I should,’ dissolves”. Not knowing makes us curious and open. When I tried to hide my “not knowing” (that includes my lack of experience) it always backfired on me. I was wearing a mask and it wasn’t fulling anyone, least of all myself. But when I admitted I was a beginner, that I didn’t know but I was willing to learn, a lot of supportive people showed up. People like to help and it takes guts to say “I don’t know.”
  2. Not knowing leads to growth. For me, part of the appeal of being an entrepreneur is exploring new ideas, developing new skills, facing new challenges. I am easily bored. I can’t stand doing the same thing over and over and over again. Not knowing is the path because when you choose to go down it, that’s were the magic happens. That’s where we stretch outside our comfort zone (sometimes we are dragged there), where we learn about ourselves and our ability to grow into our goals. That’s what this whole journey, at least for me, is all about.
  3. Not knowing keeps us open to the possibilities. I told a friend I never would call myself an “expert” because once I did, I was closing my mind off to new possibilities. No matter how far I come, there will always be something new to learn, areas to grow. It’s never ending. I never want to be at the point where I say “I know it all, there is nothing more to learn on the subject.” Life is continually changing and we can move forward with it or we can stop. I’ve seen first hand what happens when people stop. It’s tragic. I want to stay engaged in life.

The takeaway is don’t let not knowing stop you from doing what you want to do. Creating a business is a process, a journey. It’s not plug in and go. There will be parts you feel confident about and other parts you don’t have a clue to how to do. And there are still parts you don’t even know you don’t know – yet.

It’s good to have a starting point, know what you want to do, who you want to do it for and how you’re going to do it but there’s still a lot of leeway and flexibility. You don’t know what’s going to work and what isn’t so try something. If it doesn’t work, learn from it and move on, try something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not knowing is the path.

 

 

 

Goal Setting – A little self-knowledge goes a long way

Goal Setting

In my last post, I talked about the formula for successfully achieving our goals. When you’re setting goals, a good place to start is knowing what makes you tick. We all have goals but if you want to increase your odds of actually realizing them, it’s important to know if you are setting the right goals. I can’t stress the importance of this. One of my goals was to go to college. I chose my major because it was the least repulsive of all the business majors, never even considering if I would like the jobs it would get me. I paid the price of that poor decision for decades!

Goal Setting – The First Step

The first step to setting a goal is to assess your personal preferences, what NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) refers to as meta programs. Basically, it’s how you like to operate. Some of us are detail-oriented, some of us are big picture. Do you prefer to work independently or do you thrive in a team – these sorts of questions.

It’s important consider how you work best and if your goal aligns with those preferences or if you’re going against your grain, so to speak. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t take on new challenges and learn new skills, that’s the reason for goal setting. I’m saying achieving your goals will be easier if you can find a way to do it that utilizes your preferences and strengths. It’s criteria to evaluate not only which goals to set but also how you choose to accomplish them.

For instance, a common goal is to start an exercise program. Many people will rush out this time of year and spend money on fancy machines (which later become very expensive clothes racks…) or on a gym membership. Because that’s what we are programmed to think of when we think “exercise”. I don’t know about you, but I hate going to the gym and none of my memberships have lasted very long.

When this happens, our self-esteem takes a huge hit. We blame ourselves – we lack discipline and willpower and go back to our comfortable, sedentary lifestyle feeling like a failure.

But the problem isn’t us, the problem is we picked the wrong exercise. There are many different paths to achieving our goals, it’s up to us to find the right path, one which makes it easier for us to commit to the challenges we’ll face along the way. So if you don’t like the gym, try yoga, dancing, jump rope, martial arts, running, walking, swimming…you get the idea.

When setting goals, give it some thought. First, is this a goal you really want? Second, is it well suited to your temperament? Can you leverage your strengths?

How do you know if your goal is something you’ll ultimately be happy you spent your precious time on? The truth is, sometimes you won’t know until you try it. For major goals (i.e. going back to school, switching careers), I suggest a trial period before investing too much time and money. Do some research, talk to people who are doing what you want to do. See if you can do some volunteer work or an internship. Otherwise you might feel obligated to stay with it even though you hate it.

I thought it would be fun to be an interior designer but the reality of what one actually does vs. what I thought they did convinced me to stick to decorating my own home for fun.

Humans are goal-oriented. Part of this journey we call life is setting goals and seeking out new opportunities to challenge ourselves and grow. The first step before embarking on any goal is to make sure it’s a goal you truly want and pick the plan best suited to your personality.

If you are having trouble achieving your goals and feel like you are spinning your wheels, check out my book Stop Dreaming About Your Life and Start Living It, Reignite your passion for life by achieving your goals.