Can You Be an Entrepreneur?

D.A. Jim Trotter: In what way are you qualified?

Mona Lisa Vito: Well, my father was a mechanic, his father was a mechanic, my mother’s father was a mechanic, my three brothers are mechanics, four uncles on my father’s side are mechanics…

D.A. Jim Trotter: Your family is obviously qualified, but have you ever worked as a mechanic?

Mona Lisa Vito: Yeah, in my father’s garage, yeah.

Quote from “My Cousin Vinny”

I often ask business owners (both brand-new or in business for many years) whether or not they believe they are qualified to be entrepreneurs.  Many respond citing family history, friends, other role models or previous experience they believe helped make them qualified to take on this important role. Many have had success but few have redeemed themselves as well as Ms. Vito did in this classic scene from My Cousin Vinny.  So, I thought I would highlight just five traits to consider when you are evaluating yourself as a current (or potential) entrepreneur:

  1. Experience.  As Jimi Hendrix sang in “Are you Experienced?,” the virtue of experience will free your mind (not sure exactly what he was referring to) and leave you open to new ideas.  And, when it comes to getting funding for your venture, the infamous “been there done that – and got the tee shirt” is often the difference between a “yes” and a “no” from potential investors.
  2. Solo.  If this is how you like to fly, being an entrepreneur may not be for you.  Think about it – while single engine planes carry very little luggage they also carry precious little cargo.
  3. Procrastination.  In most cases, being a successful entrepreneur requires quick action especially when major issues arise.  Not doing today what you can put off until tomorrow is not a healthy attitude if you want success.
  4. Control.  If you must have it and are uncomfortable when you don’t, entrepreneurship can be a real scary ride.  A certain level of control is required to keep the ship on course but you need to take your hand off the tiller every once in a while and let your venture set its own course.
  5. Failure.  If you always view the glass as half empty (this isn’t going to work) versus half-full (another exciting new opportunity) and you are not energized by risk, you have to reconsider the course you have chosen to be an entrepreneur.

It is important to recognize that one of the most difficult things in life is to objectively complete your own self assessment. That being the case, surrounding yourself with true friends and advisers who will tell you, honestly, how they think you are coping with the stress of entrepreneurship is one of the best things that you can do.  At times, I have advised clients to get out of certain businesses when the level of risk they have to cope with is not commensurate with what I believe is their personal risk profile.  While it might have its economic rewards, the lack of sleep, impact on family, social life and worst of all, your health may not make it all worthwhile.  Remember that before you can manage others, you have to learn how to effectively manage yourself.  Failure to do so will not only result in a painful experience, it will probably prevent you from truly enjoying your success.

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