Entrepreneurship is the buzz word right now. Everyone seems to have that next disruptive idea which will create the next unicorn. Now, if you are the founder of a startup, you are looked upon as a role model and the society, in general, puts you on a high pedestal. It is amazing how things have changed in the last decade or so. When I completed my engineering and joined Philips as a graduate apprentice, my family and folks felt I had made it big in life. Working in a prestigious MNC, the expectation was that I would have a steady and secure job and retire from the same company. Not any more. Neither are there any MNCs (or for that matter any company) which can promise you a steady secure job till retirement, and nor the youth has the temperament, patience and attitude to grow steadily along the origanizational hierarchy. So, everyone must try their hands at entrepreneurship and make it rather big very very quickly.
This is great… as there is no harm in being ambitious (can we say the same for over-ambitious?) but you better know what it takes to be an entrepreneur and whether you will enjoy the startup journey or not. I would like to make one thing crystal clear – running a startup is 99% hardwork and 1% luck. Apart from hardwork, there is no magic sauce to success. And If you get de-motivated and stop enjoying swimming against the current mid-stream, well…you know well that you are destined to sink.
So here are some traits you must either have, or inculcate if you want to be a successful entrepreneur:
Your brain doesn’t need time off from work!
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you need to be a workaholic working 16-18 hours a day. What I am saying is that when you run into a problem, you can’t switch off your brain from thinking about it unless you have found a way out. This is a 24×7 thing.. and it doesn’t matter what environment you operate in. Subconsciously, you are always observing and picking clues to find a way out. If you are the kind who usually switches off while trying to solve a problem after some time, you will not enjoy the startup journey.
You live in neither the past, nor the future but the present and only the present!
While every startup has a goal and a grandiose vision that they are working towards, the founding team is deep rooted in the present. The entrepreneur has to have the mindset of “this is where I am now and this is what needs to be done next.”
Often entrepreneurs, especially the ones who have spent a lot of time in the corporate world, start to compare their lifestyle before and after doing the startup. All the corporate highs of delegation, power, influence, travel and meetings are suddenly gone. If you are the kind who can’t let go of the past, you will not enjoy the startup journey.
Then there is another breed of people who spend more time in dreaming about large funding, valuations, million $ buyouts, front page news and a glorified future; instead of focusing to solve the problem at hand. If you like day dreaming about the future more than the action, you will not enjoy a startup journey.
You like to dirty your hands, each and every time!
In the initial phase of a startup, the founding team has to get their hands dirty in tackling every problem faced -take the bull by its horns. There is no one to delegate to and even if you find someone to delegate, the results can be disastrous. If you delegate too soon, you will never experience the challenges of your own business and just forget about guiding someone else to fix them. You’ll be taken for a ride.
Now there are some among us who don’t like to get their hands dirty. They prefer delegating instead of tackling or look for some god-sent help to fix the issue. This could be due to multiple reasons but the most common being an over-protected upbringing where you had your parents fix every problem for you instead of them encouraging you to find your own solutions. Whatever is the reason, if you don’t relish “jumping right-in and I’ll find a way to swim”, then you will not enjoy entrepreneurship.
As you live life, you are looking beyond money!
Entrepreneurship is possibly the highest risk career you can endow upon yourself. 90% of the startups fail due to one or the other reason. Also, I fundamentally believe that money is always incidental . Money has its own ways to meander and criss-cross your life. Sometimes, it comes out of no-where and other times you lose it for reasons totally beyond your control. Mankind has still not found the algorithm which can guarantee you assured returns in all times, throughout the span of your lifetime.
So if you are someone obsessed with money, you will not enjoy the startup journey because you have set a goal for your venture which is beyond its limits to deliver consistently. You will stay motivated till the going is good. The instant you hit the first valley, which is a given thing during the startup journey, your interest will start to wane out.
You need to be obsessed.
Carrie Layne – “Entrepreneurship is not a part-time job, its not even a half-time one… It is a lifestyle.”
This article was originally published in Inc42.