If you're an aspiring entrepreneur, you need to take a hard look at yourself before leaving that regular paycheck. Don't assume you will be happier and make more money starting the business of your dreams.
The good and the bad news is that as an entrepreneur, you won’t have a manager charged with directing your efforts or peers helping you implement, and your new team will be quick to tell you only what you want to hear. Thus the burden is on you to capitalize on your strengths, find co-founders and team members to fill the gaps and find mentors and advisors you trust.
Very few people are superhuman, with all the skills, creativity, business acumen, knowledge and personality to succeed alone at any business they tackle. For the rest of us, taking a realistic view of our individual limitations, and acting with them in mind, is the only way to succeed, for the following reasons:
Starting the right business requires knowing yourself. If you know your strengths and what you enjoy, you are more likely to tackle a business problem that is best suited to your skills and interests and is less sensitive to your shortcomings. Too many people fail working on someone else’s problem. You won’t be happy in the wrong business.
Attracting the right team requires knowing what you don’t know. You need to surround yourself with the best people to complement your strengths and fill your gaps, so together you will be able to see the real opportunity, set the right objectives and execute to success. Many entrepreneurs fail because they seek out the wrong team.
Building a business requires confidence in yourself. As an entrepreneur, you will have no place and no one to hide behind. Knowledge of yourself is the key to confidence, and confidence builds leadership. Building a new business requires good leadership to develop the market, attract customers, motivate the team and conquer the unknowns.
Being authentic and genuine gets the best from others. To be effective as a leader and respected by your team, they must see that you like who you are. Customers and outside business partners also respond to this vibe and give you the respect and trust you need to keep going. It’s painful and ineffective to continually be someone you are not.
Make better business decisions by playing to your strengths. Capitalize on your strengths, and accept input from advisors and the team on decisions outside your range. Everyone will see you as a better listener and a stronger leader who is not autocratic, and knows how to tackle the many unknowns of a new business.
Know when to say "no" without guilt. Knowing your limits, and not taking on tasks that you can’t deliver on or are not priorities, is the only way to survive in a modern business world that demands your attention 24 hours a day. Entrepreneurs who know themselves are not afraid to delegate, and never use the “too busy” excuse.
You won’t improve if you don’t know what needs fixing. Every entrepreneur and every business needs continuous improvement. Understanding yourself will help you set the right priorities for self-improvement, including working on your health, balancing family life, changing bad habits and joining business peer groups.
If these observations make no sense to you, it may not yet be the time for you to start down the path of an entrepreneurial lifestyle. Many people are happier to stick with the familiar, even if not totally satisfied and happy, rather than deal with the stress and likely failures of starting their own businesses.
*** First published on Entrepreneur.com on 7/31/2015 ***