Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t difficult. In fact, you probably entered the world of entrepreneurship at a young age. Whether you sold lemonade on a folding table in front of your house or went door-to-door peddling wares from your wagon, it’s likely that you were the type of kid who wanted to make money rather than merely dream of it.
After all, what does it mean to be an entrepreneur? Simply, that you run a money-making venture that turns a profit. So any child who sells a single cup of lemonade technically gets admission to the club. And while we here at Foundr proudly salute those early forays into business, we’re also keenly interested in helping you build your legacy as a full-grown entrepreneur whose impact extends far beyond your neighborhood.
We’re passionate about the individuals who strike out on their own, without the soul-crushing presence of middle-management looming over them, and ultimately performing like a boss.
But reaching this upper echelon of entrepreneurship takes more than moxie.
Which brings us to this guide. It’s certainly not a comprehensive list of what you need in order to succeed as an entrepreneur. But you’ll learn about the crucial traits and skills that provide fuel as you learn how to become an entrepreneur.
Becoming an Entrepreneur Requires a Gut Check
Before you can tackle the steps to becoming an entrepreneur, you need to ascertain whether you’re cut out for it. Are you willing to put in the work and take the risks that are required to get the rewards? Because entrepreneurship always requires some suffering and sacrifice.
These are important facts to point out because there are thousands of “wanterpreneurs” currently being drawn into the world of startups. For them, entrepreneurship is an exciting endeavor not unlike a sabbatical in Costa Rica or training to run your first marathon.
Startups certainly seem cool. The idea of working from a funky coworking space or a remote tropical island seems infinitely better than grinding out the 9-to-5 for some faceless corporation. And many social media feeds of entrepreneurs are often nothing more than showreels of #livingthelife.
But Instagram rarely tells the full story of what it means to be an entrepreneur, which is why it’s important to distinguish between the “living-the-life” and “nose-to-the-grindstone” aspects of entrepreneurial life. Especially when you’re starting out, the latter tends to outweigh the former by a considerable margin. If you’re drawn in by the sexy, Instagrammable elements of entrepreneurship, there just won’t be enough of them to sustain you through the journey.
Those who have entrepreneurship in their blood, the individuals who are primed to become entrepreneurs who perform like a boss, get a rush from the climb. They’re fueled by this adventure of a lifetime because every day is a step toward a vision they clearly see in their mind.
How to Be an Entrepreneur: The Traits
Just as not every person is cut out to write a symphony or earn a black belt in karate or raise 9 children or complete a 100-mile ultra-marathon, it takes certain traits and habits to excel as an entrepreneur. Most people realize that entrepreneurship is a battle against your competitors, but not many recognize that it’s also a battle against yourself, forcing you to confront your strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s review 3 essential traits you must develop if you’re going to reach your goals:
1. You Must Value Performance Over Comfort
There are 2 types of people in the work arena—those who derive satisfaction from the byproducts of success and those who get satisfaction from the actual process of willing something into existence.
Those who excel tend to view entrepreneurship as a personal journey. For them, it’s a medium through which they can grow as human beings by feeling and pushing past their personal limits. In other words, for them it’s a way of stepping outside of their comfort zone.
In that sense, becoming a successful entrepreneur is no different than becoming a musician, martial artist, parent, martial artist, or ultra-runner. Each can be viewed as either a path of sacrificial work or a way to become a more complete, self-aware, and conscious person.
When things get rough (and they will) this focus will serve you well. Not only will the results that you produce be different, your experience while producing these results will be vastly different, too. But if you’re the type of person who only finds satisfaction in the byproducts of success, you’ll never make it to that point. The journey is simply too grueling.
Fortunately, developing an entrepreneurial mindset is a skill that can be cultivated. The topic of experiencing fulfillment through the process of recognizing and exploring your edge has been, and continues to be, explored by some of the most interesting people on the planet.
Start by seeking out these people and add them to your roster of teachers. Here are some proven and recognized entrepreneurs to help you get started:
- Melissa Vong
- David Deida
- Alexa von Tobel
- Ezra Bayda
- Ido Portal
- Seth Godin
- Gretta van Riel
- Eckhart Tolle
- Daymond John
- Tim Ferriss
From motivational anecdotes to bonafide blueprints for success, these entrepreneurs have mountains of wisdom to share with you. And don’t stop there. Seek out additional sources of inspiration that resonate with your mind, body, and soul. Some will be from the entrepreneurial world, while others could come from just about any corner of your life.
2. You Must Gravitate Toward Goals
It’s sometimes said that when you become an entrepreneur, you can work when you want, from wherever you want, and without anyone telling you what to do. Ultimate freedom, right? Well, not quite.
No business grows without a concrete, clearly defined strategy. And no strategy is effective without goals. To become an entrepreneur and grow a successful business, you must hold a meaningful and empirically centered vision in your mind at all times.
Everything you do inside the business (and, to a large extent, outside of it) needs to be predicated on that vision. Even while doing the most menial of tasks, and there’ll be plenty of those, you must be aware of your overarching goal, and how your current action serves it.
Perhaps you set a goal for how much money you want to make in your first year of working on your own. For many entrepreneurs, that goal is the exact amount needed to replace their current full-time income. If you want to stretch yourself even more, you could set your goal to be where you wanted to be if you got a future promotion.
This “North Star” has to be quantifiable and (through intense effort) attainable.
When your targets are tied to your “North Star,” you suddenly have a larger context for evaluating all of the freedoms entrepreneurship ostensibly offers, and you realize that many of them are merely distractions.
For example, where should you work today? Sure, you could grab your laptop, drive into town, and work from a cafe while sipping a latte and eating a quinoa bowl. The Instagram post from that luxurious afternoon in the cafe might look appealing, but would the money and time spent on this activity bring you closer to your goal?
If you were to stay at home to save money and focus on specific tasks, how much progress toward your larger goal would you be able to make? Sacrifice is an essential component of becoming an entrepreneur. And a goal-driven strategy is a mechanism for sacrificing little freedoms in order to achieve the big ones.
3. You Can Handle Stress
Entrepreneurship creates stressful situations in your life, and some people are less equipped to deal with it than others. If you already have high levels of tension in other areas of your life and feel as though you might be stretched to the max, taking the entrepreneurial plunge is not advisable.
But if you can manage stress in a way that doesn’t adversely impact your health or performance, then you possess a key trait for entrepreneurial success. And you can further keep your stress levels in check by scaling your business in a way that doesn’t overwhelm your sense of obligation and risk. Here’s what Jesse Sumrak recommends:
“You don’t have to ditch your 9-to-5 to make your dreams of owning a business a reality. While that might be the eventual goal, start slow and dip your toes in the water. Start a hustle on the side while you rely on your safe, predictable full-time income. This can reduce pressure and risk. You can also use income from your full-time job to help finance any unavoidable expenses or emergencies. Starting a side hustle also allows you to scale slowly. Since you have your full-time income to lean on, you don’t need to rush off to find 10 paying customers from the get-go. You can take your time to experiment with new ideas and find one you genuinely like and want to invest in.”
Yes, the life of an entrepreneur can be rocky. But if you embrace the low points and draw momentum from the summits, you’ll be able to complete the series of goals that lead to becoming an entrepreneur who performs like a boss.
Mastering the Steps to Becoming an Entrepreneur
We’ve covered the 3 crucial traits of successful entrepreneurs, but now let’s look at the practical steps to becoming an entrepreneur. So if you passed the gut check and feel that you have the discipline and tenacity required, the 5 actions listed below will feel like true “steps” that help you ascend to a better place, rather than obstacles you have to toil over.
1. Find a Solvable Problem
Coming up with great ideas is an important part of entrepreneurship, but their power will be muted if they don’t solve a problem. For example, let’s say that you came up with a new way for making non-stick surfaces on cooking pans. There’s no doubt that your discovery would be the result of great effort and ingenuity, but there’s already a glut of non-stick pan technologies on the market. Unless your undeniably impressive idea fills a current void, it runs the risk of being lost in the crowd.
You can flip the script, however, by solving an existing problem. Maybe you’ve noticed that many of your friends and family members are feeling frustrated by international travel restrictions and are pining for a vacation. You could address this widespread issue head-on with a business that sends a monthly package of local food straight from the 12 countries of their choice. That way customers could experience far-off cultures and have something exciting to look forward to each month.
2. Plan It Out
Discovering an idea that solves people’s problems is a total rush. But you need to pace yourself because it’s easy to start running before you even know where you’re going. In other words, you’ll never be able to leverage market demand if you don’t effectively reach the market.
Let’s say you feel confident in your international food delivery business. To lay out the strategies required to bring it to life, you’d need to gather essential details such as:
- Your mission statement
- Learnings from your industry analysis
- Learnings from your market analysis
- Learnings from your competitor analysis
- Your organizational structure
- Your projections
- Your financial needs
- Your connections in each participating country
- The food items you would send
- The logistics of the food deliveries
- Your pricing plan
Armed with this information, you could create a plan that lays out the steps required to reach your goals. This is where entrepreneurial discipline comes into play, as you’ll need to stick to your plan even when the going gets tough.
3. Find Your Audience
As part of creating your business plan, you should have conducted a market analysis. Using these findings, you’d need to identify your ideal customers. You started this whole idea based on friends and relatives who are unable to go on the types of trips they normally would, but your research might uncover a separate, but complementary, audience.
For example, you might learn that there are millions of people who have never even once left their home country and are obsessed with learning about other cultures. These people wouldn’t have the same circumstantial motivators related to travel restrictions, but they might be just as passionate about your product. And they could also be even more loyal down the road once your primary audience is able to resume their travels and their interest in your product begins to wane.
4. Build a Supportive Network
Never mistake entrepreneurship with going solo. You may have left the typical structure of corporate life behind, but you’ll always need a supportive network around you in order to accomplish your set goals.
Start with the friends and family members who believe in your idea. As you gain momentum, seek out mentors, business partnerships, vendors, investors, and any other individual who has the skills and resources to help you build something special.
During this phase, you might choose to send out samples of your international food items to potential customers. By gathering their feedback after the deliveries and making them feel valued, you could gain their ongoing support. And the same can be said for reviewers and influencers you invite to participate in a sneak peek.
5. Refine Your Brand
There are few moments in life more thrilling than a business launch. But after the party’s over and the streamers have been swept away, the real work begins.
It’s likely that your business will be jostling for market share with numerous competitors. Even in the rare scenario where you present a truly unique idea with no comparison to the world, you’d better believe there will be a scrum of imitators on the horizon.
So it’s important to make your brand just as engaging as your product. You’ll need to find the perfect visual elements and voice to begin building equity with customers. This brand refinement process will ebb and flow over the years but will never cease. You’ve always got to be evolving as a brand if you want to keep up with your customers. Otherwise, you’ll just end up like Radio Shack or Blockbuster Video, reminiscing about the good old days when you were relevant to the public.
More Insights on How to Become an Entrepreneur
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