When is an entrepreneur an entrepreneur?

And what separates successful entrepreneurs from failed entrepreneurs?

Have you ever laid awake at night thinking ‘how the hell did I get here’ and what on earth I am doing wrong that I cannot be as successful as my friend, my brother, or father? Why do I have to struggle so much when everyone else seems to have figured it out?

When it comes to successful entrepreneurship, I believe the biggest dilemma that we are facing is that we often only hear entrepreneurial success stories.  People do not post on LinkedIn or Facebook about their failures, and they definitely do not bawl their eyes out in front of their family and friends about their struggles and pains, their stresses and strains. And that adds so much more pressure on yourself. 

And then you have those darlings dartling around you with the notion that you are not an entrepreneur if you cannot go away from your company for a month and still have a business standing.

The definition of an entrepreneur

Investopedia defines an entrepreneur as an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards. The entrepreneur is commonly seen as an innovator, a source of new ideas, goods, services, or procedures.

Cambridge University defines an entrepreneur as a person who attempts to make a profit by starting a company or by operating alone in the business world, esp. when it involves taking risks.

Size does not matter, or does it?

I recently spoke to a person while planning another addVENTURES PowerHour, where the gentleman told me he is past the stage of being an entrepreneur.  Interesting concept, especially if people like Richard Branson still regard himself as an entrepreneur even though he is a world-famous entrepreneur now.

I believe that you should not let anyone dictate the size that your business before you regard yourself as an entrepreneur. If you are creating new products or services where you solve someone else’s problem while taking the risks involved, you are an entrepreneur no matter the size of your company.

The timeline of a successful entrepreneur

Sir Richard defines a successful entrepreneur as those that are prepared to take chances and experiment with new approaches – and to fall flat on their faces every so often.  The question that I have, like most other hopeful entrepreneurs, are how long will it take before you can regard yourself as successful? 

I often see in my entrepreneur coaching practice that people have this expectation that things should fall in place much faster than what is realistic.  People believe that once you have your idea, the proposal, and all the other branding elements are in place and you start to call on your prospects, the clients will come.  And this is in my experience where the enthusiasm dies down.  In theory, this is how it should work, right?  Sadly, very few textbooks on entrepreneurship are written by entrepreneurs.  Theory and reality are unfortunately extremely far apart and you should keep in mind that most successful businesses did not happen overnight.

 The Tipping Point

One of my favorite books that I often quote in talks is that of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.  The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell defines a tipping point as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.”  That magic moment when ideas, trends, and social behaviors cross a threshold, tip, and spread like wildfire. 

Years of well-intentioned intervention may have no impact at all, yet the right intervention – at just the right time – can start a cascade of change.  There are no linear phenomena in the sense that your success as an entrepreneur can steadily and predictably change according to the levels of your effort.

Yet we see over and over again that persistence towards your goal is what separates successful entrepreneurs from failed entrepreneurs.  You’ll never know how close you got to that magical tipping point if you stop trying.

Making mistakes along the way

My father, Flip Rosslee, whom I do regard as a role model, often said that it is better to make the wrong decision fast than never to make the right decision.  How keen are you to make a mistake?  Highly unlikely.  No one wants to make mistakes, but it is inevitable.  The sooner one realizes that it is OK to make mistakes, the sooner one can get on with things and work towards the magical tipping point.

The reality is that it is easier said than done.  We often find ourselves so completely confused as to the next step that we should take.  Getting the courage to keep on going often needs intervention.  You can be seriously persistent in making things work that you often do not realize that you are going in the wrong direction. 

Introvert vs Extrovert

We often believe that an entrepreneur should be an extrovert.  Someone who can talk their way into and out of any situation possible.  And yes, we often see seemingly successful entrepreneurs babbling away about their massive successes as if they have no insecurities whatsoever. We immediately assume that they are the world’s biggest extroverts with an ego higher than Mount Everest.  Yes, we can write a book about successful entrepreneurs and their massive egos, but that is a story for another day.

Sadly, most people have a skewed idea of the difference between an extrovert and an introvert.  The fact that you are not a natural-born star on a stage does not mean you are an extrovert.  Brene Bown talks in her Netflix Documentary The Call to Courage about how she is super introverted.  Einstein, Warren Buffet, and JK Rowling count as some of the world’s most successful people who are all introverts.

One of my proudest moments was when I helped someone realize that the fact that he is a super introvert, does not bar him from being a successful entrepreneur.  Previously he saw himself stuck in a dead-end job as a techie for a large corporate firm.  Today he is the CEO of a data company providing tech solutions to clients all over the world.

A business coach? Really?

I grew up in a society where you are a softy if you consult someone, and checking in with a business coach is the last thing most people plan on doing.  It does however help to have someone to talk to who is a completely impartial sounding board.  Someone who can help you to pause and reflect on your status quo.  A person with whom you can vent your frustrations without being judged as a failure.  Someone who can help you build a plan for the future. 

My favorite part of being a business coach is the jester effect.  In Shakespearian literature, the court jester is the only one who could speak truth to power. They shone a light into corners that were typically very dark in an absolute monarchy. They were able to do so not only because of the permission conferred by the role but because they made their comments with humor and at the right time and place.

Let your Passion decide

We can continue ad infinitum on whether or not you have the behavior, experience, ability, knowledge, and skills to be successful as an entrepreneur till the end of days. It is time to get up and into action.  This day is waiting for no one and the sooner we get into action and out there, the sooner we can reach our tipping point of success.

Textbooks won’t solve our conundrum.  If you are passionate about what you are doing and how you are going to solve someone else’s problem, you are on the right path and definitely an entrepreneur. 

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