Marty Zwiling distills 10 easy-to-recognize traits that can help you identify whether you will likely succeed as an entrepreneur. Self-discipline, ability to plan, prioritization, resiliency, and focus on the things that move the business forward are useful ways to orient your life no matter what your profession, but as an entrepreneur, you are responsible for not just your own success, but for that of your staff and team members as well. Read on and learn from Marty’s excellent distillation of what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.
People who can’t manage their own lives don’t make good entrepreneurs. Small businesses require multi-tasking, work prioritization, and decision-making, with no entourage of assistants and specialists. That’s why Fortune 500 executives usually don’t survive as startup CEOs.
First you have to learn to accept total responsibility for things that happen to your business, just like you are responsible for everything in your personal life. Maybe you are comfortable with having a spouse in control of your personal life, but couples running a business are high risk.
If you recognize yourself in these clues below, you probably won’t have as much fun running a startup as Sir Richard Branson always seems to be having. You don’t even have to try the entrepreneur lifestyle to know if these points are likely to be a problem for you:
- You often feel overwhelmed and out of control. There is always more to do than time to do it. Usually the stress people feel does not really come from having too much to do, but from having to make decisions on what to do first, and not setting reasonable targets.
- Starting many things, but completing few. Productivity is all about the ability to complete tasks. It requires tradeoffs and decisions, to declare that something is finished. Get in the habit of finishing what you start. Perfectionists need not apply.
- You like to defer big things until later. If you catch yourself deferring important tasks, in favor of smaller easy things, that’s a management problem. Adopt a “do it now” motto, and tackle your to-do list in priority order, rather than crisis order.
- Over-thinking and second-guessing yourself. If you spend more time thinking and worrying about a task, than doing the task, then you are not managing yourself. Don’t waste your precious creative energy. Finish items, and get them off your mind.
- You get defensive at the slightest criticism. Some people feel pain and high stress with any negative feedback or suggestions for improvement. They react quickly and emotionally with rationalizations and justifications for their actions, and find active listening very difficult. You need a thick skin to be an entrepreneur.
- Avoiding new opportunities due to fear of failure. Real entrepreneurs look at every new opportunity as an exciting and new-life experience. They are energized by the risk, and learn from every failure.
- Always counting your weaknesses. Good business leaders never criticize themselves for their weaknesses. Smart ones recognize their undeveloped skills and higher potential, but they are confident that they can change, and constantly work at it.
- Lack of confidence and enthusiasm. If you have a “downer” day at least once a week, and can’t remember the last time you were truly enthusiastic about something in your life or work, you are not ready to manage a business. Self-confidence is key to success.
- You like to work alone. Every business and every relationship is a team effort. Loners hide from others because they don’t want anyone to see that they are not in control. Make an effort to network with others to stay informed and contribute, but not dominate.
- Admit to being a control freak. Believe it or not, many people who don’t manage themselves very well are control freaks, when it comes to their business and other people. Practice the art of delegating and the joy of being spontaneous.
Managing yourself effectively is the best preparation for managing a new business. It means you understand yourself, and are likely able to read other people and understand them, leading to a trusting relationship with your team and your customers.
More importantly, managing yourself gives you a deeper understanding of what you value and how you define success. It means that you can make the hard choices about your real goals in business, and help you reach those goals. Above all, you will be able to truly enjoy your successes.
Marty Zwilling wrote Startup Professionals Musings: 10 Clues That Managing a Startup May Not Be For You, is CEO and founder of Startup Professionals, Inc., and his work has appeared on Forbes, Gust, Young Entrepreneur, Harvard Business Review, and Huffington Post.