Are you an entrepreneur?
A couple of years ago I was described as an entrepreneur for the first time. It caught me off guard and I brushed it off, feeling like it was a title I held highly and that I wasn’t yet worthy of. It’s not something I had particularly strived to be but I did know that I wanted to work for myself and that I think have some pretty cool ideas sometimes.
What is an Entrepreneur?
The dictionary definition: ‘A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit’ – Meh, I’m not a fan of it. I marginally prefer the Wikipedia description: ‘Entrepreneurship has been described as the capacity and willingness to develop, organise, and manage a business venture’ Still though, not overly descriptive or helpful.
Someone who sees a problem then either automatically sees a solution or has the desire and drive to find one. They then take that idea and they don’t give up. They DON’T fill their head with the thoughts of ‘someone else will do it’, ‘someone else would have thought about that’, ‘I’m sure someone else is doing it already.’
Instead they then research. Has this been done before? What problem am I trying to solve? What gap in the market am I trying to fill? What is my point of difference from other companies working in this area?
Once that basic research is complete, an entrepreneur then writes out their basic business concept. If they are still feel confident, their next step would be to do a more in-depth analysis, ideally starting with a Business Model Canvas to identify their markets, their customers, their value proposition and revenue streams and they start to work out whether this will be a viable business.
Providing it appears to be viable and market validation has been done, THEN the hard work begins.
So am I?
Do I consider myself an entrepreneur? I still wince slightly but yes, I do. I’m in the start-up phase of multiple businesses (oh if only you knew it all) and quickly running out of dosh but I am an ideas person who isn’t particularly a natural details person - but I'm learning quickly. I have ideas weekly that quickly get filtered out my head as they don’t fit my key passions (If you are into real estate then I have an idea for you!) but every now and then I have a cracker that fits with my life, my core values and my primary areas of interest – if I can successfully validate that idea then that’s when I know it’s time to surround myself with a team who can fill the gaps.
Think you can do it all yourself?
It has taken me 29 years to understand that I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I don’t have to be able to edit and stitch 360 video footage (mostly because that sounds like hell to me) but I have the vision of where it could be used. I don’t have to physically be able to design 80 pages of a book because I can convey the vision to someone who can and who can add to that. This list goes on but I’ve finally come to the realisation that I can’t do it all and that’s not where my time is best spent anyway. I prefer client relationship building, networking, story board building, marketing and big picture ideas instead.
So you have had your idea, you have validated it and you need help to get it off the ground. Then what? You need to back yourself. Do you need cash? A loan? An investor? A partner? Where do you go? My first suggestion would be to create a well written LinkedIn profile detailing your history, skills, summary and aspirations. Start looking for mentors, talk to friends, people parents – start throwing the net out and don’t be afraid to start contacting people. This is the time you need to be well thought out and BOLD.
It’s not easy. In fact it’s bloody hard going especially if you have the vision but not the funds to attain it to begin with. The long hours before income comes in is hard, especially when you are trying to invest as much as you can yourself. Expect to work late into the night or get up early in the morning while the kids are still asleep and work FAST.
Now this I believe, will be the make or break for some - you will need a very patient partner because they are at risk of feeling quite neglected. To give you some insight, Dave and I are both passionate ideas people who butt heads daily, no matter how it seems on social media – relationships are hard and even harder when you are both working on multiple projects and jobs with phone calls, emails, pitches, business plans and the likes being bounced between us daily. It’s… ‘trying’, to put it mildly. A typical evening is both of us flicking between our laptops and phones on the couch with TV or Spotify in the background, sending or reading each other articles or email responses while mulling over next ideas and the next step to take.
In saying that, I imagine it’s much easier to both be in the same mindset, wanting to solve problems and fix the world rather than the other person wanting to watch TV or play video games each evening or weekend. Like I said, it’s not easy – don’t expect it to be. Sacrifices will have to be made so be aware of that. It will pay off.
To finish up:
I’ve been on this rollercoaster for a while now and my genuine, tried and true tips would be:
- Aim for 7-8 hours sleep per night. I can do less but if I don’t catch up again I crash and burn.
- Utilise planning apps and Google Calendars as I have talked about in a previous blog
- Get a mentor, if not multiple to help keep you in line and focused.
- Tell people to help keep you motivated and accountable
- Download a basic confidentiality agreement for sensitive information when dealing with potential collaborators or investors.
- Assign daily screen-free time. For example 3pm-7.30pm in this household which is why I usually work until 11pm or later.
- Set some date nights when you can. For us, we still talk work but at least it’s in a fresh environment and to be honest, it has been a long time since we had one *goes to calendar*
- Multiple projects aren’t all bad - if you can manage them, limit risk and save yourself from putting all your eggs in one basket
- Exercise outside. The endorphins, fresh air and scenery will do you good. I’m back half-marathon training and only aiming to run 2-3 days a week to prevent boredom and burnout.
- ‘Read widely’ – Professor Patrick Aldwell (Kellogg). Dave primarily reads books and LinkedIn articles where as I struggle to retain attention long enough for a book so I read topical industry reports, LinkedIn and other media.
- Set Google Alerts and use key terms and phrases related to your industry to ensure you keep on top of what’s going on as it happens.
- Eat well. Easier said than done but my head is much clearer on whole foods and without the ups and downs of caffeine or alcohol. You will probably be sitting (at your computer and in meetings) more than usual for a while!
I’ll leave it at that for now but as a side note, I have people contact me regularly looking for business start up advice, to be put in touch with people who can help or looking for guidance around their next step so although I may take a day or two, I will get back to you so feel free to flick me a message or an email.