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What Are They ON?! Entrepreneurs and Their Mindset

by Jill Foster on May 27, 2009

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Guest post by Sibyl Edwards, regular guest contributor to Women Grow Business. Sibyl works as a digital designer and strategist based in Washington, DC. She has many years of experience in interactive design, identity branding, and digital strategy for businesses and non-profits; Sibyl can be reached at www.twitter.com/saedwards.

What Is The Entrepreneur Mindset?
A couple of months back, the editor/founder of WomenGrowBusiness.com, Jill Foster invited me to a tea along with a few prominent bloggers and WomenGrowBusiness.com contributors. While discussing a variety of things, we got on the topic of entrepreneurship in today’s economy. While talking to Katie Kemple, blogger of Love Your Layoff, I brought up how my father, a chemist and African-American, struggled throughout his whole career. Constantly overlooked for promotions and devalued, later in life he started a number of “entrepreneurial projects” on the side or between layoffs to pay bills.

An (Ironic…) American Dream
Ironically, whenever I or my sister discussed starting our own businesses, his attitude was less than supportive. He felt the best thing for us was to find a job with good benefits. Of course my father wasn’t the only person with this sentiment. I have also noticed whenever I brought up the topic of starting my own business with friends and co-workers; I get an assortment of reasons for why I should be happy where I am and how tough it is to start a business. While this response was well-meaning (but nonetheless negative):

I couldn’t help but wonder why when entrepreneurship is the American Dream, people sometimes complain about “working for the man” yet [often simultaneously will] discourage others from starting their own business.

To understand the reasons why
I had to first understand what an entrepreneur really is. After much online research and books later, I think I’m coming to a better idea of what makes an entrepreneur. Small business coach Kelle Sparta states “The Entrepreneur Mindset is actually three thought processes in one.

  • The first is a business owner’s approach to the world.
  • The second is an out-of-the-box, creative innovation approach to life.
  • And the third is an unwillingness to settle for good when you could have great.”

That sounds a bit esoteric but in truth the entrepreneurial mindset is not something you can learn in a business class at Harvard but is something that is ingrained in the individual.

First of all, entrepreneurs are innovators.
They are constantly finding ways to do something faster and better. Starting up a business selling the same products or services as your competitor but at a cheaper price may work for Wal Mart but not necessarily for a start up business. In fact if your product or service is innovative enough, people will buy it regardless of price. Just look at the iPhone.

Second, the entrepreneur runs on fear – not away from it.
This is probably the single biggest reason people are afraid of starting their own businesses. All sorts of subconscious fears come up to the surface. What if I fail? or What if I succeed? Will my friends and family still like me? Believe it or not many people secretly fear being rich and successful. While we admire people like Donald Trump, Oprah, and Sean “Puffy” Combs we believe they are successful because there must be some tragic flaw to their character (see any tabloid magazine).

Fear and loathing…of success?
We tell ourselves “Rich people aren’t nice, they are greedy and ignore their families in the pursuit of money”. “Money is the root of all evil”, “Money can’t buy you love”, etc. If you find yourself saying and thinking such thoughts like this or wishing failure for friends and family because they are pursing their dreams of entrepreneurship – you probably have issues with success. And until you deal with that fear, your chances of success will be limited.

Entrepreneur Ryan Mapes says “those that can harness this fear and transfer it into motivation seem to be the most successful in their ventures.”

Third, an entrepreneur is a positive thinker.
[image You're a Star by Artisan Shooting, Creative Commons] -This almost goes without saying. You can’t be an entrepreneur and constantly imagining the worst in yourself and others, especially in the early stages of a venture when it is key to inspire business partners and venture capitalists. I’m sure you likely know someone who has a business and is one of the most negative, soul-sucking individuals alive. I guarantee you this person is the exception – not the norm.

In fact, whenever I’m in the room with an entrepreneurial type, I jokingly ask them if I can have some of “whatever they’re on” because entrepreneurs are usually extremely high-energy, super positive people.

Entrepreneurs have to believe in the business even against all odds. If they don’t who will?

Fourth, an entrepreneur has to be focused.
This is a lot harder than it sounds. There will be times when you want to close business down for the day so you can go have dinner with your best friend (who has been nagging you for weeks that they haven’t seen you since last summer). But you know that you need to get your new product to market. Entrepreneurs unfortunately have to put the interests of their business ahead of their personal interests from time to time. Now I’m sure you could be saying “But that’s not fair! What is the point of starting a business if you can’t come and go when you like?” Starting a new venture requires a lot of attention and care to help it grow and develop. So it will require all your focus. Eventually, once the business is up off the ground, you can have more control over your time.

Fifth, an entrepreneur has to market themselves.
There is NO way around this. I’m not just talking about advertising your products/services. I mean you will need to meet other business people, network with potential clients. From time to time you will want to share your services and products to others through such social media networks like Facebook, Linked In and Twitter or blog about your business. When you are working with limited capital, social media can sometimes do more to get the word out on your venture than thousands of dollars of paid media.

My research in entrepreneurship has given me a different outlook on starting my own venture. I am also looking at my day-to-day life through the eyes of an entrepreneur. And in future posts, I will follow up on my experiences with an entrepreneurial mindset.

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