Should I be an entrepreneur?
I’m often asked that question. What surprises me is the range of people who ask it – from school leavers to teachers to medical consultants at the John Radcliffe. Fascinating.
So what’s the answer?
You could argue that if you have to ask the question then the answer must be ‘no’! There is some truth in that. As many of you will know, the early phase of being an entrepreneur is a lonely, financially unstable, brutally exhausting place to be. So if there is a shard of doubt in your mind then you should, as my mum would say, ‘go and get a proper job’ instead.
But let’s dig deeper.
People often assume that entrepreneurs start companies to make a load of money. Wrong. Very wrong. Entrepreneurs start companies because they want to make an impact. Actually – because they NEED to make an impact. I haven’t met a single successful entrepreneur who isn’t fundamentally insecure. It’s this wonderful insecurity that drives us all to prove something to ourselves and others. ‘If you don’t think I can do it then WATCH THIS!’ is the petulant but critical inner-mantra of impact.
So the first half of the answer to ‘should I be an entrepreneur?’ is to go into the bathroom, sit on the loo, turn off the light, put your head in your hands and be honest with yourself: are you fundamentally driven to prove your demons wrong? And get used to spending lots of time in the loo with the light off and your head in your hands, gently rocking from side to side.
Now for the other half of the answer…
This is where things get really tricky. You’ve done the dark moment in the loo and admitted the insecurity. Now for the conundrum: do you also have undying, unwavering, limitless self-belief? Daft but true! All successful entrepreneurs have a seemingly paradoxical profile of fundamental insecurity but equally fundamental self-belief.
While this might seem contradictory, it is also entirely rational. The insecurity gets you out of bed and the self-belief keeps you going when the entire world is telling you that you are wrong. And you really must expect the latter to happen.
Think about it: at the outset, most markets want entrepreneurs to fail, at least initially. Incumbents want to see the back of you because you are trying to disrupt their cosy margins. Customers don’t trust you because you have no credibility and suppliers feel likewise (especially the banks). Potential employees would be mad to risk their careers with you. Ex-colleagues – those with proper jobs – would love you to fail because it eases their guilt about not having the guts to go-it-alone themselves. It is loneliness personified. And without hardcore self-belief, you’ll be back in the loo and will never be coming out.
There we have it. A simple formula: massive insecurity + undying self-belief = successful entrepreneur.
If you are an entrepreneur: do you agree? If you want to be an entrepreneur – what do you think now?
Posted by Stuart Miller on February 13, 2012 | 4 Comments