It is a bold promise that we will be able to exhaustively narrow down all the skills and qualities that will make you a successful entrepreneur.
Each one of the most famous and inspiring examples we know has a strategy of their own. The common thing between them, however, is that no one is perfect. Far from it. As a human-beings we have flaws and we make mistakes. Our egos exist which (to a larger or lesser extend) can trip us. And that’s ok.
You can be successful even if not perfect!
I am the founder of ILC International, an endeavour that’s now 5 years old but it is as much of a start up as it is an established business. I am a CEO, an ex-consultant in capital markets, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an organisational psychologist. ILC is not my first independent project. I drive a car, I exercise often (but not as often as I wished). I’ve been through a burn out, suffer from cluster headaches and have been promoted 3 times in the space of 4 years while working for large corporates. Am I a successful entrepreneur?
It depends. Many people would say “no” but many others would say “yes”. What’s the truth?
A successful entrepreneur is more than someone who’s starting new ventures every other day. It means that s/he is someone with the right attitude towards a business and the determination and grit to achieve success (according to Brian Armstrong).
What do you think now? It’s vague isn’t it and it opens up possibilities for interpretation as well as confusion.
Because of the existing vagueness, this blog post will look not into the ideas behind success but rather, into the PRACTICAL PSYCHOLOGICAL side of what is required to be a successful entrepreneur.
1. You have got to know what you want on a PERSONAL level.
What is the goal or goals that you are after and what really matters to you. Without this self-knowledge it will be impossible to endure the challenging times which are an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey.
The tricky bit here is that in theory each one of us knows… but do we? If you are able to clearly articulate what you want out of your life and your journey out loud to someone, then you are good to go. If not and you find it difficult to be succinct and to the point - it doesn’t mean you are broken or that you don’t know.
It just means that you have to invest the time in writing it all down first, then practice it with someone, then keep in check how you feel when you say it – do you believe it? Is it yours fully? If not – go back to the drawing board until you are crystal clear in that moment of time.
Now, let’s be real, do you think Beyoncé and JZ wrote their dreams and goals on paper? Or that Richard Branson did? Or that Anthony Robins did? The truth is that the way it’s executed and the way in which “clarity” manifested differ. Some wrote it, some didn’t. Some thought about it long and hard, others believe they were divinely guided. It doesn’t matter how it happened or how the person chooses to talk about it.
What matters is that all successful people (be it entrepreneurs or not), know their personal goals & personal truths and that helps them to be stable in the times of trials.
2. There needs to be something bigger than yourself involved in the pursuit of your Entrepreneurial Success.
Easy to say, almost noble to think of but aren’t we all taking care of ourselves above all else?
You CAN be a successful entrepreneur if you are driven by motives which are only personal and self-centred. A lot of people have big pain that pushes them to move mountains and be successful by all social standards. Pain (I choose to believe) is part of us and of life in general. It is always present where great things are achieved.
HOWEVER, if you as an entrepreneur are only motivated by satisfying your inner needs, wants and wishes, healing your own pain, the journey becomes very difficult if not impossible. Be honest about what you want out of your entrepreneurial endeavour and goal. Is it only about you or is there more to it?
Find inspiration in greater things than yourself. Find meaning and try to see yourself as a catalyst for things which are even greater than your imagination. Why is this crucial?
We are only humans, with finite abilities, time and skills. But when things extent beyond ourselves, then we become more. More able, more motivated, more supported…
"If you can offer a free tier that provides a lot of value, it will naturally help your product to spread much more rapidly." Melanie Perkins, Co-founder of Canva
3. Successful Entrepreneurs take consistent action and are willing to compete.
There is no other way around it. The internal, mental game is 50% of your success, the other 50% are the actions you take as a result. Doing is what distinguishes the successful. It’s not a complex idea to get.
When you feel most discouraged, most stressed, most insecure – it usually stems from LACK OF DOING!
Sign up for that course, call that person, read that book, publish the blog, go to the training session… take a concrete step forward, instead of remaining in the realm of thinking alone. It’s easier to do something that scares you than to keep thinking about it.
4. Entrepreneurs are not always Confident but their bigger Whys make them willing to try new things and to make fools of themselves if needed.
No one likes to be the worst at something, no likes to finish last, to be the complete newbie, to make a fool of themselves, to be criticized…
However, as an entrepreneur and in the name of the greater things you’d like to achieve and show the world, it is worth adopting a mind-set that encourages you to try new things and be willing to make a fool of yourself. It is a small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.
The more you do it, the easier it becomes to like the process of learning and that of trial and error.
5. Entrepreneurs are willing to learn more than the average folk.
I won’t expand on this unnecissarily, but I’d just like you to remember that if you want to learn something you can.
It’s not too late neither it is too soon. From confidence to public speaking to particular skill – there is someone out there that can teach you and you are someone that is capable of learning quick.
6. Successful Entrepreneurs promote themselves shamelessly & consistently.
I saw a Netflix documentary about lady Gaga. She is anything but perfect yet very successful and incredible in what she does. In the movie, her latest album had just gone out. She was already very famous and very rich.
Do you know what she did that made a massive impression on me? She went to different shops, where people couldn't recognise her at a first glance AND the incredible lady Gaga, started putting her CDs at the front of the shelves herself if they weren't there already. One by one....
She asked one shop assistant how many they’ve sold and how many they have in store… she was shamelessly continuing to promote herself. Did she need it?
Didn’t she have millions of followers already? She had it all and she still kept going back to basics because that’s what it takes. Be more like lady Gaga. Do your thing extremely well, improve and be the best, but make sure that you tell the world about it.
7. They are curious multitaskers.
Learn about everything that your business does. Learn about the finances, about the accounting, about the marketing, about the legal aspect of things.
Get to know your customers and KEEP getting to know them. A one-time profiling is not sufficient. Interact and don’t disengage from their world and reality.
You don’t need to become an expert at everything, but you have to be savvy.
8. Successful Entrepeneurs are NOT always O.K. & they ask for help.
This last point is an incredibly important one. The image of entrepreneurs that we have created as a society imposes the expectation that successful entrepeneurs are people who are always on top of their game.
That cannot be further from the truth as those individuals are the ones exposed to significant levels of stress, very unique set of challenges and believe it or not 50% of them are likely to report a mental health condition, some being prevalent with founders.
In particular, founders are:
• 2X more likely to suffer from depression
• 6X more likely to suffer from ADHD
• 3X more likely to suffer from substance abuse
• 10X more likely to suffer from bi-polar disorder
• 2X more likely to have psychiatric hospitalization
• 2X more likely to have suicidal thoughts
(Michael Freeman’s study - Are Entrepreneurs “Touched with Fire”? 2015)
Ultimately, entrepeneurs are people. We are different from each other, capable, driven and flawed all at the same time. We hope this blog post gave you an indication of what is a must and some directions that you haven't though of previously.
For us, these are the non-hygiene factors that are worth drawing your attention to, but as specialist in the work with entrepeneurs and high-performers, it must be said that because of our passion there is a lot more we can share on the topic.
Contact us if you have questions or your interest was arroused to explore deeper.
Love & Respect,
Valentina (Ina) Dolmova