Want to start your own business? Before you start hunting for that one great idea, the question to ask yourself might be “why”? If the answer is that you long to become fabulously rich, you’d better just slink back into your cubicle and call it a day. Research by Dr. Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota has determined that not only is money a bad motivator, but that chasing it – as opposed to less tangible goals – can actually doom a business.
The reality is that starting a business is a real test of personal work ethic and internal fortitude, one that often doesn’t even deliver enough to make a living, let alone build an empire. Entrepreneurs who take that risk are able to do so precisely because they’re motivated by things other than money. But there’s some irony here in that those who fail to follow the money are more likely to find it in the end.
With that in mind, here are some signs that you have the right personality to propel a new business – and to profit from it.
1) You’re competitive
The best entrepreneurs play to win and take losing seriously. This means they generally aren’t people who will willingly settle for second, whether in a footrace or a race to get a product to market. If you were the kid who bolted to the front of the lunch line, or bounced and waved in your seat to be the first to answer the teacher’s questions, chances are you have some entrepreneurial energy. After all, any truly great idea that enjoys even a modest amount of success is likely to be copied. If there’s anything that’ll help an entrepreneur succeed – or even just survive – it’s a fighting spirit to rise to the top, no matter the obstacles.
2) You have a sense of adventure
Being an entrepreneur is all about being uncomfortable: economic uncertainty, long hours and unforeseen obstacles are all part of the game. And while great entrepreneurs definitely aren’t crazy risk takers, they are the kind of people who can stand to put themselves in uncomfortable situations (like asking people for money to support their idea, or quitting a high-paying job to pursue it). That’s because great entrepreneurs have a sense of adventure. They’re willing to dive into the thick of things with the confidence that somehow, some day, they’ll come out on the other end…better, stronger and more profitable.
3) You love to make things
Creativity is something that’s often misattributed as belonging solely to loft-dwelling artists with deft hands and witty prose. In reality, creative powers can be applied to just about anything, be it the written word, paint on canvas, or an innovative way to make a profit. Building a business that succeeds, first and foremost, is about delivering something of value. The challenge is that with so many products and services on the market, figuring out what needs remain to be filled takes some serious thinking. So does delivering those goods in the best way possible.
If you live to be told what to do, you aren’t an entrepreneur. If you thrive on coming up with ideas and figuring out how to make them work...you just might be.
4) You like collaborating
According to the research from the University of Minnesota, one thing that happens when we’re focused on monetary motivators is that we become more reluctant to ask for help or accept direction from others. A sense of individualism is definitely an important quality for an entrepreneur to possess, but any truly great businessperson knows that it takes a team to make a company grow and thrive. Indeed, we often hear a lot about the clever entrepreneurs who lead top companies - people like Steve Jobs, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. What we hear about less often are the teams those top talents ultimately rely on. If you want to be a business leader, you should know that behind every inspiring leader there’s an even better team.
5) You long to make a difference
It sounds trite, but the best entrepreneurs aim to make an impact, not just on their own lives, but on the world around them. In 1993, the late Steve Jobs told the Wall Street Journal, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me ... going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful – that’s what matters to me.” That was 10 years before he was diagnosed with the pancreatic cancer that would eventually take his life, and still a few years from when Apple developed the iDevices that would literally change the world. As it turned out, the highly influential Jobs worked right up to his dying day. Had Jobs been in it for the money, he could have cashed out his shares and spent the rest of his life on a private beach somewhere. We can only imagine that he stuck it out for so long – and garnered so much success – because his was a labor of love. Many other top entrepreneurs would say the very same thing.
The work is the reward
Starting and owning a business is often idealized. And while some business owners do enjoy fantastic success, statistically speaking, many small businesses don’t make it past a few years. That doesn’t mean that aspiring entrepreneurs should quit before they even start, but they should examine why they want to ditch their jobs to pursue their own agendas. Money is one reason, but as it turns out, work that is a reward in and of itself is more likely to pay, both in money and in all the things it can’t be used to buy.
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