Every entrepreneur I know is dismayed by the number of friends who approach them with a line such as “I have an even better idea that will change the world, and one of these days I’m going to get around to starting my own business.” I always wonder what is more important to them on an ongoing basis than changing the world, since their startups usually never materialize.
With the cost of entry to be an entrepreneur so low today, the common excuse of “lack of funding” doesn’t get much sympathy from me. People can build great ecommerce sites with free tools, smartphone apps in their spare time and use crowdfunding to bypass the dreaded angel funding and venture capital penalties. There must be something deeper that slows people down.
So if you have a great idea, and funding isn’t an overwhelming challenge, what are the real reasons that the world is filled with so many “wannabe” entrepreneurs that never get around to starting up?
Based on my own experience mentoring real entrepreneurs and likely candidates, there are at least eight categories of non-starters. I’m sure you will recognize someone you know, maybe even yourself, in one of the following groups:
1. Enjoy the dreaming, but not the implementation
These are people who often call themselves “idea people,” who like to talk about their vision and leave the implementation to some lesser beings. In my experience, there are a wealth of good ideas out there, and the harder part is converting the dream into a profitable business.
2. Unwilling or unable to acquire business implementation skills
Our culture propagates the myth that business skills, like rocket science, can only be learned in a classroom or lab. In today’s world, with a pervasively connected and constantly updated Internet knowledge base, online self-learning is always available and more productive.
3. Irrational fear of failure or embarrassment
Everyone has some fear of the unknown, and that’s a good thing for survival. Successful entrepreneurs are ones who overcome their fears and manage some risk and failures as a part of the learning process. Others are debilitated by their fear, avoid risk at all costs, and never start.
4. Equally irrational fear of dealing with success
We have all seen people on the cusp of success, who seemed to intentionally undermine their momentum, only to fail near the finish line. Of course, too much early success can kill a business, but real entrepreneurs are certain that they can grow and learn from success, just as they do from failure.
5. Insist on perfectionism, rather than pragmatism
I know very talented inventors who have been working on the same technology for 20 years, and still want to do more research to make sure it’s perfect before selling a product. In today’s rapidly changing market, perfection is a fleeting and impractical objective. Pragmatists create a minimum viable product (MVP), test it in the market and iterate to success.
6. Unable to maintain their focus and resist distractions
“Focus” is the key to success as an entrepreneur. A business that tries to do too many things for too many markets will likely excel at none and discourage all potential customers. Focus means keeping priorities straight, separating important from urgent, organizing and delegating.
7. Substitute excuses for accountability and responsibility
Excuses are efforts to rationalize failure after the fact or justification for never starting. The best attribute of a real entrepreneur is acceptance of the fact that “the buck stops here.” There are always alternatives, pivots and creativity to overcome any obstacle.
8. Simply not a self-starter, leader or decision-maker
These are the products of the industrial revolution, who wait for others to tell them what to do, and love to find fault and play the victim. When you adopt the entrepreneur lifestyle, it’s up to you to set the pace, stay positive, be the model and lead the follow-through.
If you expect someone else to make your decisions and bear the risks and responsibilities of implementation, then “one of these days” will probably never come for you. So my view of what it takes to be an entrepreneur is simply to adopt the right attitude and full accountability. People who want it bad enough will get around to it.
How long will you be a “wannabe” entrepreneur?