“Mirror, mirror, am I an entrepreneur?”. Every would-be entrepreneur asks this question, even if not always aloud.
It’s one of the two most important questions you need to answer before you start a business (the other is “Will anyone want to buy my product / service?”) and the only person who can answer this question is yourself.
Reading the biographies of successful entrepreneurs can be off-putting – since few of us reach the standards set by these paragons. And yet, behind the glitter of revisionism lies a simple truth: the entrepreneur’s journey begins with a single step. That step is a decision – partly rational, partly emotional – to make a change, to do something different, to make a difference. This is what being an entrepreneur ultimately is about.
"I’m now in my fifth year in business … it’s been far from easy … but it is possible to succeed, if you research everything, listen to your customers, change your product to suit the market … it can be difficult to juggle the business and your creativity … but the key is always to listen to your customers."
HELENA MALONE, GoldSmith
Making the decision to become an entrepreneur requires self-awareness. The checklists and other materials in the Resources section (below) will help you understand yourself and your fit with self-employment better.
And a key part of that understanding is acceptance of your own tolerance for risk. Perhaps you’re not ready to commit totally to this new way of life – so don’t: start your craft or design business part-time, minimise the initial risk, see how it grows and add extra time and resources only as you can afford to do so. If that makes for a slower, longer journey to success, so be it. On the other hand, if you’re raring to go, targeting world domination almost immediately, hold back a bit: success sometimes comes quickly, but it’s always preceded by a period of hard work – have you served your ‘apprenticeship’ as an entrepreneur yet? Walk, then run.
And, if you feel that you don’t know enough about business to set up on your own, there are plenty of Start Your Own Business courses available from Local Enterprise Offices in every county and other providers and there’s a wide range of helpful information and advice on this site and elsewhere.
So, back to the question: Are you an entrepreneur? The best answer is “No. But I want to be an entrepreneur. I’m willing to work to become one”. If that’s your answer, read on.
The success of a new business depends on the drive, personality, experience and skills, network, financial situation and the commitment of the promoter(s).
Use self-assessment to understand your skills, abilities and experience and their value to your new business. If you find weaknesses – don’t be too concerned: identifying weaknesses is the first step towards overcoming them.
Entrepreneurship is both physically and mentally very demanding. That’s why it’s important to establish why you want to become self-employed, what’s important to you and where you want to be in five years’ or 10 years’ time. Have you enough drive for all the hard work and effort required to make your business succeed?
To assess your own personality, answer the questions in the Self-assessment Exercises (see Resources section below). Then ask two other people that you know well and trust to give their opinions too.
Don’t be too concerned if you answer “No” to a question (or one of your opinion-givers answers “No” for you). Instead, reflect on why you (or they) said “No” and consider what you can do to change.
Your own value system is an important element in self-assessment, since your business must reflect your way of thinking, your way of life and your values. Use the Self-assessment Exercises (see Resources section below) to help you to identify your value system.
Experience and skills
This element of self-assessment comes down to the question: “What do you bring to your business?”. What in your education, training or experience will be beneficial to it? Use the questions in the Self-assessment Exercises (see Resources section below) to help you to assess yourself here.
“It is not what you know, it is who you know.” A network of connections is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs starting a new business. High achievers succeed in part because they develop and use a strong network of personal contacts. You know people, who know other people, who know other people ... and before you know it, you have personal introductions to clients, investors, and suppliers – starting from an established relationship. This is the basis of social networking: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn all work on this principle.
Your Financial Situation
Don’t forget that you need to earn an income from your new business. Savings may mean that you can avoid taking a salary initially, but eventually your business must be able to afford to pay you for your efforts. Use the Self-assessment Exercises (see Resources section below) to calculate the minimum salary you need.
Your total and utter commitment to your new business is needed before you start, otherwise there is no point going ahead. Use the questions in the Self-assessment Exercises (see Resources section below) to assess your commitment. Get at least two other people to give their opinions on your level of commitment too. You might not like their answers but they will help you to see yourself as others see you – and perhaps as you really are.
Involve Your Business Partner(s)
This self-assessment focuses on you as an entrepreneur working on his/her own. But you may be working with a business partner or partners, or as a member of a team – if so, make sure that everyone on your team reads through this section and completes the exercises.