So you think you’re an entrepreneur?

Given that it’s Global Entrepreneurship Week I decided, lawyer that I am, that I would start with the definition of an entrepreneur…and the one that I found that was simple to understand is:

“A person who sets up a business or businesses taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”

This seems to be much broader than the common understanding today, which is associated with start- ups, tech companies and scalable businesses. By using a wide definition, it includes much more of us in the category of entrepreneurs. And this is a good thing. Here’s why.

When we look at the global distribution of wealth, it is clear that systems which are more capitalistic in nature have a more unequal distribution and the gap has only accelerated with time. This is clearly unsustainable both for people and the planet in general. I believe that by embracing risk and doing your own entrepreneurial thing you can actually close that gap and have a long term impact on the fairer distribution of wealth, make a more personal contribution and even make global more local again.

Here are some of the personality traits I have seen in entrepreneurs that are key to success:

  1. An idea. Not just a general thought but actually one which can be created, delivered or achieved
  2. Passion and energy above and beyond the 9-5 type
  3. A structured or organizational mind to plan execution of the idea
  4. An ability to put together a team… and keep it together
  5. An audacious sales pitch and belief the business will succeed
  6. True grit to withstand the pressure and fear of failure which is a daily occurrence
  7. A risk taker with ability to raise finance to keep the business going
  8. An awareness of what they know … and do not know, and an ability to attract the missing talent to the business
  9. A flexible approach to pivot, alter or change the business course as necessary
  10. Motivation which comes form the core need to succeed

Whether it’s the fruit and veg seller in the local market or a tech entrepreneur, many of these personality traits are the same. So, do you think you have what it takes? And if you do, what’s your next step?

This week I spoke at a webinar on Angel Investing and it was great to hear from a speaker who had 40 hugely successful years in business, initially as an entrepreneur in the satellite business, at a time when nobody was. More surprisingly, she was a woman very much in the man’s world of aerospace engineering.  Listening to the challenges she faced all those years ago, they are for sure still the same ones facing entrepreneurs today. Living on the knife edge between failure and success and knowing the implications of both in real time. Above all else, still firmly holding on your belief to succeed so “just doing it” as the Nike man said.

Today, not much has changed in terms of gender representation in high tech and other sectors and some of our discussion focused on the importance of everyone, irrespective of gender, geography or status having access to the appropriate levels of education so that we develop better technology and businesses to serve us all.  In that sense much work remains to be done so that everyone who wants to become an entrepreneur can do it.

This time of COVID transformation and upheaval has given us all time for thought and reflection and it has certainly illustrated how interconnected we all are.  It is also causing global unemployment as never before as entire sectors and businesses fail. Hundreds of millions of people globally will be without a job for some time. Our expectation is that Governments and the state will jump in and support and that will be done for some time in some places but it is not a long term solution. Entrepreneurs will be born out of necessity.

There are many who will argue that this period is an adjustment, the so called “new normal” and there is no going back to the “old normal”. Irrespective of what the future will bring to us, we are at least in a  position to reflect on how we live, what we consume and what our values are as we create this new world post COVID. Many will have lost jobs and will never return to the workforce as it was. There will be a huge shift in re-skilling and we may also use job loss as a trigger to finally become the entrepreneur we always dreamed we might be. In my view this would be a remarkable shift in the capitalist system and one that could genuinely bring about social change, local resourcing and a more equal world.

So, as we celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, there will be many more entrepreneurs emerging from this crisis. This is a good thing as it brings new creative energy and commitment to taking financial risks in hope of a profit. Global organizations, institutions, banks and states need to adjust their policies and mechanisms to support entrepreneurs and the process of work force transformation.

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