by Pamela Hawley
I often get questions as to whether being an entrepreneur is the right pathway for someone. To be honest, if you’re asking that question, it might not be right—but, it might. What I am speaking about is a long-term entrepreneur. The kind who wants to build an enduring product and service. Not someone who starts something, and leaves.
So when people say to me “I think I want to be an entrepreneur,” here are the top five things I would consider as a first time, potential entrepreneur. First, let’s talk about, quite simply, “the feel” of being an entrepreneur.
1. Entrepreneurs have a burn inside until it’s reality.
It burns. It’s not something you can ignore. When I was starting UniversalGiving®, I had big white boards in my room with black capital letters on them that said “YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP.” That was my greeting every morning. Doesn’t matter how many tough things happen, you’re going to make this happen. Blocks will come. You will overcome.
That might seem very bold to you, but why was I doing it? As much as I wanted it, as much as I had the drive—I was still afraid. There is a difference between fear and overcoming it, and fear and questioning if you should start something. There was no question. But those signs were my encouragement. No one will ever encourage you more than you. You need to have a great, “best friend” relationship with yourself so that you are honest about your capabilities, what you can do, and what you WILL COMMIT TO DO REGARDLESS. That’s the deal. If this scares you, that’s okay. Why not be a part of an entrepreneurial team? You get many benefits and the excitement of creating, without the full weight of leadership.
2. Make the world better or faster.
Your idea in some way inspires you to make the world better. It’s usually from your personal experience or observation. You want to use the product—and you want others to use it too. That doesn’t mean your product is necessarily about philanthropy; it could be making a task easier or quicker, such as Evernote or Wayz. These simple apps make your day more enjoyable. You feel like you have more power over your life.
3. You have to want to build.
A lot of people have ideas. And after you launch, many will tell you they “had the same idea.” But you built it. Now, you need to build to a different level—so that your idea and company stick around. Find people who want to operate in a stable role. You need good, solid managers who champion your product and help you build it across sales, marketing, product development, client service. They ensure that all the nuts and bolts are in place, and with excellence. That’s a good manager, and they’re rare (we’ll cover the importance of managers in another article).
4. Build your advisor teams immediately.
This cannot be about you. You need to surround yourself with many other supporters, as soon as you can. This is a Board of Directors and Board of Advisors. But some are informal confidantes and supporters. All of them help push your idea and service forward—it’s not just your paid staff.
5. All of the above makes you happy.
Think the above sounds aggressive or stressful? That’s where entrepreneurs can not only tolerate it but are also inspired by it. Yes, we’re crazy. And that’s ok. And we need other people at our organization who are not inspired by craziness, and can provide stability.
Being an entrepreneur is challenging. We are inspired about the win of climbing to the top of the mountain. We should celebrate and enjoy the view, and take some time for gratitude—which should be done more often. But we’re not sitting there breaking out a picnic. We’re looking over the lay of creation and at the next horizon. “What mountain am I scaling next?”
If you are reading this, you might understand why I get a little concerned when people say “I think I want to be an entrepreneur” or “What qualities do I need to be one?” It’s not a position, it’s a life-calling. It’s not on the requirements of a job rec, it’s in your heart. That doesn’t mean entrepreneurship can’t be cultivated within, and through time, and with classes. I wouldn’t say it’s the norm. But as an entrepreneur, I am not going to say “it’s impossible.” That’s just negative and limiting, and good entrepreneurs should be open to any potential—especially that of the amazing human being.
Pamela Hawley is the founder and CEO of UniversalGiving, an award-winning nonprofit helping people to donate and volunteer with top performing, vetted organizations all over the world. She is a winner of the Jefferson Award (the Nobel Prize in Community Service) and has been invited to three Social Innovation events at the White House. She also writes Living and Giving, a blog with the mission of “Inspiring Leaders to Live with Excellence and Love.”Fortune 500 companies.