Misconceptions about Entrepreneurship – Time to end the nonsense!
By Fred Dawkins, author of Everyday Entrepreneur
We are entering a New Era of Entrepreneurship where there is no room for prison thinking in a world dominated by rapid change. Embracing change requires resilience and adaptability which are key characteristics for all entrepreneurs. Unfortunately the existing stereotypes for entrepreneurs discourage countless people from embracing the role. These perceptions prevent too many from taking the leap of faith required to become one. The first step in breaking free is to dispel some of the myths that are holding capable people back at a time when they need to welcome the opportunity to create and manage their own careers.
Two of the most flagrant misrepresentations that discourage people are that entrepreneurs are gamblers who take reckless risks to achieve high rewards and that entrepreneurs need to fail in order to succeed. Many people are risk averse and most of us fear failure. These traits do not disqualify us as potential entrepreneurs. In reality entrepreneurship is not about the risk that you take but entirely about the results that you achieve. Being entrepreneurial relies on the determination to make things happen especially when many others don’t see that possibility. Becoming an entrepreneur is all about the mindset not the skillset. Entrepreneurs find the way to make things happen they don’t always know the way. Too many good opportunities die prematurely because people are risk averse. More people need to make the leap of faith based on their determination and the foundation of a viable opportunity.
However, being prudent prevents you from taking reckless risk and directs you towards managed risk which is the hallmark of free enterprise. Entrepreneurs are proactive and solve problems through determination not by taking unwarranted risk. Successful entrepreneurs always have a downside plan allowing for adjustment which mitigates risk. When they make plans they analyze a range of possibilities rather than marrying themselves up to a single goal or result. In this way they build a framework which helps them adjust on a timely basis. Put your best foot forward: at the very beginning establish the viability of your opportunity. Too much time, energy and money are spent trying to convert whimsical ideas into a sound business. A high tolerance for risk is not enough to make a bad idea succeed. This is the essence of the lean startup. Test your premise. Talk to your potential market. Get feedback and adjust. Manage your risk from the outset. Don’t plunge blindly ahead on the premise that risk is an integral part of the undertaking. To be sure there is risk but recognize it and manage it as best you can.
The concept that failure is a prerequisite for success is more nonsense and stems from rationalization by those who fail initially. Successful entrepreneurs abhor failure. For many of them the fear of failing is a powerful motivation. Most manage their risk effectively, anticipate problems, adjust quickly, bounce back from setbacks and manage to avoid failure – if they do fail they learn and move on. We all learn more from failure simply because we take the time to analyze it. In that sense setbacks do make you stronger and they only constitute a failure if we give up. On the other hand success is exhilarating and it masks our faults. Just as initial failure can set the stage for success to follow; initial success can lead to a sense of entrepreneurial infallibility. When that happens, as it does to too many, the critical things that built those initial achievements are often forgotten and ignored.
In order to break down these established stereotypes we have to understand how they evolved. Both derive from two specific types of entrepreneurs. First are the misfits or rebels who either cannot or will not conform; the gamblers to whom few of us can relate. Second and even more prominent are the tech entrepreneurs immersed in the world of venture capital where risk is high, failure is frequent and the rewards for success are dramatic. However Silicon Valley is not the center of the universe and these are not the definitive entrepreneurs; they are but two types of many, both removed from the traditional economy and the rock solid problem solvers that collectively form the engine that drives the economy. Those are the achievers that do make things happen especially creating jobs while big business is chasing lower costs around the globe.
In this new era, defined by constant and rapid change, we must all become more entrepreneurial. We can choose to establish an independent business or we can choose to become disruptors within the culture of big business or within the bureaucracy of big government. Collectively we are defining a new normal; one that is less stable and more dynamic. Regardless it is in our best interest to embrace the mindset of an entrepreneur, an attitude focused on action fueled by determination. We must indeed create and manage our own careers. Job stability is disappearing. The distribution of wealth is favouring capital not labour. Upward mobility is in decline. All of this means new and different opportunities. We can become the architect of our dreams or the victim of others’. Whatever you choose; don’t let misguided and outdated ideas limit your choices. .
Fred Dawkins is a serial entrepreneur with over 40 years’ experience and achievements in manufacturing, retail, land development, consulting and import/export. He holds a B Com in commerce and finance and a M.A. in economics from the University of Toronto. His business has allowed him to travel extensively, giving him insight into the emerging global economy and making him a passionate advocate of entrepreneurship in the 21st century.
Everyday Entrepreneur [Dundurn Press] is the first book in Dawkins’ Entrepreneurial Edge series, and is currently available at all booksellers, including Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Barnes & Noble and Chapters Indigo. His novel, 2020 Hindsight, explores major contradictory trends in society in a compelling contemporary fiction narrative, and is forthcoming as an e-book on Amazon.com.
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