A former business owner herself and graduate of the Urban Hope Entrepreneur program out of Green Bay, Michelle Madl is currently the business development coordinator for Nicolet Area Technical College, where she assists and coaches new and existing entrepreneurs and small business owners with business plan development, provides professional development workshops throughout the area and coordinates and teaches Nicolet College’s eSeed Entrepreneur Program. She holds a baccalaureate degree from Mount Mary College in behavioral science and a master’s in management and organizational behavior from Silver Lake College. Madl is also the current president of the Northwoods Entrepreneurs Club and Northwoods Women in Business, and sits on the state advisory board for the Small Business Development Centers. She can be contacted at email@example.com or (715) 365-4492.
I am often asked, “Michelle, do you think this is a bad time or a good time to consider starting a business?” My response to that question is always the same…”Yes!” In some respects, it is the best time and in another respect, perhaps not so much. The bottom line is this: Do your research and make a plan! Starting one’s own business and being in control of one’s own destiny, after all, has been coined the “American dream.” If this is in fact true for you, then do yourself a huge favor and do the necessary research. Research is more than just identifying whether or not your business idea is a feasible one. I will discuss that in more detail in future articles; however, you must first acknowledge the definition of “entrepreneur.”
Babson College defines entrepreneurship as “a way of thinking and acting that is opportunity-obsessed, holistic in approach and leadership balanced for the purpose of wealth creation and capture.” The Ewing Marian Kauffman Foundation defines it as “a process through which people and teams pursue opportunity, use resources and initiate change to create value.” I first received my entrepreneurial training in 2007 through the Urban Hope Entrepreneurial Program in Green Bay, where we were provided a definition of entrepreneurship as being “the creation of value by people and organizations connecting together to implement an idea through the application of innovation, compassion, knowledge, adherence and a willingness to take a risk.”
So in reading these varied definitions, where each possesses a slightly different twist on the term “entrepreneurship,” you will find one common word: “create” or “creation!” Are entrepreneurs born with the characteristics needed to be successful or are these characteristics created and/or developed through growth, experience, education, hard knocks, and trial and error?
To begin with, successful entrepreneurs do not waste time on their weaknesses. They capitalize on their strengths, build on them and attract and inspire others with complementary skills and vision. This is why being an entrepreneur has been considered an “evolutionary process.” There are companies that are good at improving what they are already doing, and there are companies that are good at extending what they are already doing, and there are companies that are good at innovation. Successful companies are led by individuals who have the ability to do all three: improve, extend and innovate. Entrepreneurship equals spark! Entrepreneurs and small business owners are the sparkplug in the engine of economic activity. They are the people with the special ability to turn an opportunity into profit by assembling the resources: financial, labor, technology, facilities, machinery and information. Once you build a successful business, you can do it over and over again; the principles remain the same.
The most common characteristic traits of a successful entrepreneur have been identified as follows:
Desire. Entrepreneurs are driven by desire, passion and vision. For example, the launching retailer has already envisioned the layout of their store, the products they will carry, the merchandising of their product, logo, signage, etc., before they ever think of opening their doors.
Energy will benecessary in order to bring the vision to fruition.
Entrepreneurs will also have the capability of thriving on uncertainty. I’ve often said that taking the leap of starting a new business is like jumping off a tall building backwards and blindfolded, and hoping you land on your feet. The only sure things in life are taxes and death. However, the successful entrepreneur demonstrates a characteristic of determination. This comes from the passion and drive needed to start, grow, sustain and ultimately know when to let go of your business.
Responsibility is a character trait that encompasses personal, professional and social aspects. Personal responsibility means having the self-discipline necessary to be accountable for the decisions that you will make as it relates to your business. Professional responsibility is continuing to educate yourself about economic trends, marketing trends, becoming aware of the character traits of your target customer and developing your own knowledge, skills and abilities to maintain the status of “subject matter expert.” Finally, when you become an entrepreneur you should think about what social responsibility you might want to take on. By definition, social responsibility is acting with concern and sensitivity, and awareness of the impact of your actions on others, particularly the disadvantaged. Ask yourself, are you using recycled paper products for your business? Are you donating to a local homeless shelter? A growing number of consumers consider such factors when deciding whether to patronize a business. Ultimately, your social responsibility quotient could potentially make a difference to your bottom line.
It’s uncanny how many people actually think that owning your own business is glamorous, meaning you now have the freedom to do your own thing, take vacations whenever you want and spend all your profits. What they don’t realize is the outrageous amount of blood, sweat and tears you have or will put into your business. They don’t realize that you have to take the blame for every single thing that goes wrong. Often, they have no idea how many times a successful small business owner actually fell on his or her face before finally getting that big breakthrough. One of the most difficult things to learn and develop during the times of failure, disappointment, rejection and setback is the character trait of self-confidence or self-esteem. Self-esteem does not come from everything coming easily and effortlessly; rather, self-esteem comes from having worked yourself until you’re almost in tears and then having someone tell you that you’re working too hard and ought to just quit. Real self-esteem is deciding to learn from your mistakes instead of giving up and quitting. It’s being financially bankrupt and giving it another try anyway because you have faith that with one more try, you’re going to make it all come together. You may not have a lot of self-esteem when you launch into self-employment, but you will learn it along the way, for if you don’t you’re not likely to make it. Self-esteem is developed through perseverance and adherence.
Perhaps you are an existing business owner…perhaps you are thinking of becoming a small business launcher. Regardless of where you are, continue to create. Create, develop and strengthen the character traits that have proven time and time again to be the key ingredients of a successful entrepreneur.