While entrepreneurship may not always be the easiest way to way to get yourself overseas, it is the most sustainable, provides the most flexibility, has the least amount of risk, and allows for the greatest social impact. In this series we will explore who can be an entrepreneur and the benefits I mentioned in much greater detail.
In this first post of the series, we will explore WHO qualifies to be an entrepreneur and the one skill all entrepreneurs MUST possess to be successful.
Who is an Entrepreneur?
Many people believe that to be an entrepreneur you have to have certain personality traits or meet a mysterious set of unwritten criteria. Or, they believe that you must possess a specific set of technical skills. This is a bunch of hogwash. I’ve met, trained, and consulted with hundreds of entrepreneurs and I’ve seen people with every imaginable personality type and skill set start successful businesses.
Both of my parents spent most of their lives working a single job. This was a safe and reliable option that they tried to ingrain in my brothers and I. However, this would backfire. My oldest brother is an international recruiter, married to a diplomat, and moves to a new country every couple of years. My middle brother is an actor in New York who frequently travels to Russia. And of course, I’ve started multiple businesses in East Africa and in the US.
Yet growing up, the thought of being an entrepreneur never crossed my mind. I’m sure this was partially due to the influence of my parents, but also because I didn’t fit the stereotypes for entrepreneurs. I’m an introvert. I’m pretty calm and don’t get overly excited about anything. I tend to like routine and get annoyed when something comes up that I don’t expect. I’m not even an idea guy who comes up with the latest and greatest ideas.
Even after starting my first business, I didn’t consider myself an entrepreneur. I didn’t realize that I’m an entrepreneur until I was in the middle of starting a second business with my father-in-law. He has been an entrepreneur most of his life and helped me embrace the idea that it wasn’t your personality or skill set that made you an entrepreneur. It was more about being willing to take the opportunity, when it presented itself, to start something. I realized that taking hold of that opportunity can be more freeing, more fulfilling, and less risky than working as an employee.
Anyone Can Be an Entrepreneur
As I work with entrepreneurs and reflect on my own story, I’ve come to the conclusion that anyone can be an entrepreneur. Don’t read this wrong. I didn’t say everyone should be an entrepreneur, I said anyone can be an entrepreneur.
Some people are perfectly happy working for someone else. They are comfortable putting their job security in the hands of someone else, happily avoiding the big, stressful decisions that come with running a business. There is nothing wrong with this. Even for entrepreneurs, this is often what you need to do during a season of life. I’m currently holding this type of job while I’m starting and growing two other businesses.
However, people often feel they don’t have the right personality or skills to start their own business. We often tell ourselves this lie because we are afraid we might fail or are not sure we want to do the work necessary to build a startup business. We also hear this lie from others because they are afraid we might fail or are unwilling to try themselves.
Sometimes this lie comes from successful entrepreneurs because they want to think they are somehow special and have something others don’t.
In a sense they are right. Every successful entrepreneur must possess one skill. But it is often not what you or they might think and it is available to everyone.
The One Thing Every Entrepreneur Must Have
The only skill every entrepreneur must have is the ability to know yourself. That is it. I know you are asking yourself “Stu, what does that even mean?” Well, here it is. You need to know what your strengths, weaknesses, and expectations are.
You need to know what you are good at
What are the skills that you excel at, love to do, or at least don’t mind doing? Everyone has things in a business setting that come naturally to them. You are no different.
There are going to be problems or situations that you easily understand and solve. These may be areas where you perform well in at work or where people seek out your advice. These are the areas you need to focus on when creating your business.
You need to know what you are either not good at or hate doing
Even if you have the ability to do a set of tasks, if you are usually going to put them off because you don’t like to do them, it will slow the growth of your business. You need to seek out others who will help you in these areas.
While you can hire someone to help with these, you don’t have to. Seek out friends, mentors, and advisors who are willing to help you. At times, every entrepreneur is going to have to deal with issues they would rather avoid, but if you can find people to help these items land on your plate less frequently, you will be more likely to succeed.
You need to know your expectations
You need to know your goals and build your startup around them. For example, my goal is to build a business that has flexible time commitments, can go with us if we move, provides for my family’s budget, and has enough leftover to take two international family trips per year. That is pretty specific and has a target revenue goal.
With this in mind, I don’t need to aim to create a huge tech company like Google that will consume my time. And I don’t need to create a small retail store that locks me into a schedule and forces me to be location dependent. Knowing your goals will help you create the right type and size of your business. Then you can decide if you want modify your goals if your business continues to grow.
Realize that no matter what your background, personality, or skill set, you can set out on your own entrepreneurial journey and be successful. But as you do, make sure you take the time to know yourself and build a business that allows you to use your strengths and meets your goals and expectations. Then, gather the people you need around you to succeed.
Are you still unsure about what goals you should set or what possibilities are available? I’ll explore these topics throughout the rest of this series.