Lately I have been working on a Mansmith Public Seminar that I will be conducting on Entrepreneurship. As I have researched and dug deep into my experience base, it has evolved into a focus on harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit in organizations both big and small.
What you may ask do I have in terms of experience as an entrepreneur? Wasn’t I a corporate warrior? Yes I was a corporate warrior but now I realize I was an entreprenurial corporate warrior.
Luckily for me, my bosses realized I was entrepreneurial and assigned me to projects that required the entrepreneurial spirit. What type of projects were these? New Product development. New category development. New business development. New market development. I have developed and launched new products from frozen yoghurt to cough and cold medicine. Developed and launched new product categories such as intimate apparel and house hold care. I have prospected and developed distributorships in countries such as Brunei, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. I have also researched, assessed country potential in Indochina and opened Vietnam.
So what does it take to be an entrepreneur? To my mind there are 4 key characteristics:
1. The ability to ‘see’. This refers to the ability of an individual to see in their minds what they want to achieve and create. New business development does not have a clear framework; the entrepreneurial individual provides the framework based on their vision. The ability to “see” also includes the ability of the entrepreneurial individual to make others see their vision.
2.The ability to ‘do’. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Vision with action can change the world.” This is a saying I have never forgotten because it is entirely true. We have all seen how Steve Jobs or Bill Gates have transformed vision into reality. Closer to home, how many times, have you thought to yourself, “I think XYZ would be a good product or service to sell or offer,” then you do nothing about this idea?Worse, over time this way of thinking becomes a pattern. The ability to ‘do’ is as important as the ability to ‘see’.
3. The ability to deal with the unknown. An entrepreneurial individual has a high tolerance for risk. There are no guarantees that an idea will pan out, that finances will be available, that the market will accept your new idea. In my experience, many entrepreneurs begin their entrepreneurial career young in life, when they do not have the responsibility of supporting a family. I was given my big break in Avon when my boss was offered the position of heading a new corporate venture which he turned down because of the high risk it entailed. I, in contrast, grabbed the opportunity. I was newly married, my husband and I were both working, and I was young enough to find a new job somewhere else if the project did not work out. Honestly, the project was risky but I was able to demonstrate my abilities as a leader and a ‘doer’. In fact, the small organization that worked with me of 12 people also went on to bigger positions. That group of 12 gave birth to 3 heads of companies, and at least 2 department heads. I am a proud mama.
4. The ability to persevere. Nothing ever works precisely as planned. The road to the vision is jagged. You move forward. You move backward. You move sideward. And you also sometimes just stay where you are. Entrepreneurial individuals need to be resilient and strong of heart. Almost all of the new projects I worked on come to a point where you come close to shutting down the project, usually because the numbers don’t work. I have often thought to myself ‘I wonder if I’ll have a job tomorrow”. Somehow, you pick yourself up, address the issues and move the project forward often in a different direction.
Some of you might think, “I lack some or all of these characteristics. I can’t be an entrepreneur.” However, knowing what the key characteristics of a successful entrepreneur are is the first step to be able to harness the entrepreneurial spirit within you or others.
* * *
About the author
Malu Dy Buncio is the Chief Business Development Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc., the only training and consultancy firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. She is also available to facilitate customized strategic and business planning sessions for clients. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.