Who pops in your head when you think “entrepreneur”? A member of the ruling class, like Bill Gates or Oprah? Maybe someone disruptive like Elon Musk or Uber’s Travis Kalanick. It could be local success story Betsy Johnson of SwimZip, or maybe it’s the last person you saw on Shark Tank.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Just to become an entrepreneur – to take that leap – takes the right mindset. The right frame of mind is necessary to funnel the passion you have for your new business into a reality. It allows you to weather the inevitable storms, to overcome the doubters who say you should have stayed at your day job. That right mindset is even more important than the most polished business plan—no matter what they told you in your MBA program.
The formidable four
Successful entrepreneurs come from all walks of life, but many of the most effective ones I’ve known all share many of the same personality traits that help them get into the necessary mindset. Here are four of the most important:
Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart; there’s no Chicken Exit on this roller coaster. Bravery comes in mighty handy as you’re getting up and running, like maxing out your credit cards to scrape together the funds you need to take the next step. In that respect, entrepreneurs are eternally optimistic (or confident?) because they truly believe those short-term financial investments are going to pay off big in the long run.
Fearless also means courageously plowing ahead when you see an opening or an opportunity. Maybe that means asking for forgiveness later, but it’s about not being deterred by that “Do Not Enter” sign. (I’m speaking figuratively, of course; don’t trespass or break the law in the name of entrepreneurial spirit.)
Yes, you need to be fearless and a little fearful as well. A healthy dose of fear can be a good motivator. Just as fear has taught us to run from the attacking bear or walk carefully near a cliff edge, that same instinct comes in handy as you’re starting a business.
Marcia Layton Turner elaborates in Entrepreneur:
“Those who are nervous about failing can become hyper focused and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. If you feel insecure, use that emotion to drive you to achieve your business goals.”
Let’s face it, your new venture will not go like you’ve played it out in your mind. And that’s OK. Smart entrepreneurs have a mindset of flexibility from day one. It’s about keeping more than one acceptable outcome in mind. Turner explains:
“If you are willing to listen, your clients will show you which of your products or services provide the most value … Smart entrepreneurs constantly evolve, tweaking their business concepts in response to market feedback.”
This also applies to your internal processes and structure. You make think you know how your approval procedure should go or how quality control should be managed from your years of working at other companies. But you may find these simple processes need some tweaks to make the most sense for your new business. Be open to change and open to the input of others. Allow your team to be creative—to literally help you create the company that works well for everyone.
With few exceptions, your new startup will not be a get-rich-quick scheme; settle in for the long haul. And the best mindset you can bring with you is one of consistency and persistence. After all, an impressive six-pack is not achieved with one set of sit-ups; it takes repetition and commitment every day.
Approach your startup with the same perspective. It will take time to build trust with your team, to learn the best methods of communication, to see the fruits of your labor. You’re only going to get better by keeping at it, and by keeping your focus on your long-term goals. Each day will bring you one step closer to where you want to be. And those companies who focus on quality and their customers – instead of only profits – are the winners in the long run.
The perfect VC partner
Think you have the right mindset to move forward? I love the entrepreneurial spirit of Kansas City and the amazingly inspired business owners I meet. Target Hill Capital works with a select few of these startup founders because we’re careful about finding those with the right frame of mind.
Our due diligence process is extensive but crucially important to know we’ve found a partner portfolio company with the commitment to building a new business the right way. Our team works directly with your team so we can become a true partner in your success, instead of just throwing money out and leaving you to go it alone.
We’re working to build something special in Kansas City. That way the next time someone thinks “entrepreneur,” your name will be the first to come to mind.
Marshall Dougherty is a partner at Target Hill Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to building scalable growth companies and investment opportunities backed by unmatched due diligence to exceed VC success rates and investor IRR. Learn more at targethillcapital.com or share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or on LinkedIn.