No matter how seasoned an entrepreneur, every business startup has its share of surprises. Whether the entire business idea changes radically during the early stages or an unconsidered market segment emerges as the top consumers, expect the unexpected. How a business owner deals with surprises is a major factor that determines who finds great success and who muddles through.
Certain personality traits are very advantageous in dealing with the unexpected. Balanced perseverance, flexibility, rationality, and confidence go a long way in coping with rapid changes in business. But even if you weren’t born with an overdose of these traits, there are ways to work on improving your entrepreneurial personality. Successful and honest entrepreneurs will tell you that the actual experience of struggling through a startup changes pieces of your personality…mostly for the better.
Balanced perseverance is important. That is, successful entrepreneurs cannot give up too easily, but when the writing is on the wall, they need to be willing to change direction. Most people don’t cut it in the startup world because they are lacking stick-to-it-iveness. At the first sign of discomfort, they give up on the whole deal. Entrepreneurs who succeed tend to thrive on the minor failures of a startup, and see them as opportunities to know what not to do the next time around. The struggle of finding the right marketing tools and messages, operations standards, product mix and other winning features is a motivator, not a dealbreaker. As Henry Ford said, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”
Flexibility is critical in a startup. Very few business ideas maintain their original form through the planning process, and usually change a little more during the early stages. Consumers are finicky and their tastes change rapidly, so everything from the product itself to the messages used to market it must keep up with the times. Those who tend to unwaveringly stick to a single path (with blinders on) will miss out on any number of opportunities to take their business to the next level. For those entrepreneurs who have difficulty changing direction, the best advice is to make a point of staying on top of trends in the industry AND planning the business in shorter time-period increments. Using detailed, years-ahead planning drives blinders-on focus, while resetting plans every 90 days allows the flexibility that modern businesses need to succeed.
Those who tend to remain calm and rational in times of crisis not only make great cops and firefighters, but also great entrepreneurs. When your livelihood is on the line, there isn’t much time for panic. Panic causes irrational, knee-jerk decision-making…and usually ends in a bigger, more complicated mess. Instead, it takes a level head and rational consideration to keep a startup moving in the right direction. For those who are inherently panicky, the best advice is to increase your knowledge to the same extent as you tend to be emotionally driven. That is, the more knowledge you have about every aspect of your startup, the more options you have immediately available when you need to change direction. Thus, any tendency to panic will be overridden by logical thought, and any disappointment in encountering obstacles will be countered by knowledge of a way around, over, or through the problem.
Most entrepreneurs tend to have a good amount of self-confidence. Just taking the risk, no matter how calculated, of taking the leap into full responsibility for one’s work life requires a certain level of confidence. In order to commit the time, effort, and cash needed to launch a business, the owner must have a reasonably strong belief that they can make it work. They must believe in their own abilities to use the skills they have and develop the skills they need. They know that the idea is good and that others can be convinced to buy in as well. Thinking on your feet is critical, and solid confidence allows a business owner to be decisive and focused through the unexpected. What can be seen as over-confidence in other settings is pretty much a necessity in entrepreneurship. And, finding success in the difficult world of small business will only serve to increase self-confidence…a good thing when you have more than one great idea to launch!
Startups are nearly always a series of unexpected events, and certain personality traits can make or break how well the business handles the changes. Over time, experience with one or more startups will alter an entrepreneur’s personality in significant ways. Typically, those changes will be improvements, at least in terms of becoming a successful business owner. Winning after a series of struggles will make perseverance easier to stomach. When changing direction pays off, the advantage of flexibility will be well understood. Remaining calm in a storm, especially due to increased knowledge, will become a habit. And the overall triumph of building a successful company does wonders for one’s confidence. Expect the unexpected, and begin developing the key aspects of your personality that will sustain you through your startup and the life of your business.