Lay the Groundwork

Lay the Groundwork

Entrepreneurs launching new businesses must recognize and understand their own strong points and limitations to compete in a crowded market. Learning to play to strengths and to offset weaknesses helps cultivate the positive attitude and leadership skills intrinsic to success.

The Right Stuff

If you’re not sure you have the right qualifications to become an entrepreneur, conduct a systematic self-assessment. Start by listing characteristics you believe a business owner should possess. While these can vary, experts agree the following are essential:

  • Creativity. Persons who start businesses must be able to generate new ideas, change direction as needed and employ a solution-oriented approach.
  • Willingness to take risks. Entrepreneurship probably isn’t the best fit if you rely on predictable work schedules and financial stability.
  • Initiative. An entrepreneur must be a self-starter, tackling tasks without prompting or close monitoring.
  • Communication skills. These include the capacity to build rapport with others; knack for negotiation; and the ability to clearly frame concepts, plans and situations in writing.
  • Good judgment. This includes the ability to see all sides of an issue, to approach a challenge systematically and objectively, and to make solid decisions.
  • Physical and emotional stamina. Starting a company often means long workdays and busy weekends. If you tire easily, become mentally drained under pressure or have trouble staying positive, make sure you have another person to help carry the load.
  • Ability to work independently. An entrepreneur must be able to effectively plan and organize without supervision.
  • Support system. Because the early months of a new company are fraught with uncertainty, make sure you have a support network – such as accountants, attorneys and others in your field – to consult with as needed. If this is not possible, consider using a business mentor. Organizations like SCORE, consisting of retired business owners and professionals, offer free guidance to entrepreneurs in a variety of areas.

Take a hard look at these criteria, as well as others you deem important – and give yourself an honest rating. If you seem deficient in one or more of these areas, think about hiring an employee or partner possessing the skills you lack. Better yet, develop these traits by working with a business coach or attending classes targeting entrepreneurs.

Finally, if the thought of formulating your own assessment tool makes you cringe, try one of the many available online. The U.S. Small Business Administration provides a comprehensive questionnaire regarding business readiness, as do various universities and professional groups.

Forge a Positive Attitude

Successful business owners are optimists able to weather the rough spots without losing heart. This is no easy task, especially with the planning, funding and other innumerable elements involved in starting a company. To stay positive and forward thinking, use these motivational tips:

  • Set goals – short and long term. Make sure they are attainable.
  • Develop a manageable plan of action. Use a planner to list daily, weekly and monthly expectations. This will keep you focused and motivated.
  • Create realistic deadlines. Workable time frames hold you accountable and turn intangible ideas into valid goals.
  • Do it now. Procrastination can kill motivation and thwart success. If you find yourself putting off important tasks, identify why. Some experts point out that feeling overwhelmed is a major cause of dawdling and delay. To cope more effectively and promote a sense of accomplishment, break down chores into smaller increments.
  • Accept challenges. Obstacles to success are a fact of life, so expect and prepare for challenges. By doing so, you will be far less tempted to give up when difficulties arise – and you’ll feel more motivated when you get past them.
  • Avoid negativity. A gloomy attitude can lead to a loss of momentum. Even so, it is hard to keep an upbeat outlook when obstacles arise. To make this easier, keep your eye on your goal, practice positive thinking and remember that successful people exude positive attitudes.
  • Enjoy what you do. Make work fun. Being too uptight can dampen enthusiasm and imagination. Serious business will get accomplished with less stress if you have a good sense of humor, too.
  • Get help to stay positive. The Internet is full of offers for self-help tutorials, books and CDs. Continue to reinforce an optimistic attitude by reading, associating with positive people and keeping tabs on your own spiritual energy. Network with other business owners to re-energize ideas and goals.
  • Staff your company with positive people.  Your employees should share your passion, so clearly define your vision for those you look to hire. Ask questions that draw out the interviewee’s motivations, attitude and ethics.

A Word about Leadership

The most successful business owners not only take concrete steps to ensure a strong business foundation, they also strive to cultivate their own leadership skills. In fact, dynamic entrepreneurs share common traits and characteristics that ignite their visions and engage their followers.

Besides demonstrating solid integrity at all times, they maintain clear staff communication and share credit for successful projects. They also work with employees in an objective, respectful manner to achieve goals and reward success. Finally, real leaders keep up with developments in their fields, admitting mistakes as they happen and remaining flexible when challenges arise.

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