When you’re researching how to be a successful entrepreneur, but aren’t quite sure what you want to do, it can get real overwhelming real fast.
Where do you even start? How do you pick something that you like, but also still manage to make good – or even decent – money? (Cue sad images of the proverbial ‘starving artist’ who loves their full-time art career but can’t afford food.)
Well, my friend, you’ve stumbled on one of the biggest barriers of becoming an entrepreneur.
Unfortunately, the process of actually settling on an idea and taking the first steps is so daunting that it stops many people in their tracks. What if you don’t have an Earth-shattering vision that will change life as we know it?
According to Adii Pienaar, serial entrepreneur and the founder of ecommerce email marketing automation platform Conversio, it’s all about knowing your values and why you’re doing your thing.
I think there are broadly two types of entrepreneurs: the visionaries and the opportunists. Both get into entrepreneurship for very different reasons and as a result, challenges are dealt with differently.
The biggest part of being an entrepreneur is knowing why you are an entrepreneur. It’s okay to not have a 10-year vision of how you want to change the world; perhaps it’s just about seeing a gap in the market that could give you greater financial independence and flexibility for the next couple of years.
Knowing your true values will help you navigate the inevitable ups and downs of building a business, while never forgetting where you started or where you’re going.
On top of really being in touch with their goals and values, some of the most successful entrepreneurs have managed to match their entrepreneurial endeavor with their personal interests and passions.
That’s the not-so-secret formula to becoming an entrepreneur who is motivated, interested, and satisfied with their business. And these are rocket boosters for the longevity and resilience we talked about in Chapter 1.
(Pssst: they also drastically increase the chances of you succeeding financially!)
In this chapter, we’ll explore:
- The Japanese concept ikigai, which helps you find a balance between personal and professional needs
- Why it’s important to define your ‘why’ and your core values before starting a business
- How to identify your entrepreneurial skills
- Why you should do a bit of dreaming and personal goal-setting first – to help carve out your unique path
Ikigai: Find your sweet spot
The Japanese term ‘ikigai’ can be translated to mean ‘a reason for being’ – or more bluntly, ‘the reason you get out of bed every morning.’
You could say that Japan totally nailed the exploration of finding true happiness and fulfillment. While this concept wasn’t necessarily designed for your career, it’s an undeniably huge part of life. And so, ikigai is something to keep in mind on your path to becoming an entrepreneur.
Ideally, your perfect new business will combine:
- What you love
- What you’re good at
- What you can be paid for
- What the world needs
Of course, this is just an ideal. There’s the dilemma that many people find it difficult to monetize the things they truly love. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong if you can’t meet the daunting criteria of doing ‘what the world needs.’ You don’t have to dedicate your life to Mother-Teresa-level philanthropy if that’s not your bag.
For many people, an awesome business just meets a couple of these criteria, like ‘what you’re good at’ and ‘what you can be paid for.’ No shame in that game either. (But it is important to know your ‘why’ and your core values, which we’ll get to in the next section.)
Before you move forward, consider these four pillars and which of them are the most important to you. Then consider which are the most feasible. Then marry your findings to try and find your own personal sweet spot.
Write them all down! This way, you can follow your train of thought as your ideas morph and grow, and you learn more about how to be an entrepreneur.
[highlight]We made a worksheet that you can get here. Follow the directions for downloading your own copy.[/highlight]
Define your ‘why’ and core values
Building off the ikigai concept, it’s important to identify why you’re doing what you do, and the core values that guide you along the way.
To get to the heart of this, look at Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle,’ the key concept behind his best-selling book Start With Why.
Sorry for the spoiler, but he thinks you should start by identifying your ‘why.’ He argues that every business knows what they do, some of them know how they do it, and only a few truly know why they do it.
Figuring out your own reasons for starting a business – apart from earning money – involves identifying your core values. These will shape your business from the ground up, including every single customer interaction you’ll ever have.
Because buying something is more than just the surface-level exchange.
When someone chooses to buy from you, they’re endorsing your brand’s values. They see a piece of themselves in your business, and they’re sharing something special with you.
In 2019 and beyond, more and more people are going into business for themselves. So you have to do more than just offer something that people want. You have to prove to them up-front that you share their values.
Consider the co-working company WeWork. They put their mission statement and values in their main navigation bar on their website. This immediately communicates that they’re invested in these values, and they’re looking for customers who share them.
Scroll down the page, and you’ll see their core values all laid out.
You don’t need to be this upfront with expressing your company’s values, but you do need to make them known. The best way to do this is to incorporate them into your branding.
To find your own core values, think about questions like:
- What problem(s) do I want to help solve?
- Who do I want to help?
- How do I want to help them?
- How will my business improve people’s lives?
Keep these questions in your pocket as you brainstorm and validate potential business ideas, as the answers will probably change the closer you get to choosing and starting your venture.
Identify your entrepreneurial skills
There are loads of entrepreneurial skills and competencies that can improve your chances of success. Here’s a checklist to help you figure out which ones come naturally to you, and which ones you might need to focus on improving or getting assistance with in the future.
While some might argue that there are a few necessary skills for becoming an entrepreneur, keep in mind that you definitely do not need to master all of them to be successful. You might not even need some of these entrepreneurial skills at all, depending on the type of venture you’re starting and what it might turn into down the road.
But you’ve probably noticed that this chapter is all about preparation, so voilà.
[highlight]You can find and fill in this checklist here, along with the other worksheets and templates from this ebook.[/highlight]
Map your route
Soon, we’ll get our hands dirty with picking a good business idea and those other fun steps of becoming an entrepreneur. But first, let’s address some of the basic considerations for getting started. This involves a bit of visualization, basic planning, and personal goal-setting.
The art of the ‘side hustle’
One of the first questions asked by people learning how to be an entrepreneur is, “Do I have to quit my day job?”
Nope. In fact, unless you have some solid savings to float on, it might be a better idea to start your new business while you still have the financial security of your payroll job. This way, you won’t find yourself in deep trouble if things don’t go the way you plan.
It will certainly be tough to juggle both, but it’s one of the best ways to avoid becoming an entrepreneur with no money on the side for risk-taking.
[highlight]If you’re interested in generating capital and resources instead of bootstrapping your way through on your own budget, stay tuned for Chapter 7. We’ll get into some options for business funding and finances.[/highlight]
Set S.M.A.R.T. personal goals
This is a concept that you can (and should) apply when it comes time to set your business goals. For now, take some time to dream.
S.M.A.R.T. goal setting is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific: Say it clearly and use action words.
- Measurable: Something that you can easily evaluate with data or other clear-cut observations.
- Attainable: Give yourself a challenge, but don’t aim to make 1 million dollars in profit in your first year.
- Relevant: Keep focused on how your business can eventually help in accomplishing this goal.
- Time-based: Include a specific date or time-frame, which helps keep it measurable while keeping you motivated.
For example, instead of saying: “I want to be my own boss instead of working for someone else…”
Try something S.M.A.R.T.er like: “In one year, I’ll earn $3,000 per month with my new business, which will allow me to quit my desk job.”
See how the goal became a lot more actionable? There’s a dollar amount to provide a financial (and psychological) cushion for quitting the desk job, and a clear timeframe to do it.
For many, financial stability is a big deal, so it will benefit you to explore that in your initial goals as you’re sizing up the risks and rewards of becoming an entrepreneur.
When setting these goals, envision what you really want for yourself, and then map out a basic route that it will take to get there.
Now you have an idea of your entrepreneurial skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Your gears are also turning about how to maximize your personal enjoyment and fulfillment as you look closer at the various ways of becoming an entrepreneur.
Next up: finding a good business idea that harmonizes your entrepreneurial skills, interests, and opportunities.