YOU DON’T Have WHAT MUST BE DONE

A new consider the classic question of whether you are cut out to be a business owner

Self-employment gurus Paul and Sarah Edwards did it again. Their latest book, Why Aren’t You Your Own Boss? Leaping Over the Obstacles That Stand Between You as well as your Dream , written with Peter Economy, was created to help wannabe entrepreneurs look deep within themselves and find out if they’ve got what must be done to start out and run their own businesses.

Unlike almost every other books upon this topic, the book asks very specific, tough questions of its readers which will force a whole lot of much-needed soul-searching. Simply, the prevailing concern that most smaller businesses fail is they are run by the incorrect people–people who never must have left their corporate cubicles, medical benefits and weekly paychecks behind for the rough-and-tumble world of entrepreneurship.

Which brings me to the week’s focus: Will there be really any such thing as a "business owner" personality? Must you be a certain kind of person to reach your goals in running your own business?

I am asked this question frequently in my own seminars and talks, and the short answer is "No." I’ve seen too many several types of people flourish in business, and I’ve seen too many various kinds of people fail. Sometimes the stereotypical Type A, glad-handing, articulate, good-looking, dynamic, "success-oriented" personality type fails miserably, and sometimes the meek, mild, mumbling wallflower continues on to become multimillionaire. You can’t judge a business proprietor by personality alone.

Yet, when I think about the successful companies I’ve worked with in the last couple of decades, I really do see three essential qualities that each of them share.

1. A wholesome cynicism: Successful companies aren’t deluded by dreams, fantasies or illusions about how exactly the world "oughta be." They look closely at the world through their five senses, see what’s really going on out there, and conform their behavior to real life. They accept whatever they see at face value, without value judgments, and present people what they need. Not what the business enterprise owner thinks they need. Not what folks say they need (because people often lie, even to themselves). Not what the business enterprise owner thinks people should need it. But what they really, want, as demonstrated by their actual buying behavior. Show me a business owner who says "People can purchase my service or product because…," and I’ll show you a person who is surviving in fantasy land. Show me a business owner why says "Folks are willing to purchase this, and I plan to make money by selling it to them," and I’ll demonstrate someone with promise.

2. Insecurity: Running a business, a little anxiety is an excellent thing. It can help you spot threats before they become serious and spot opportunities before your competition do. It keeps you awake (often during the night) and focused, always asking new questions, always doubting the traditional wisdom.

When companies get too comfortable, decide they finally know very well what they’re doing and begin running their businesses on cruise control, that’s when failures begin to happen. The insecure business proprietor is too nervous to relax, and even if there is nothing to worry about, they worry about how exactly long that situation can last.

3. Chutzpah: As defined in Leo Rosten’s classic book The Joys of Yiddish , chutzpah is "gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, incredible guts; presumption plus arrogance such as for example no other word, no other language, can do justice to."

Make no mistake. Successful companies are tough, driven, determined, courageous, persistent and fiercely aggressive in pursuing their goals. They act first, often with information that’s very poor, get the results they need whatever it takes, and tidy up whatever messes have happened on the way. Sometimes they leave the mess where it really is, or delegate the cleanup to underlings, because achieving the next goal is more important. They believe that it is easier to apologize afterwards than to ask permission beforehand.

EASILY had to choose the single biggest reason most businesses fail, I’d say it is the insufficient chutzpah when needed. As Edwards/Economy explain within their book, the single most significant ingredient in virtually any business is action: "You should set goals, establish tasks and complete them; it isn’t how big is the goals or the tasks that matters, it’s the doing that’s everything."

Cliff Ennico is host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt and a respected expert on managing growing companies. His advice for smaller businesses regularly appears on the "Protecting Your Business" channel on the tiny Business Television Network at www.sbtv.com. E-mail him at [email protected]

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