The entrepreneur role: beyond the basics - Phil Drinkwater Coach

The entrepreneur role: beyond the basics

There are plenty of articles about the role that an entrepreneur will play in their business, but most of them are written by people who haven't done it. As an entrepreneur myself with over 20 years under my belt, what's my view?
What we'll cover
I’m a successful entrepreneur turned business coach. I think that gives me more clout than most in answering this important question.

I’m going to treat this as if I’m interviewing for an entrepreneur and list the skills and qualities which are essential.

Why is it important? Well, you need to be prepared to really take on this task. And it’s not easy. But the satisfaction you get from seeing your business grow from an idea to employing over 20 people – in my case – is like nothing else.

As an entrepreneur business coach today, I see the same types of people time and again being successful.

What is an entrepreneur?

Let’s start with the basics. An entrepreneur is someone who chooses to take on the risk – both direct financial risk and with the amount of time they spend – that their idea will be successful in the marketplace.

40% of entrepreneurs are ADHD, and ADHD people are very creative and become bored really easily. They’re more comfortable with risk than boredom, and they love new challenges and information. It’s a profile which fits the role of the entrepreneur in business very well.

I don’t consider someone who opens a standard local accountancy practice an entrepreneur. They’re a business owner. Someone else has trail-blazed. There’s nothing wrong with this – we need accountancy practices – but entrepreneurs usually love to innovate, or at least put their stamp on something.

What’s my entrepreneurial journey been like?

If you want to know in significant amounts of detail, you’re welcome to book a discovery call with me. That will give you free access to a course which gives you 17 pieces of learning from my journey.

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But, in brief, I started a business when the internet was young and SEO wasn’t even a thing yet. Over the coming years, it bumbled along until we discovered the formula that was going to deliver success, and then it grew incredibly quickly.

So let’s look at the actually important elements of the role of an entrepreneur – not just what a journalist who’s never had a company found somewhere else.

The outcome of your early work

Before defining what’s necessary for the role, it’s essential to understand what success is like.

The first 1 to 3 years are when the business will typically find “that thing” which the market wants. You might twist and turn and experiment to get there, but that’s OK by you and you keep going.

The end of the startup phase is when you can turn your business success into a process and have someone else repeat that processes successfully to produce revenue.

Even if they do this less efficiently that you would do (it’s hard to find employees who work as hard as you will … get used to it), the business financial model supports their salary combined with the reduction in effectiveness.

Once you’re there, your job is done if you want it to be, because the role changes significantly from entrepreneur into business owner or CEO.

Briefly, what is is the role of an entrepreneur then?

The role of the entrepreneur is to be the spirit of the business. They provide a broad skillset, creativity and excitement to drive ideas, and resilience to keep going when success hasn’t been discovered yet.

You are resilient and keep going when you get knocked back

This is the number one quality for an entrepreneur to have, but what is? And can you develop it?

Resilience is where you recover quickly from any kind of difficulty, and there will be many on your journey as a new startup particularly. You’ll go down a path, realise it was wrong, and have to start again. If you give up, or decide it’s not for you, you didn’t have resilience.

And that’s OK. Not everyone is destined to be an entrepreneur.

But what if you want to improve this skill?

Belief as part of your resilience strategy

If every time you take a knock you think “it wasn’t meant to be”, you will quickly give up and decide to do something else. An important part of resilience, then, is to have belief. “I will find this path – I’ve just not found it”. This may take a mindset shift, so you stop thinking in the old ways.

A growth mindset as part of your resilience strategy

With a growth mindset, you can only learn or succeed; there is no fail. This is another mindset shift from “I’m not good enough” or “I’m failing” to “I’m learning”. If you see everything as learning, it becomes a natural part of your entrepreneurial journey.

You drive growth with creativity

The second most important element of the role of an entrepreneur, in my opinion, is that your natural creativity and problem solving approach. This will keep the business moving forward while you’re searching for “the thing”.

In the early days, when my business was growing, we struggled significantly finding a successful business model and it was only through significant discussion with the market that we discovered what was important. We were already delivering this to them, but we weren’t highlighting it.

Keep flowing, keep trying, keep inventing. I like to think Bruce Lee meant “continue finding new paths”:

We retailed our creativity and found new paths that we’d missed originally. Without this quality, you may struggle to innovate in the market, which is what most entrepreneurs love to do.

You keep everyone motivated with excitement

You’re naturally an excitable person. It’s that which drives you on, even when things aren’t going well. Somewhere deep down you know you’ll find the path and you’re excited about the journey of finding it.

You might be less excited when you’ve found some success with Business V1.0, but then you can start working on Business V1.1 or even Business V2.0.

If you’ve a small but growing team, they will feed off your excitement and the ideas that you generate. As a creative person, these continue to come quite easily to you.

Keep that level of excitement up and remind everyone – and yourself – that this journey is fun and you’re loving it. Take everyone along for the ride of their lives with your drive and determination.

You know how to hire effective people

As you begin to find some level of success, you might start to hire. You might look to sites like upwork, peopleperhour and fiverr initially, or you might have found enough success to hire full time in your own country.

Either way, you need to be able to recruit people effectively. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck with poor quality people.

Since recruitment is a skill and not a quality, you can learn this if it’s not something that’s natural to you. Here are three quick tips if you aren’t very effective at recruitment:

  1. Determine the qualities of the person and design your copy to write directly to them. For example, if you need someone creative, you might say “you’ve driven other companies you’ve worked for in unique and interesting ideas”. Or, if you want someone who is going to be easy to look after, you might say “you’ve left your previous companies on good terms”.
  2. Design “core competency” tasks for them to complete during the interview process. What you’re looking for here is how they approach the task, not just the actual results. For example, if you need a visual designer, and you give them limited information with an offer of more, some of them will come back and ask questions and others won’t. Which suits you for this role?
  3. Make sure their personality is right for you, and that they’ll fit the team. Within 3 minutes you should get a “gut feel” of whether you’ll get on. Listen to this. Don’t try to persuade yourself by an amazing CV and career history. You might also introduce them to the team and ask what they think.

You have a broad range of skills

In the early days of your business, it’ll be important to do a little bit of everything to a reasonable level. As businesses progress, they need more and more specialists to accomplish tasks.

For example, a super specialist database developer may not fulfil the role of an entrepreneur well because they typically won’t understand marketing and sales and business / financial models. They may also struggle with communication and leadership skills (I’ve been a developer, so I can say that!). It’s within these skill areas that your product or service will make money and become a business.

So, being a 5 or 6 out of 10 at multiple subjects will be more useful to you than just exceling at one skill.

If this isn’t you currently, you might want to take some time to learn at least basic sales, marketing and business to a moderate level before giving up on your day job. Relying on hiring people can be costly, and with no knowledge, it’s easy to be scammed.

To finish

Rather than just looking at exactly what you can do, I’ve spent time looking more at who you are, and how your skill areas might impact your ability to become successful as an entrepreneur.

In the end, though, the role of an entrepreneur is to take the next step time and time again, regardless, and not give up.

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