5 Qualities that Kill an Entrepreneur
Every period has its own “hot” career fields. When I was in college in the late ’90s, medicine was the most highly sought after and respected field. Half of my incoming class aspired to become doctors. Then, most switched gears after a brutal course like organic chemistry weeded them out. Consulting and finance — although most of us didn’t quite understand what they were all about — were also areas many of us were interested in pursuing. Law — a career often misunderstood due to the sexy way it’s portrayed in movies and television — was also high on the list. One area completely off almost everyone’s radar: entrepreneurship.
Fast forward to today, some 20 years later. Nowadays, there is one “hot” field, one area that many undergraduates and graduate students fixate on… and it’s not becoming a doctor or lawyer. It’s all about entrepreneurship. As an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at The Wharton School, I am amazed at the dramatic increase in interest among students across all disciplines in starting a business.
This holds true also in the work environment. Enter any corporation, management consulting firm, or investment banking institution, and you will hear the steady hum of startup chatter.
With demand at an all-time high, I’d like to share some friendly, cautionary advice.
Here are 5 qualities that kill an entrepreneur:
- Not truly being an entrepreneur. This is especially common among inventors and technologists with superb ideas but no business-building skills. It’s important to know yourself well enough to ascertain whether you’re an inventor, an entrepreneur, or neither. Very rarely are people both inventors and entrepreneurs.
- Pushing a company past the point of failure. Most startups fail and most entrepreneurs fail along the way. It’s critical to know when to stop and learn from your experience and move on. There’s no shame in failure. None. The most celebrated entrepreneurs failed — many amid disheartening publicity.
- Being overly optimistic. It’s hard not to believe in your business when you’re growing it, but it’s easy to develop “startup goggles” in which you feel assured of success with every new step. There will always be setbacks and we must be prepared for them. Add a cushion to your budget. Then add another one. It’s amazing how much more things cost and how much longer they take than we expect — even with completely rational planning.
- Indecisiveness. Entrepreneurs cannot be stagnant. Lack of action due to fear of making the wrong decision impedes success and growth. No decisions have perfect information. Entrepreneurs need to be decisive. There is inherent risk in starting a company, and, in order to become successful, we must be willing to take risks and make bets along the way.
- Burn out. We do not need to sacrifice our lives for a business. Working extra hours and having sleepless nights is not a ticket to success. Balance — in some form or another that works for you — is key.
This article was written by Avenue Group Founder Jeremy Greenberg