As the rise of entrepreneurs continues in our communities today there have been a lot of myths and untruths that have developed. Many of these have been “discovered” through academic and government research, although asking civil servants and academics for their insight into entrepreneurship is a little like asking the beer-belly football supporter how he would score a goal during the World Cup Final.
Myth number 1: Successful Entrepreneurs are self-starting loners
Successful Entrepreneurs are very good at the initial idea, the genesis of a business. However, they are also quickly recognise what is within their skill set and what is needed to get a business moving. They understand that speed to market, especially in the digital age, is critical so they build networks, form virtual teams, outsource tasks, project manage and use a coach to keep them focused.
While the idea remains theirs they can only grow the company to a point. Those entrepreneurs who are most adapt at growing companies in the fastest possible time assemble teams who are committed to the tasks the entrepreneur sets.
Amid this, the entrepreneur can be easily distracted, easily lose sight of the big picture. At which point all successful entrepreneurs have sought a coach. This is to help keep them focused on what they are doing and what needs to happen next.
Myth number 2: Successful Entrepreneurs are academically brilliant
Ken Robinson’s brilliant TED talk “Changing Education Paradigms” is now a recognised internationally as a bucket of cold water to our hungover education system. The education system was designed for the industrial age – not the digital one.
In fact recent research from Illinois showed that 44% of high tech entrepreneurs have a bachelor’s degree, 30% have a masters and 4% have an MD, only 10% had a PHD.
What successful entrepreneurs are exceptional at is investment in their continued learning. We recognise that to stay current and competitive the entrepreneur must invest in themselves first to gain and acquire knowledge.
Myth number 3: Successful Entrepreneurs have innovative and novel ideas
There are over 7 billion people in the world today, right this second. Which from a statistical view means that there is no such thing as an original thought. Everything you have ever thought of has already been thought and done.
So what are successful entrepreneurs good at? Action.
They seize the opportunity and follow through to completion against the odds, against the competition, against the disbelief and negativity of others.
The Wright Brothers soared into the history books with the first powered flight over a set distance. However, they were not the only people trying to achieve this feat at that time. Amongst others was Samuel Langley, a famous astronomer and scientist who had full time staff at his disposal and a $50,000 government grant from the US War Department. He was a Harvard professor and former Mathematics professor at the Naval Academy. His influential friends included Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell.
And he was beaten by some bicycle shop owners.
Myth number 4: Successful Entrepreneurs are business gurus
Successful Entrepreneurs are outstanding in their own business, and know that market inside and out and are able to anticipate their needs and wants.
When I met Richard Branson he told me that on his birthday he was in a board meeting and his group of company directors were discussing the figures for the year. There was a lot of discussion about net and gross profit. Richard sat there and asked at the end of it “so are we doing well?”. His senior financial advisor spoke with him afterwards and said “Richard, do you know the difference between net and gross profit?”. “No” he confessed. At which point his financial advisor drew a picture on the wall that showed a school of fish and a big net catching some of them.
It was his 50th birthday.
Myth number 5: Successful Entrepreneurs have all the answers
Successful Entrepreneurs learn many things along their journey from just “entrepreneur” to “successful entrepreneur”. One of the biggest lessons that they all confess to is truly understanding themselves. What they are good at, what they are bad at, where they need support and where they excel.
Most have built their businesses around their strengths whist acquiring people to supporting them through their weaknesses. Speak with any truly successful entrepreneur and they are hungry to hear what you have to say, they want to know your thoughts, they want to see how you can help them. Because they know that their success can just as easily slip away due to arrogance and hubris.
A successful entrepreneur is always a student, and always applying their new learnings.
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