June Dennis, Dean of Staffordshire Business School
We’ve been celebrating Global Enterprise Week at Staffordshire Business School this week and have welcomed some fantastic guest speakers. What’s been very evident is that there is no one reason or way to start your own business – each guest speaker has had a uniquely individual journey and experience. In some instances, they have fallen into self-employment, in others, it was a well thought through and planned decision to do so.
So what makes a successful entrepreneur?
There are so many lists out there that can offer you the top 3 or 7 or 20 traits you must have to be a successful entrepreneur. This is my list based on what our guest speakers shared this week!
Passion & determination – if you are to succeed, you need to be passionate about your business proposition. What’s the point of setting up a business in something you don’t like or believe in? However, passion alone will not be enough. It really does help if you love what you do, but you need to be prepared for setbacks. I can promise you that things won’t go as smoothly as you hoped. There will be times when you question whether you did the right thing. That’s when you need to be resilient and, as they say, ‘keep calm and carry on’.
Strong work ethic & self starter – when you work for yourself, it’s very easy to have a lie-in when you don’t feel like working without realising that time is your most precious commodity. Even when you don’t feel it, you have to push yourself to make that phonecall, finish the report or knock on the door. You need to be disciplined. One friend, when he didn’t have any work, used to go to the cinema or meet friends for a coffee. Another friend would purposely post leaflets around the neighbourhood to promote his business. Can you guess which one was most successful?
…but also a good finisher – basically, you won’t get paid until you finish the job. And, you need to finish the job in good time. So don’t procrastinate. Sometimes, ‘good enough’ is better than not getting the job done in time. You won’t get repeat business if you don’t deliver on time.
Creativity – you don’t necessarily have to have a new-to-the-world invention or be able to design amazing advertising campaigns, but you do need to be a good problem solver and find ways around problems that come your way. That’s being creative!
Keep an eye out for opportunities – Be a purposeful networker. You don’t have to be an extravert to develop a supportive network and you never know what’s around the corner! Nearly every contract I received resulted in further business, either from the same organisation or as a result of them passing my details on to a third party. For example, as a result of writing Mintel reports, I was contacted by the chief executive at the time asking if I could act as an expert witness in a court case. The timing wasn’t great and I had to juggle domestic commitments and workload but saying yes to this one phone call provided me with the opportunity to be one of a handful of special marketing experts – and it paid well!
Know your worth – friends may ask for freebies or big discounts sometimes with the promise that you’ll get lots of publicity. If they value you, they will pay for your services or goods. Occasionally, they may be able to offer you something in kind, such as your first review or office space. I got a free hair cut from my hairdresser when we spent the time it took to cut my hair discussing how he could improve his pricing policy. It was win-win and neither of us took the other person’s services for granted. As an expert witness, I realised no one queried how much I was charging, so I increased my fees by £50-£75/day for each new quote. I never got turned down….
Be prepared to learn – constantly! If you weren’t successful in getting a contract – find out why. If you made a mistake, learn from it. Get feedback whenever you can and look at ways to develop new skills.