It’s National Entrepreneurship Week. Here’s how to be an entrepreneur wherever you are.
The word entrepreneur may bring a certain definition to mind, but it doesn’t have to. The most obvious definition of an entrepreneur, and the one used by economists for counting purposes, is a person who starts a business venture. This definition is fairly narrow as the chart from The Kauffman Foundation below shows.
Not counted in these numbers, for example, are “sidepreneurs,” those people who are trying out an idea that could be a business while they are otherwise employed. In 2005, I was lucky enough to have an employer that allowed me to start my side idea, and M2 Health Care Consulting was born! Turns out, this is becoming a very popular approach.
According to The American Express 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the growth rate of sidepreneurs over the past five years is much higher than entrepreneur growth rates generally (see chart below). Notably, this method seems to be very popular with women, and even more so with women of color. While women generally are starting businesses at higher rates than men, the growth rate of black women entrepreneurs between 2014 and 2019 is 50% compared to 9% of all businesses, and the growth rate of black women sidepreneurs in the same time period is 99% compared to 32% of all businesses.
You can use the entrepreneur mindset anywhere
As a proud entrepreneur, I have learned by both succeeding and failing as a business owner. But the concept of entrepreneurship goes well beyond business. The word, as derived from the French, means a person who organizes and manages a task or set of tasks, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
From this perspective, any chance to oversee a meeting, manage a project or start something new at your organization, is an opportunity to be an entrepreneur. So how do you do it? Here are four tips for facing the risk of failure and increasing the likelihood of success when starting something new.
1. Love uncertainty
When you are asked to lead a new project, one of the hardest parts to manage is the uncertainty. Where do you start? What comes first? Who should be included? How do you make it all work? Use the entrepreneur mindset and love uncertainty. No matter how effective you are at managing and organizing, surprises will happen. A key team member will call in sick. A budget will get slashed. Try to think of uncertainty as something exciting, not scary. A challenge to be met, not a warning sign of failure.
2. Plan thoroughly
I have both sales people and entrepreneurs in my family. From a young age I heard them say, “Plan the work, work the plan.” While I didn’t understand the phrase at first, I felt like someone had taught me a magic trick when I put it to use in real life. The essence of entrepreneurship is organizing and managing. To do both of those things well, it is imperative to create a written plan. With steps. And a timeline! Then use that plan to guide your days, weeks, and months. When you complete a step, take note. Was it completed on time? Did it require sub-tasks? Was it dependent on the step before it? Learn from your plan and your working of the plan. The more thorough you are, the more opportunities you have to learn, improve and succeed.
3. Listen carefully
It is the rare successful project that never interacts with another human. Running a business, a non-profit, or a project all require working with people in one way or another. The better you are at listening carefully to your customers, funders, co-workers, and anyone else with a stake in your success, the more likely it is that the project will succeed. When a customer says the product doesn’t work well, listen carefully. What was their experience? Was it unique? Can you fix it? When a co-worker expresses concern about a deadline for the project you are running, listen carefully. Are they trying to tell you they need more time? Warning you about a pitfall you didn’t anticipate? Try not to take things too personally. Listen carefully and assume other people want to help the project or business succeed, not that they want you to fail.
4. Recover quickly
We all fail at something eventually. But there is a difference between failing and learning. To fail is to stop, but to learn, is to keep going. Take the information or lesson from the failure and recover quickly. Get back up. Try again. Don’t take it too personally. You are not a failure. You had a failure. Use the entrepreneur mindset to see that failure as a learning opportunity. Then recover yourself and get back at it!
An entrepreneur isn’t only a person who starts a new business. It is any person who uses a certain mindset to face the risk of failure head-on. So go ahead, be an entrepreneur wherever you are!