An entrepreneur is someone who assumes tremendous risks in creating and leading a business in pursuit of profit. The profit is the “return” part of the risk-for-return principle, but it’s important to not understate the “risk” part of the equation. An old boss of mine used to say frequently, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!” The fact is, there is nothing easy about entrepreneurship or what it takes for someone to become successful at it.
At Catchfire we have the pleasure and honour of meeting successful entrepreneurs and business owner-operators every day. It is never lost on us that they do remarkable things in the face of adversity and challenge, and we acknowledge the stress they carry with them. How do you not admire that level of bravery, doing what most people could not fathom taking on? We acknowledge the level of risk tolerance these individuals have as they ”ride the roller coaster” of business every single day. They are constantly betting on their abilities.
Given the financial risk, personal sacrifice, and un-predictability, competitive environments, and other stresses that entrepreneurs always live with, why would someone become an entrepreneur? There are typically two main reasons; one is that it is in their nature to take on the challenge of creating something new and delivering to the market products or services that meet a need and the other is that they may have been forced into it due to circumstances such as losing a position with their employer, difficulty finding regular employment, or other reasons that end up forcing the individual to forge ahead on their own and create their own opportunities.
Whatever the circumstances are that lead someone towards entrepreneurship, the characteristics of a successful owner-operator are the same and originate with the raw courage to take the plunge into self-employment.
How many people have the guts to go to work every day without a guaranteed paycheck How many would only take a pay-cheque after all of their employees have been paid – and sometimes there’s nothing left over. Why would someone give up the security of working in an established business with established processes and money that is always there on payday. The expression “you eat what you kill” also implies there are times you may go hungry. Business owners accept and tolerate that risk much more than most.
Being an entrepreneur also takes a certain amount of creativity and resourceful problem solving to create solutions where no solution previously existed. Covid has been a perfect example of the extremely challenging circumstances businesses can face. Their owners have carried the stress of quickly reacting and adapting to conditions that were changing by the day, and still are. The resilience this takes is far beyond what many people are prepared to accept. It takes tenacity, self-confidence, guile, and a cunning intelligence to get things done profitably.
Entrepreneurs have to have the ability to see beyond what is and move towards what could be. Being a visionary allows them to see emerging trends and actively and proactively prepare to meet the challenges that are already here and those that are coming.
Entrepreneurs are often faced with nay-sayers. Their self-belief and commitment to the cause will drive them through the peaks and valleys. Their ‘can do’ attitude and, I’ll say it again, courage, will keep them moving forward in the face of adversity. Most people would not be comfortable with the life of the entrepreneur – not only the uncertainty but the full-time tethering to the business. Calls can come any time.
There are times, of course, when businesses simply don’t succeed – but it is rarely due to the owner-operator’s efforts or courage that it did not workout.
We truly stand in awe of entrepreneurs and business owner-operators. In an increasingly competitive world, they are walking on the high wire of business and risking it all to make their dreams come true. As they say, “the only constant is change”, and being resilient enough to evolve or pivot a business speaks to the self confidence and willingness it takes to succeed.