My 4th-grade teacher set me on the path to entrepreneurship when she told me that I did not take well to authority. The decision to go it alone was not an easy one, but when my supervisors began to tell me the same thing as my 4th grade teacher, I got the picture. I didn't have the personality to be an employee. Entrepreneurship was the only thing I'd be happy doing. Since you're reading this, you might suspect you're the same type.
Before you try it, though, make sure you are. Entrepreneurship is not all roses and buttercups: 70% of start-ups fail in their first ten years. Being an entrepreneur means taking far greater responsibility for your work and taking on serious financial risk. Are you ready for that?
What are the things that interest you in a career? I was driven by the challenge of creating a successful service business. Service requires constant relationship management, giving people what they want, and maintaining high standards. While I have my challenges with authority, I relish in other people challenging me.
My other driving passion is the desire to control my destiny. From the outset, I wanted to take the future into my hands, and I had the confidence to believe that I could handle it. For the record, narcissism is not a necessary quality for entrepreneurs, but confidence will help you ride the waves of hardship and stay positive in times of turmoil.
But even if you have all the ego in the world, you may need a good kick in the teeth to get going. Shortly after I graduated from engineering school, I committed to start a business with a close friend. We promised ourselves we'd wait five years while we amassed the networks and contacts to make our business successful. Four and a half years later I called Billy to let him know I was ready. He informed me that he had found another partner. I was out. Rejected.
I chose to settle the score by starting my own company. I spent the next six months honing my business plan, developing marketing and service strategies, and exploring the niche customer that I wanted to serve. I worked my networks, calling on clients, delivering presentations and designing a compelling message. By the third year, my company was profitable and had a strong presence in the marketplace. We kept on growing. Billy could go to hell.
From the get-go, I was true to myself. I realized where I wanted to be and why I wanted to be there, which made me confident in my business decisions. I had the passion to build a business, I took the time that I needed to prepare and cultivate important relationships, and I was persistent. I was not about to give up on my dream, business partner or not.
Bottom line: If you're a real entrepreneur, you know who you are. Or if you don't, it helps to have a 4th grade teacher and/or a double-crossing partner who will help you find out.
—Joanna Flatt co-authored this article