Aside from running down to your local quick-print store, firing up 500 entrepreneur business cards and sporting a hoodie, what makes someone an entrepreneur?
And more importantly, how do you know if you are entrepreneur?
At the company I run, MeetAdvisors, we have connected hundreds of startup leaders and entrepreneurs with mentors and advisors. So we've seen every conceivable type of entrepreneur. After you've seen enough of something, you start to see patterns and be able to separate what's important from what isn't.
Tip number one: the title on your business card isn't important.
Whether you're sitting in a corner office or serving drive through, here are five easy yes or no questions that can help you decide if you are an entrepreneur right now. Keep count--give yourself one point for each 'yes.'
Question 1: Even though it may not be part of your paying job, are you reading a column about entrepreneurship in Inc. magazine right now?
Alright, yes, that's cheating. But give yourself a point.
Why it's important: A deep curiosity about how the business world works and/or about entrepreneurship is very important. It implies curiosity about other things and a willingness to accept and use advice. Both are important entrepreneurship traits.
Question 2: Do things you use every day frustrate you because you see how they could be better?
One very common trait shared by entrepreneurs is a deep desire to make products and services better. Connecting how a consumer uses a product to how it can be improved for their benefit is a foundation of innovation. You'd be shocked at how many entrepreneurs start as frustrated consumers.
Question 3: Do setbacks actually motivate you?
When you face a setback, bad news or negative feedback, does it wreck you? Or fuel you? If negativity and obstacles motivate you to work harder and be even better, that's important because persistence, grit, determination (whatever you want to call that trait) is common across almost all entrepreneurs.
"Setbacks should be viewed as good things," Neil P. Crist, CEO of Venuelabs told me. "Every setback or complication is proof that you're tackling hard problems. Solving hard problems is where true value is created," he said.
Question 4: Are you totally, entirely comfortable with instability?
If you need (as in deeply, emotionally need) a steady paycheck, 401k and health care, the entrepreneurship life may be difficult for you. Many entrepreneurs toil, just getting by without a steady job or income because they are diverting their passion into their entrepreneurial vision. That doesn't mean you can't have stability and be a great entrepreneur. But it does mean that the path is likely to be, at best, uneven and if you can't handle that, you're not likely to stay on that path as long as may be required to reach your goal.
Question 5: Have you stared at a blank wall in the past few hours?
Confession, I stole this one from Tom Gold, VP for Research at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. But I like it and I know he's ok with me using it.
This is important because many entrepreneurs are easily distracted by their own imaginations and thoughts. They can drift, daydream. Entrepreneurs have active imaginations--all the time. And while it can make many seem aloof, imagination and the self-confidence to indulge it are important keys to seeing and doing things differently.
So, how'd you do?
This isn't a scientific or definitive scale but if you got just one point (reading this article), thank you. Please keep reading. But cashing in your retirement to follow your entrepreneurship dream may not be your best move.
Two points? Nice. It may be time to think about taking an entrepreneurship course or reading in more detail. Maybe find a local meetup or drop by an early stage incubator. I'd say it's time to get your feet wet.
Three? I'd advise you to sketch or jot down a few of your ideas and start developing those. Start anticipating obstacles and planning solutions. Maybe invite a leader in your idea area to lunch--sound out your ideas and your interest.
Four? Get some advice about writing a business plan and product treatment for your best ideas. Find someone who may be able to help with market research. Run the numbers. If you think one (or more) idea of yours is good, it may be. Chances are, you're an entrepreneur.
If you ticked off five 'yes' answers, you have all the makings of an entrepreneur. I'd advise you to take action on your ideas--and soon. The market doesn't wait for anyone. Even entrepreneurs like you.