Attitude and the Entrepreneur

Successful employers and employees share many personal qualities but there may also be key differences. For example, both employers and employees need a positive attitude, and a good attitude is something that generally can be nurtured and developed. But the attitude of the business owner is likely to be driven by some basic elements of their character. 

If the business owner does not have these character traits, the business is going to have a tough time making a profit.  The successful business owner is generally someone who seeks responsibility, pursues goals with vigor, shows initiative and persistence and has a constitution that is solid enough to take periods of stress and high workloads. 

The source of these qualities is motivation. The business owner must be doing something that they really want to do. If there is no passion, there is no entrepreneurship.  This means that business owners need to periodically and honestly assess themselves. If their business does not seem like fun any more, how can they change it? What are their other options, if business changes will not rekindle their enthusiasm? 

Entrepreneurs are often driven by a deep psychological need to achieve. They need a positive attitude because people who are decisive and take risks have their fair share of failure. There are many examples of this in history. Henry Ford and Walt Disney both failed miserably at their first attempts to launch their businesses.  Business people are often truly successful only on their second or third attempt. Ask a successful entrepreneur you know what failures they have experienced on the road to success and my guess is they could regale you all day with stories of near misses and total failures. A positive attitude for the entrepreneur means the ability to try again after taking a big gamble and losing.

Attitude is also a key to an entrepreneur’s thinking ability. It’s a key to their creativity. 

General Colin Powell, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and soon to be retired US Secretary of State says in his Leadership Primer presentation that “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” He goes on to say that “the ripple effect of a leader’s enthusiasm and optimism is awesome.  So is the impact of cynicism and pessimism.  Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues.  I am not talking about stoically accepting organizational stupidity and performance incompetence with a “what, me worry?” smile.  I am talking about a gung-ho attitude that says “we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best.”  Spare me the grim litany of the “realist,” give me the unrealistic aspirations of the optimist any day.” 

Obviously, a risk taking entrepreneur needs that enthusiasm to be tempered to some degree. My guess is by the time the would be entrepreneur meets with his or her banker, accountant and lawyer they will heave it tempered quite a bit if not shut off completely!  Entrepreneurs need to be able to analyze a problem in an aggressive way, to turn it around and come up with a positive outcome. A passive approach to a problem is not a creative one. 

Many of the entrepreneur’s personal qualities are deep, if not innate. But there are many other qualities that can be learned or developed.  For example, not all entrepreneurs are born leaders or people managers. They may have the drive and the determination to succeed but lack the skills to carry people with them. If they are going to be successful in the long run they will need to know how to bring their team alongside them if not get them out in front. 

There are many courses on leadership and even natural leaders probably need skills development.  While entrepreneurs are commonly high-energy people who cope well with stress, nobody is indestructible. They may need guidance on basic things, such as the best diet and exercise regime for coping with long-term stress.  Entrepreneurs need to be organized, but that does not always come naturally, especially for a creative and driven person. 

Good business people are generally good communicators. They’re helped by the fact that they’re doing something they love and enthusiasm is contagious.  That does not mean entrepreneurs are gifted with high-level communication skills. That may especially be the case if they work in technical areas. So there will be room for skills development there too.  Attitude and drive may be innate, but skills and knowledge aren’t. 

If you want to be an entrepreneur take a thorough self assessment in the areas of enthusiasm, attitude and drive. Your chances of success will be much greater if you have the qualities of a positive attitude, enthusiasm and drive.