Entrepreneur – Be True To Who You Are
It took me a while to figure this out, but now I see it as a truism. You must be true to who you are. I think this is particularly important as an entrepreneur, as when you are charting new and different paths, there will never be a shortage of naysayers. You must be true to who you are so that you will have an inner confidence that allows you to look beyond the negativity and press on in the direction of your goals and dreams.
I’ll give you an example in my own case, which was one of my early indications that it was futile for me to fight my entrepreneurial tendencies. I had been an entrepreneur since a very young age, had done very well with it, and most importantly, loved every minute of being my own boss. Yet, when I finished undergrad, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to go work for a large company. As if that wasn’t enough, I went into a staid, high-end consulting environment. The pay was good, the nice offices and prestige were abundant, and I was miserable. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my work life when I felt more like a fish out of water! I watched the work being piled on and the partners making excellent money. I felt like an indentured servant.
At the point when I started “sharing” my work with other people at my “lowest on the totem pole” level, everything started to go seriously downhill. One partner comment I remember: “It’s not your job to delegate! You need to do the work we give you.” My response, “But he doesn’t have any work on his plate and I’m inundated. Don’t worry; I’ll make sure it’s correct.” There were many mildly humorous incidents like this. I lasted just seven months, then left, probably shortly before they asked me to leave, to take a job with a small, entrepreneurial software company, where I felt much more at home.
It was a good learning experience for me. I learned that I was not cut out for a large corporate job and all the realities inherent in such an environment. I’ve had quite a bit of success in advising such companies, but as an outside advisor, not an employee. I went through a phase, probably before maturing a bit, of thinking that one environment is better than the other, or said more directly, that entrepreneurship is better than working in corporate. However, with time, I have come to realize that it’s not what’s better or worse. In reality, we need both. It’s about what works for you. You have to be true to who you are. My Dad spent over thirty years with the same large company, and if you asked him, I don’t think he’d tell you he regrets it. I maxed out at seven months in such an environment. Is one of us right and the other wrong? I don’t think so. You just have to be true to yourself.
So thus far I’ve talked about being true to yourself mainly when choosing between entrepreneurship and corporate. Now let’s talk about it in a bit more depth, assuming you’ve taken the entrepreneurial path. You must also be true to who you are as an entrepreneur. What do I mean by that? Well, you can take a lot of paths as an entrepreneur. You can sell professional services. You can open a convenience store. You can develop proprietary technology, assemble an A-level management team, raise venture capital, and try to take your company public or sell it to a strategic buyer. In other words, there is a very wide range of possible ways to pursue being an entrepreneur. Before you start your venture, you should take some time to think about who you are as a person. Consider what you like to do. Take into account what skills you bring to the table. Think about whether you want to work with a team or grow something yourself. In short, you need to figure out what type of business you want to start up.
As you consider these questions, be true to who you are. Start a business that makes sense for you. It may not be what others recommend. They may not even “approve”. Who cares? It’s your business. You will be the one who has to run it, day in and day out. Make sure that it suits you! It will be your “blood, sweat and tears”. If you start a business to try to please other people, trust me, you will never be happy doing it.
First, make sure you understand the difference between an idea and an opportunity. Once you screen your business ideas and identify true opportunities, all else being roughly equal, choose the one that you feel the best about. Once you’ve identified business opportunities that truly have a chance of succeeding, go with your heart! Remember, you will spend a ton of time working on your business. Make sure it’s something you enjoy. Be sure it’s something that suits you at a visceral level. Be true to who you are and you cannot go wrong.
I look forward to your thoughts and questions. Please leave a comment (“response”) below or in the upper right corner of this post.