Monday, 21 January 2013

Entrepreneur : Do you have that In You.

Do Entrepreneurs think differently ???

This question hits on a favorite topic around here, discussed not just by new students, but also by our entrepreneur teachers and alumni. But first, since there are two different ways to interpret the question, we need to make an assumption clear. Do entrepreneurs think differently than each other or differently than everyone else? While we know that entrepreneurs can definitely be prone to disagree, we’re more interested in how successful entrepreneurs take a different approach to things than much of the rest of the population.

Do Entrepreneurs Think Differently Than Everyone Else?

As we discussed in a previous post, it’s clear that most entrepreneurs and successful Acton scholars have  many traits in common with each other. Taken collectively, it seems certain that they would have a direct impact on the decisions and choices that an entrepreneur makes. However, it’s also possible for someone to have the same assortment of traits, without pursuing an entrepreneurial life or endeavor.
So we’d argue that the answer to the main question really has two parts.
  • How do entrepreneurs look at problems or obstacles?
  • What do they then do about them?
To understand what makes entrepreneurs different, it’s important to understand both steps.

How Entrepreneurs Perceive Problems

A key characteristic of entrepreneurs is their interest in problem solving, whether it’s presented by a market, an established way of doing things, or merely a daily inconvenience. Where many individuals might simply complain or accept a problem as a part of life, an entrepreneur notices it and begins to ask questions. Why must this be so? Could that obstacle be removed? Is there be a better way to do this? What other alternatives might exist? Is this a puzzle that can be solved?
Where others may see problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities. But simply recognizing an opportunity isn’t enough. This is not simply an issue of  the proverbial half full or half empty glass. Successful entrepreneurs first select the right opportunities and then they act. Decisively.

Decide and Go

No entrepreneur could attempt to pursue every opportunity. In addition to considering the merits of the opportunity itself, successful entrepreneurs also consider its feasibility, timing, context, available talent, investment required, their own skills, and many other factors before deciding to act. However, once it is time to make a decision, it is taking that well-considered and deliberate action that makes for a successful entrepreneur. If action never follows thought, then no business, enterprise or product  can be realized. Successful entrepreneurs know how to execute or find people who do.

Digging Deeper

At Acton, our curriculum has been designed to provide our students with a full set of skills, tools and resources to both analyze opportunities and to execute on a plan, when they choose an opportunity. Every successful entrepreneur that we know asks the right questions and then acts. (They also continue to ask the right questions, but that’s a topic for another day.)
The exact right questions will always be determined by the nature of the opportunity and of the individual entrepreneur. But a handful of sample questions, shared below, cast some light on the factors an entrepreneur will consider.
  • Can you solve the problem better, faster or cheaper than others? Can you achieve more than one of these? Which of the three is the most important in this specific case?
  • What is your key success factor? What’s the most important investment you must make to ensure your opportunity has its best prospect? How much will this investment cost? What will you have gained the day after you’ve made the investment?
  • Are you the right person to pursue this? Do you have the skills and talent to solve the problem or the ability to hire others who do? Is your personal expertise and experience relevant to the opportunity? Are you able to recruit and inspire others who have required expertise that you don’t have?
  • Is this the right opportunity for you? Is it consistent with your own vision, goals and plans? Does it support or conflict with your values and requirements?
  • What other paths will you give up to pursue this opportunity? Literally, what is your opportunity cost? If you pursue this, what other options and experiences are you giving up? Have you selected the right opportunity to which you’ll devote your attention?

Lessons for Entrepreneurs

Although we do believe that entrepreneurs have unique characteristics and a certain way of doing things to achieve results, we also know that successful entrepreneurial tools and approaches can be taught to willing students. It’s the consistent and disciplined application of these techniques and a willingness to ask hard questions, by our students in the classroom and our alumni in the real world, that makes these lessons take root and grow.


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