We’re all entrepreneurs now

The days when people could expect to get a steady job and build a traditional career are drawing to a close.

Today, entrepreneurialism – taking responsibility for your working life – is mainstream. This puts the spotlight on the mindset needed to cope with the highs and lows of entrepreneurial life.

In this article, we look at the mindset needed to take ideas that you’ve always wanted to progress and turn them into action in an increasingly unpredictable and uncertain world.

Let’s look at seven key dimensions of the entrepreneurial mindset.

ONE: Getting clarity around your overall direction of travel
Everything starts with having a vision of what it is you want to achieve. It was Nelson Mandela’s vision of South Africa being free from apartheid that sustained him through his 27 years in prison.

Your vision will lead you to goal setting. Goals should be framed to provide you with an objective that leads to an identifiable result. For example, if you want to be the top dog walker in the city, this key result could be achieved through the goal of securing 10 new clients by the end of a specific time period.  

And in terms of sustaining a direction of travel, perhaps most importantly, you need to always act with purpose and intentionality. Apparently, Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, used to ask himself every 10 minutes ‘Is what I’m about to do going to help me build the IKEA empire?’ This example is a bit obsessive, but you get the idea!

TWO: Cultivate mental resilience
The foundation of being resilient is to break out of any negative or limiting beliefs that are holding you back from achieving your potential. And critical to this is the belief that when a challenge arises, you will – with time – be able to figure it out.

It’s not about having some kind of superpower that others don’t have. I love the line from Matt Damon in the film The Martian, which is about getting the hero safely back from Mars – ‘You solve one problem. You solve the next one and then the next, and if you solve enough problems, you get to come home. All right, any questions?’

THREE: Take massive, determined action
All the business gurus are agreed that the key to entrepreneurial success is a commitment to taking action.

This simple idea begs the question, why would anyone not want to take action in relation to an idea they want to progress? But the reality is people find many ways of procrastinating and not getting started. The trick here is to adopt the ‘build the plane as you fly it’ principle.

This is all about starting and then adapting as you go. Entrepreneurs do not obsess about the ‘how’. They don’t worry about having the exact plans in place or about how to get there. These will evolve. For successful entrepreneurs their motto is ‘don’t let the process kill the big idea’!

Having got underway, then bring a high energy game to everything you do. And being productive isn’t just about using techniques and apps for being organised and managing your time. It’s about focusing, prioritising, protecting your time and making sure you’re always working on what matters most. You need to protect yourself from crazy makers, energy vampires and time wasters who are trying to rent space in your head.

FOUR: Apply clear, deep accurate thinking
It’s easy for an action-orientated entrepreneur to get caught up in the day-to-day and not take time out for deep strategic thinking. This is critical because, in business, it’s difficult to tactically retrieve a flawed strategic position.

So it’s important to be a strategic entrepreneur who knows where to play, how to win, and how to get there with a minimum of resources. Don’t fall into the trap of being an opportunity seeker who is rushing around endlessly chasing lots of possibilities in a tactical way. 

This leads us to providing simple, elegant well-thought-through solutions. Einstein said, ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler’. It’s all about eliminating unhelpful confusion, but at the same time knowing when to tackle critical complexity that must be resolved. It’s important to know the difference between the two.

This clarity of thinking extends to developing a sound business model. You need to make sure business acumen triumphs over ego, make-believe and fantasy. You need to learn to say no to people who might be tempting you into projects that are not going to make money.

And you need to be realistic about your sales projections for future work. Remember forecasts are essentially made up! In sum you need to know your key business numbers.

FIVE: You need to know how to showcase your difference
Today, outstanding creativity is a massive differentiator. As everything becomes more globalised, standardised and commoditised, your ability to provide that creative edge will pay big dividends. Here you need belief that your creativity can be cultivated and developed.

Think of creativity as being a disciplined business. You can learn how to take your natural talents to the next level in terms of touching the customer’s world and showcasing your difference.

Virgin Atlantic stands out with its theme, ‘See the world differently’. Virgin’s states its purpose and values as, ‘We look for unexpected ways to delight. We love connecting with people. We believe thoughtful little touches add up to a big difference.’ At every customer touchpoint Virgin seeks to demonstrate why it is different from more traditional airlines. 

SIX: Be able to tell your entrepreneurial story in an influential and authentic way
A big shift in making the transition from employee to being your own boss is the need to start thinking about yourself as a brand. Here it’s important to recognise that a brand is not just a logo. A brand is much bigger than this.

Your brand is the way that you will be known and remembered. So it’s a reflection of your personality. It becomes important to build a brand that reflects what you stand for and represent.

You need to acquire the skills of the business storyteller in communicating what your brand represents. Seth Godin says, ‘Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell’.

So, take time out to learn about the architecture of an elegant story. Many will remember Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. This is a brilliant example of a communication with a compelling rhythmic structure. First, he sets up a challenge (problem) – the black community in the US are being treated unfairly. Then he moves to discuss a solution – the arrival of the Civil Rights Movement campaigning for equality. He then has a call to action. And everything is brilliantly tied together with the compelling repetition throughout of his I Have a Dream theme. 

SEVEN: The art of making informed decisions, fostering winning ways and cultivating success habits.
We hear a lot about entrepreneurial intuition. And this is often positioned as superior to more evidence-based thinking. And there’s no denying that intuition is a big part of the entrepreneur’s game. But intuition can be a false friend.

So, it’s important to strike a balance between intuition and the evidence. I like the idea of ‘informed intuition’, which is hitting the sweet spot between the power of System 1 (more emotional, intuitive and instinctive decision-making) and System 2 (more rational analytical thinking).

One tip to achieve this is to set up ‘decision moments’ where you allocate a specific date, time and location for framing your decision choices and working through to the optimum decision. You can’t do this for every micro decision but you should certainly develop this discipline for the big decisions in developing your entrepreneurial ideas. 

Another dimension of the entrepreneur mindset is to cultivate the winner’s advantage and recognise that it’s always down to you. You need to take ownership for problems and make critical interventions, rather than letting things drift. Napoleon, when asked what he was looking for in a General, replied, ‘They need to be lucky’! And it was WH Murray who said, ‘The moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too’. This is slightly mystical but in essence, this is saying that if you start taking responsibility for making things happen, then you will find that the universe will conspire in your favour.  

Developing the entrepreneurial mindset in practice
In this article, we’ve outlined the key characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset. But this raises the question of the specific frameworks, tools and techniques you can use to turn these ideas into daily success habits.

The reader might want to refer to The Entrepreneur Mindset: The art of making ideas happen by DVL Smith which is available on Amazon.

The book provides concrete techniques and best practice tips for helping to cultivate the entrepreneur mindset.

In addition, you might be interested in the workshops we run on the art of cultivating the Entrepreneur Mindset. Please contact me to find out more about how we can work together. 

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