15 Signs You’re an Entrepreneur
MARCIA LAYTON TURNER
JULY 22, 2014
From the August 2014 issue of Entrepreneur
Pressed to describe the stereotypical
entrepreneur, which words would you use?
Passionate? Dedicated? Optimistic? Sure, those
apply. But insecure and troublemaker are more
accurate, according to ‘treps who know a
success when they see one. Do the following
traits, characteristics and quirks describe you?
Well then, you might be an entrepreneur (at heart,
if not yet in practice).
1. You take action.
Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group,
co-star of TV’s Shark Tank and author of Shark
Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar
Business , says people who have a concept but
not necessarily a detailed strategy are more likely
to have that entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi. “I
hate entrepreneurs with beautiful business plans,”
Image credit: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com
Corcoran’s recommendation? ” Invent as [you]
go,” rather than spending time writing a plan at
your desk. In fact, she believes that people with
life experience have an active problem-solving
ability and think-on-your-feet resourcefulness
that can be more valuable than book smarts
alone. Those who study business may be prone
to overanalyzing situations rather than taking
2. You’re insecure.
“Many entrepreneurs judged as ambitious are
really insecure underneath,” Corcoran says. When
evaluating potential investments, she adds, “I
want someone who is scared to death.” Those
who are nervous about failing can become
hyperfocused and willing to do whatever it takes
to succeed. If you feel insecure, use that emotion
to drive you to achieve your business goals.
3. You’re crafty.
“One of my favorite TV shows growing up was
MacGyver,” confides Tony Hsieh, CEO of Las
Vegas-based Zappos , “because he never had
exactly the resources he needed but would
somehow figure out how to make everything work
Always resourceful: Zappos chief Tony Hsieh.
Image credit: Flickr/Delivering Happiness Book
A lifelong entrepreneur, Hsieh has done everything
from starting a worm farm to making buttons and
selling pizzas, so he admires MacGyver’s
“combination of creativity, optimism and street
smarts. Ultimately, I think that’s what being an
entrepreneur is all about–playing MacGyver, but
for business.” It’s not about having enough
resources, he explains, but being resourceful with
what you do have.
4. You’re obsessed With cash flow.
Before founding Brainshark, a Waltham, Mass.-
based developer of technology for business
presentations, Joe Gustafson bootstrapped a
venture called Relational Courseware. “All I ever
thought about was cash flow and liquidity,” he
says, admitting, “there were seven times in [the
company’s] eight-year history when I was days
or hours away from payroll and didn’t have
enough cash to make it.”
How did he respond? “In the early days, you could
step up and put expenses on your personal credit
card, but that can only go so far,” he says. “You
need cash–even if you have the best company
and the best receivables in the world–to fight the
battle one more day.” Other strategies he
recommends include working with a partner who
can provide cash advances on projects and
maintaining close communication with suppliers.
5. You get into hot water.
Stephane Bourque, founder and CEO of Vancouver,
British Columbia-based Incognito Software , says
true entrepreneurial types are more likely to ask
for forgiveness than permission, forging ahead to
address the opportunities or issues they
recognize, even without approval from higher-ups.
” Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status
quo,” says Bourque, who discovered he was not
destined for the corporate world when he kept
coming up with new and better ways of doing
things–ideas that were not necessarily
appreciated by his bosses and often were
interpreted as unwanted criticism. Now, he says,
“I wish my employees would get into more
trouble,” because it shows they are on the lookout
for opportunities to improve themselves or
6. You’re fearless.
Where most avoid risk, entrepreneurs see
potential, says Robert Irvine, chef and host of
Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible. True
‘treps are not afraid to leverage their houses and
run up their credit card balances in order to
amass the funds they need to create a new
venture. In some ways, he says, they are the
ultimate optimists, because they operate under
the belief that their investments of time and
money will eventually pay off.
7. You can’t sit still.
Entrepreneurs have unbridled energy that fuels
them long past the time when their employees
have gone home. They are eager, excited and
energized about business in a way that makes
them stand out. Irvine would know: He owns a
restaurant in South Carolina, is opening another
in the Pentagon and has a line of food and
clothing products, on top of hosting his TV show.
8. You’re malleable.
“If you have only one acceptable outcome in
mind, your chances of making it are slim,”
cautions Rosemary Camposano, president and
CEO of Silicon Valley chain Halo Blow Dry Bars. If
you are willing to listen, your clients will show
you which of your products or services provide
the most value.
Her original vision for Halo was part blow-dry
bar, part gift shop, “to help busy women
multitask,” she explains. But she quickly learned
that the gift shop was causing confusion about
the nature of her business, so she took it out,
replaced it with an extra blow-dry chair, and
things took off. Smart entrepreneurs constantly
evolve, tweaking their business concepts in
response to market feedback.
9. You enjoy navel gazing.
Without direct supervisors, entrepreneurs need to
be comfortable with the process of evaluating
their own performance, says Laura Novak Meyer,
owner of Pennsylvania’s Little Nest Portraits.
That requires “a willingness to solicit feedback
from those around you to self-improve,” she says,
as well as paying close attention to feedback you
may not have asked for, such as customer
complaints or being outpaced by competitors.
Little Nest surveys every client to ask for
opportunities for improvement, and Meyer has
worked closely with a business coach for the past
five years to identify personal areas where she
needs to improve.
10. You’re motivated by challenges.
When confronted by problems, many employees
try to pass the buck or otherwise wash their
hands of the situation. Entrepreneurs, on the other
hand, rise to the occasion. “Challenges motivate
them to work harder,” says Jeff Platt, CEO of the
Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park franchise. “An
entrepreneur doesn’t think anything is
insurmountable … He looks adversity in the eye
and keeps going.”
Candace Nelson, founder of Sprinkles Cupcakes,
agrees. Despite naysayers who questioned her
idea for a bakery in the midst of the carb-fearing
early-2000s, she persevered and now has
locations in eight states. In fact, she was one of
the first entrepreneurs in a business that became
an ongoing craze, sparking numerous copycats.
11. You consider yourself an outsider.
Entrepreneurs aren’t always accepted, says
Vincent Petryk, founder of J.P. Licks, a Boston
chain of ice-cream shops. They may be seen as
opinionated, quirky and demanding–but that is
not necessarily a bad thing. “They are often
rejected for being different in some way, and that
just makes them work harder,” Petryk says. When
his former boss didn’t approve of his off-duty
research into ice-cream quality, he went out on
his own to develop a made-from-scratch dessert
in bold flavors. Rather than copying what most
other ice-cream shops were doing, including
buying from the same well-known suppliers,
Petryk forged his own path. His early
competitors? All but one are no longer in
12 . You recover quickly.
It’s a popular notion that successful
entrepreneurs fail fast and fail often. For
Corcoran, the trick is in the speed of recovery: If
you fail, resist the urge to mope or feel sorry for
yourself. Don’t wallow; move on to the next big
13. You fulfill needs.
Many people recognize marketplace holes, but it
is the true entrepreneur who takes them from
cocktail napkin to reality, says Jennifer Dawn,
partner in New York City-based Savor the
Success, a business network for women.
“Entrepreneurs think of a way to fix it and take
steps to fix it. They are innovators.” So when
Savor’s network of women began asking for
advice and input from co-founder Angela Jia Kim,
she and Dawn created a new product: Savor
Circles. These mastermind groups connect four
members who give each other tailored input and
expertise; even better, they provide Savor the
Success with a new revenue stream.
14. You surround yourself with advisors.
Actress Jessica Alba, co-founder and president of
Santa Monica, Calif.-based The Honest Company ,
which sells baby, home and personal-care
products, notes that “it’s important to surround
yourself with people smarter than you and to
listen to ideas that aren’t yours. I’m open to
ideas that aren’t mine and people that know what
I don’t, because I think success takes
communication, collaboration and, sometimes,
“Success takes communication, collaboration
and, sometimes, failure.”
–Jessica Alba, The Honest Company
In other words: True ‘treps don’t hire yes men;
they talk to those with experience and conduct
thorough research, gathering as much information
as they can to make informed decisions rather
than taking a shot in the dark.
15. You work and play hard.
“Entrepreneurs fall down and pick themselves up
until they get it right,” says Micha Kaufman, who
snowboards and sails in addition to running
Fiverr , the fast-growth online freelance
marketplace he co-founded.
You know the type: Micha Kaufman of Fiverr.
Photography by Yanvi Edry
Like in sports, the key to success in business is
staying super-focused, the CEO notes. During
Fiverr’s launch, instead of trying to deal with “an
endless number of potential challenges,” Kaufman
and his team focused on “the single biggest
challenge every marketplace has: building
Without liquidity, there is no marketplace. It’s like
worrying about the skills needed for frontside-360
jumps before getting on a snowboard and learning
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