As a startup advisor and investor, I’ve met many aspiring entrepreneurs, and I often get asked the question, “I have a great idea for a startup—do you agree that it has real potential?” They don’t know that most experts agree the person is more important than the idea, yet I’ve never been asked, “I have a great idea for a startup—do you agree that I have real potential as an entrepreneur?”
Nevertheless, I’ve given a good bit of thought to some questions I might ask, or you should ask yourself, to get some indication of whether you have the right stuff to succeed and be happy in the entrepreneur lifestyle. Here are 10 sample questions that I believe will reveal positive indications of your potential as an entrepreneur, and also indicate that you will select good ideas:
- You see creating a business as a fun challenge. Many techies and inventors I know hate the thought of running a business—their fun and challenge comes from creating the innovative solution. For these, I recommend that they find a partner first who is willing and able to run a business. “If we build it, they will come” is not a viable startup strategy.
- You tend to ask for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. This attitude indicates that you are comfortable making decisions, and ready to be your own boss—a major prerequisite for succeeding in any entrepreneurial endeavor. Of course, you do need to consider how often that strategy has worked for you, and how often it backfired.
- Making big money excites you, but is not your major driver. If you dream of an opportunity to get rich quick, the entrepreneur route is not for you. Most great founders lived on Ramen noodles, without taking a salary, for longer than they like to remember. For them, money is a positive indicator of success, but not an end in itself.
- You relish the opportunity to set your own goals and targets. Real entrepreneurs are self-motivated, and hate to be driven by someone else’s deadlines and priorities. Arbitrary rewards, like salary bonuses or vacation perks, seem to just get in the way of achieving really great results. The fun is in the journey, as well as the destination.
- You treasure your breadth of interests, rather than your depth. To build a startup, you have to enjoy the broad range of challenges, from technical to marketing to sales to personnel. Big corporations need specialists, which is why most entrepreneurs move on to start their next business when their first startup gets too large.
- You enjoy building relationships as well as products. A startup is no place for the Lone Ranger. An entrepreneur has to be as adept at building a team, finding the right external partners, and finding customers, as building the solution. At the very least, you need to nurture a trusting relationship with a complementary partner to get things going.
- The perks of a big title and corner office are not important to you. Most startup founders are happy to work out of their garage or home office, where they can dress comfortably, have no set schedule, and interact easily with family and friends. With the Internet and easy global communication, title and offices are not competitive advantages.
- You see yourself as more of a doer than a dreamer. People who pride themselves as the “idea” person most often fail as the lead entrepreneur. Startups are rarely at a loss for ideas, but always need a good problem solver to tackle the latest challenge. Businesses are all about implementation, production, and processes, rather than dreams.
- You usually keep your cool, even in tough situations. Entrepreneurs need to be passionate without being too emotional. The realities of starting a business are not all under your control, and partners and competitors with don’t always play fair. Your team and customers need to see you as a stable leader, not an unpredictable tyrant.
- Not afraid to actively listen as well as talk. Good entrepreneurs have an ego, but they are able to keep it in check. Selling your idea or product requires an understanding of the view of others, and the willingness to change based on customer feedback. Even the most famous entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates, have a trusted advisor like Warren Buffett.
If you recognize yourself positively in most of these characterizations, then I recommend the entrepreneur lifestyle for you. There is no better time, with the cost of entry at an all-time low, and the public image of an entrepreneur at an all-time high. Startup investors and customers alike are waiting to line up behind you. And I’m already sure your idea has great potential.
Image credit: CC by Bouncer Criss