What An Entrepreneur Is [Versus Needs]

Recently I polled my Facebook friends asking, “Fill in the blank. The one thing an entrepreneur needs the most is _____?”

The seventy five people who responded surprised me. I had expected to hear suggestions for what they wanted in order to help them grow their businesses. Instead, as the answers rolled in, they kept citing personal qualities that someone must possess in order to behave entrepreneurially in the first place. After a bit it became clear that what they were really answering was what an entrepreneur IS (with a little bit of what an entrepreneur needs thrown in).

A Wordle.net Summary of the Answers

Relentless Pursuit

Notice how the words passion and persistence stick out. Over half of the answers relate in some fashion to “relentless pursuit of a passion”. Over half!

If I were to have rolled together all of the synonyms for persistence, it would have absolutely dominated the graphic. Drive, tenacity, balls, guts, persistence, focus, self-confidence, courage, determination, gumption, resilience, and others. An entrepreneur must be compelled to charge straight ahead into something they are passionate about. One person called it “a healthy dose of ignorance”, meaning the ability to not be discouraged by knowing all of the pitfalls up front.

These characteristics are not something that you can analytically map on a business model template or learn in a class. You can’t “need” them. You must already have them!

Connections, Connections, Connections

Had I also combined all occurrences of the word connections and added in “networking” plus other synonyms, that too could have dominated the graphic. Pursuing a passion by owning and growing a business is a social game.

Connection was sometimes referred to as community. I used to use that word a lot to describe the feeling of a co-working space I once co-owned. Community goes beyond mere connection, past a passive friends and followers list. It includes a sense of belonging, a sense of group, a sense or camaraderie.

Community also provides some tangible benefits in the form of experience and support. Experience is important to an entrepreneur, and one can [to a degree] learn from the experience of others and avoid some painful or costly personal experiences. Plus, connections and community can also provide the emotional support to carry entrepreneurs through tough times (like when they are having to cope with that previously mentioned healthy dose of ignorance).

What’s Left?

The few concepts that don’t relate to persistence, passion, or connections are “nuts and bolts” concepts that can all be learned or acquired. You can hire a tax accountant or attorney. You can write a business plan if your banker requires. You can obtain a line of credit or other capital. You can create and validate a business model.

If you are relentlessly pursuing your passion (i.e. possess the values and characteristics of an entrepreneur), you will find these or other resources if and when you need them. For the past decade, I have coached a mixture of true entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs. The true entrepreneurs really didn’t need me. They found answers and established connections on their own.

What Is Truly Important?

One of my friends (you know who you are) talks about how it is counterproductive to assume that wanna-be entrepreneurs (those without true relentless pursuit or passion) are truly entrepreneurs. He would argue that teaching the nuts and bolts to someone who doesn’t possess the persistence and passion to use them is a hollow act.

The answers to this survey similarly suggest that it may be more important to …

  1. find the people who are already relentlessly pursuing their passions.
  2. bring them together in a community.
  3. help them learn the nuts and bolts.

But, let’s go one step further. It may be even more important to address the larger social issue — by helping more people learn how to …

  1. cultivate a sense of self-confidence and relentless persistence.
  2. identify a passion and an overwhelming desire to pursue it.
  3. form a culture of community around their passion.

I thank all of my friends for their answers to what seemed like a simple little survey question — and to forgive me for taking the liberty to draw some rather broad conclusions from their aggregate answers.