Are entrepreneurs really braver than the rest of us?
It’s easy to think of entrepreneurs as the superheroes of the business world. And yes, there are many incredible stories of achievement. But thinking that way can close the door to new talent wanting to enter the entrepreneurial world. The idea that every entrepreneur is, by nature, braver than everyone else is slightly misleading.
So let’s look at some key qualities around bravery and entrepreneurs, unpack some of the myths, and look at how you can learn, adapt and truly become that entrepreneur who is ready to jump in the deep end.
- Taking risks
- Making tough decisions
- Knowing you don’t have all the answers
- Being unafraid to fail
- Being brave when it matters
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk” – that’s according to Mark Zuckerberg. But let’s not pretend that entrepreneurs just take wild, random risks all day long, shooting blindly for the stars in the hope of something hitting. Clearly that’s not the case.
But it is true to say that from the minute you do decide to go it alone, to become your own boss, you are taking a risk.
You are no longer an employee, you are now fully involved in every aspect of your new company’s journey. Whether that’s making your first hire or fixing the broken fridge in the office. It’s on you.
Just the belief that your idea is good enough to warrant setting up a business is itself a risk. The key, however, is the thought process you go through before taking that risk. The best entrepreneurs analyse, mitigate, think it through. So the mistake here is to think of entrepreneurs as wild risk takers, when in fact they take key risks at certain times and with particular strategic objectives in mind.
Making tough decisions
The first tough decision you’re going to make is to leave regular employment. Whether you run your startup alongside your regular job for a while or not, at some point you’ll have to make that decision.
Down the line there will be other big decisions – whether to go with a particular investor, whether to bootstrap your business, whether to go deep into your personal funds, whether to make that first hire. It’s decision after decision and all of them have huge implications.
Over time, you’ll start to trust your instincts, to ask for counsel from those who you trust and know have your best interests at heart. So while there is an aspect of this decision-making that is lonely, it is – after all – one of the key reasons entrepreneurs go it alone. The buck stops with you.
None of this means you are above asking for help as well as canvassing ideas and input from your peers and mentors. But in the end it’s up to you to sift through it all and make the call.
One of the toughest decisions, one of the toughest ‘no’s’ you’ll have to say is to some of your own ideas. It’s impossible to pursue every single avenue, and with that in mind, you’ll need to work on saying no to ideas, even good ideas, but ones that aren’t going to help move your business forward at that particular time.
Knowing you don’t have all the answers
A large part of being an entrepreneur is understanding that while you are in charge, you don’t have all the answers at your fingertips at all times. You are on a journey, a process of exploration. And at times that means you won’t know what to do.
This is a part of ‘being brave’, because it means you’re at peace with walking into the unknown where you don’t have the answer. The difference is that you’re ready and equipped to go and find it. Knowing that there are gaps in your knowledge, and acknowledging that, just means you’re ready to stretch yourself as an entrepreneur. Every day as an entrepreneur you learn.
The problem comes when you feel that you have to always have the answer on-hand. This just increases stress and does not lead to good decision-making. So bravery here is admitting you don’t know everything, rather than making the wrong decision based on half-understood information.
Being unafraid to fail
When it comes to failure, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sees it as part of the overall journey: “Failure comes part and parcel with invention. It’s not optional… and we understand that and believe in failing early and iterating until we get it right. When this process works, it means our failures are relatively small in size.”
It’s often said how it’s important to fail early. Get those mistakes out of the way. But in truth there will be failures of various kinds throughout your entrepreneur journey. The question is how you respond to them, how agile you have built your business to adapt, and what kind of vision you have for your company’s future.
Rather than taking a business failure as a personal one, the more you can chalk it up to a learning experience, one which will fuel the next iteration of your business, the faster you can get back on track.
Being brave when it matters
As we have talked about, being brave for an entrepreneur comes in many shapes and forms. But while bravery is often associated with big, dramatic moves in business, the truth is that often we are showing bravery by admitting we don’t know everything, that we can be vulnerable, and that at times things aren’t looking so good.
Of course we present all that in different ways, depending on who we’re talking to in the business. But being brave for an entrepreneur is actually more about being honest with ourselves, and when it does come time for those bold moves, we make them having done our due diligence and risk analysis.