What’s Holding You Back?

If you have these qualities, you’d likely make a great entrepreneur.
Illustration Jrcasas

There’s probably not a soul on earth who hasn’t had a great idea for a new product, service or business pop into their head at least once. Yet only a minuscule percentage of us ever take that idea and even attempt to turn it into an enterprise.

Why? What keeps people from embarking on the entrepreneurial path? It’s not what you’d think. First, it’s not money. Many a successful entrepreneur has started up with nothing in the way of financial resources. Yes, at some point virtually any business needs access to cash – but that point is rarely the starting line.

Second, it’s not time. People with demanding jobs, and/or raising children, and/or any number of other time-consuming obligations have still managed to get their ideas off the ground. Again, sooner or later an entrepreneur needs to commit a greater amount of time to his or her project; again, the project can be well underway before that commitment is necessary.

Conquer the fear. During World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt famously said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” He could easily have been addressing a convention of reluctant entrepreneurs.

By definition, being an entrepreneur means taking a risk. Risk-aversion (really a polite way of saying fear) has been bred into the human DNA since caveman days, and today’s world hardly seems conducive to taking extra risks. Nonetheless, the first thing an entrepreneur has to do is confront the fear and be willing to take the risk.

Beyond that, what are some signs that you might be an entrepreneur but not willing to admit it?

Problem-solving skills. One of the best quotes from this year’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week came from Michael Flowers, former chief analytics officer for the city of New York, who observed that “A problem is an asset.” If you are someone who embraces problems as opportunities and has the ability to find creative solutions, you have a critical entrepreneurial skill.

Energy and focus. Are you often the first to arrive and/or the last to leave at work (and maybe the one who works through lunch as well)? Do you find yourself thinking creatively about work while you’re working in your yard or playing a round of golf? This is the kind of dedication it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

Idea person. Big or small, every new enterprise starts with an idea. If you find ideas popping into your head on a regular basis, maybe you should start writing some of them down. One of them could turn into “the next big idea.”

An independent streak. No matter how committed you are to your job, do you occasionally chafe at the inherent restrictions of working for any company of any size? If you dream of being captain of your own ship, maybe it’s time to consider launching — even if it’s just a little pirogue to start.

This brings us to another key point: Taking that first step on the entrepreneurial path is a commitment, and any commitment can definitely be scary. But there are ways to minimize the risk. You don’t necessarily have to quit your day job to begin a new venture, though you owe it to your employer not to do something that either competes with their business or impairs your job performance. You don’t have to invest a lot of money up front, either.

This said, you do have to make the commitment, both to yourself and your idea.

If you are someone who dreams of a better life and a better world, why not take a look inside yourself and see if there is an entrepreneur ready to jump out? If the answer is yes, put one of those Roosevelt dimes on your computer and take the former president’s words to heart!

Keith Twitchell  spent 16 years running his own business before becoming president of the Committee for a Better New Orleans. He has observed, supported and participated in entrepreneurial ventures at the street, neighborhood, nonprofit, micro- and macro-business levels.



Categories: The Magazine