Saturday, February 20, 2010

5 Signs That You Are Ready to be a Successful Entrepreneur

Everyone dreams of being a successful entrepreneur, but we all know that entrepreneurship is not for everyone. There's no sure-fire formula for entrepreneurial success; in fact, we all learned from the last post that even college education does not a successful business person make. So what does it take to be the next Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei, or Henry Sy? Here are a few signs that you are ready for the entrepreneurial prime time.

1. You start spending less than you used to.

Frugality is a trait shared by most, if not all, of the most successful Filipino entrepreneurs. For example, taipan John Gokongwei Jr. has always been known as a notorious penny pincher, both in his personal life and in his many business. Before he founded his own airline, people close to him say that he always preferred to fly economy class, while according to others, he would often choose to work in a simple but functional office space over a classy but impractical one. Successful entrepreneurs know that almost all businesses go through a rough and unstable period at the onset of the venture, and that prudence in managing resources--like keeping down costs and expenses--will go a long way in keeping the business afloat in times of distress.

2. You are passionate about your business idea.

Remember, being an entrepreneur does not only entail staking your hard-earned capital into a business venture, it also requires that you run the business yourself, at least in the beginning, unlike with passive investment vehicles, where the only decision you'll likely make is when to buy and when to sell (of course investing in individual stocks also requires that you know the company you're investing in with a certain degree of intimacy, but that's another matter...). In running your business, your passion is what will convince your customers to patronize your product or service, or your bankers to extend you a much needed line of credit. Your passion for your business is a sign that you believe in what you're selling, and could very well determine whether your business will be a success or not.

3. You are disciplined and hard working.

Perhaps one of the reasons why many of the most successful Filipino entrepreneurs are of Chinese descent is because the Lucio Tans, Henry Sys, and John Gokongweis of this world strictly live by the traditional Chinese Confucian values of hard work, honesty, and perseverance.

Founding and running a startup often means doing most, if not all, of the business functions yourself. Successful entrepreneurs are often all-in-one managers, marketers, secretaries, and even janitors for their fledgeling businesses. In many cases, doing everything yourself will not even be a matter of choice: your limited resources will sometimes prevent you from getting extra help. But apart from the immediate monetary benefit, doing everything yourself fortunately also results in you knowing everything there is to know about your business; getting your hands dirty and knowing your business (and customers) first-hand will better prepare you in leading your company in the future.

4. You are willing and able to take risks.

Setting up and running a business from scratch may be the riskiest financial undertaking on the face of the earth. Risk in startups come in many shapes and forms: the uncertainty of the demand for your product, the volatility of the prices and instability of the supply of your key raw materials, foreign exchange fluctuations, and perhaps most importantly, the very real and almost always magnified possibility of complete and utter financial ruin. A normal guy would almost surely shit his pants once he realizes the mess he puts himself in by starting a business; a successful entrepreneur would eat risks like the ones mentioned above for breakfast. He (or she) would have the balls, composure, and mental capacity needed to not only face these risks but to also make sound decisions amidst all the uncertainty.

5. You know how to balance work with the other aspects of your life.

What do Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, and Lance Gokongwei have in common? Industry leaders all, check. Members of prominent and influential families, check. Well, what else?

If you are have been exposed to the running phenomenon that has gripped the nation these past two years or so, then you might have seen Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala participate in one or two events. You might also be aware that Wilfred Steven Uytengsu was the face of the Cobra Energy Drink Ironman 70.3 Philippines held last year. And if you haven't been living under a rock in the past two years, then you should know how Lance Gokongwei has transformed from a casual to a highly competitive distance runner, culminating in his participation in the New York City Marathon late last year.

Here we see three examples of highly successful business leaders who are able to balance work and play. In fact, if you ask them they would probably tell you that they are as passionate about their sport as their various businesses, if not more so. To be a successful entrepreneur, you will need to balance your work life and your life outside work, just as these three respectable gentlemen have.
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