There’s something a little bit different about entrepreneurs, and it has a lot to do with risk perception. True entrepreneurs don’t let potential obstacles obscure the possibilities.
They see ways to make things possible rather than all the reasons they are not possible. They are risk ready, not risk averse.
The inherent traits of entrepreneurship are really common - just look at how many people freelance or sell things online to make some extra cash. But, from a young age, we are ushered down the ‘safe’ career path rather than being steered along the riskier route of making our own money.
Grown-ups ask you if you want to be a doctor or an engineer or a teacher. You are never challenged to be the next Bill Gates or Jo Malone.
My mum, quite sensibly, urged me to go to university. I was 17 years old, and all my school friends were applying. It worried her that my plan was to grow the business I had already started on a computer I’d built myself.
From mucking around on that computer I had stumbled across an opportunity in web hosting. I had worked out that existing players in the market were charging a fortune for something very cheap to deliver. It didn’t seem right to me, so I offered the same thing at a much fairer price, and began to corner the market.
I didn’t go to university and I grew that business for six years before selling it to a UK plc for a multi-million pound sum. No regrets.
As a teenager, I wasn’t aware of any possible risks. I only saw the huge possibilities that computer had opened up to me.
This is why running your own business, and discovering the next big thing, won’t wait until tomorrow. If you’ve got the idea, the belief and the determination then you have to do it now.
Being young and free from many of life’s commitments and burdens complements the entrepreneurial lifestyle, which can be a major upheaval.
The downside is you lack life and business experience - but these limitations can actually work in your favour. When I ran my first business as a teenager I broke the rules and disrupted a sector because I didn’t know what the rules were.
For some of us, this sense of freedom and wild ambition diminishes as we grow older and become more aware of life’s burdens and responsibilities. But there are many exceptions to every rule, such as Richard Branson, for whom it only seems to grow more intense. In 2004, at 54 years old, Branson began building Virgin Galactic, the world’s first spaceline for civilians who want to travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
An analysis of 23 research studies titled The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Entrepreneurial Status, suggests that it’s a combination of personality traits, and not age, that leads to success in entrepreneurial exploits. It compares entrepreneurs to those in managerial positions and finds that entrepreneurs differ from managers on four out of five dimensions of personality.
Entrepreneurs score significantly lower than managers on Neuroticism and Agreeableness but higher than managers on Openness to Experience and Conscientiousness. In the final dimension, Extraversion, the analysis finds entrepreneurs do not differ from managers.
If you meet the following criteria, you should be taking the leap to the next stage in building a start-up, which is collecting proof of concept:
- A belief that something can and should be done better
- Unquashable excitement about your problem-solving idea, though not blind to the fact it could be improved
- Persistent, tireless nature and work ethic
- You see opportunity before risk
- Open to new experiences
- Ability to win others over with your character
For budding entrepreneurs of any age, it has never been easier to run a start-up thanks, interestingly enough, to the rise in disruptive start-ups.
There’s low-cost cloud accounting software, cheaper ways to pay in foreign currencies or supply to clients overseas, apps for no-fuss logging of expenses, e-learning software for training staff, easy website builders, platforms offering quality freelance support by the hour. The only barrier to success is you.