5 Questions to Determine If You Are an Entrepreneur

By on August 15, 2014
5 Questions to Determine If You Are an Entrepreneur

The subject of entrepreneurship can raise some deep questions about identity. Are you a business owner or an entrepreneur? What does it truly mean to be an entrepreneur and how do you know if you’re cut out for it?

Our feeling is that entrepreneurs don’t become entrepreneurs by starting their own business; they start their own business because they are entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is willing to risk their own financial security for their big vision and mission. Everyone has their own closely held set of beliefs about what they’re here to do and why, but realistically only a select few are willing to dive into the deep-end and risk the uncomfortable position of not having a regular paycheck for the belief in themselves and what they’re here to achieve.

The word entrepreneur itself is beginning to feel synonymous in today’s vernacular with superhero or epic business warrior. There’s a certain level of awe that we assign to the select successful entrepreneurs at the top that have us enviously lamenting, “Man I wish I could to that!” While most don’t achieve that mega-success of pillars like Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson, it doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of successful entrepreneurs living great lives from the small empires they’ve built. Small business owners too can enjoy success at their trade without being the media magnets that the top dogs are. So what does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

One important part of that answer is scale. Are you starting your business to scale it into a global or national solution, or are you starting your business to enjoy a great niche? Entrepreneurs have huge ideas that they want to grow to scale then sell or manage. Small business owners tend to grow slowly with calculated small risks and steady, manageable growth.

The good news is that there’s no wrong answer when it comes to business owner or entrepreneur question. Both have their risks and rewards, their ups and downs and their pros and cons. But if you’re wondering beyond the basic concept of scalability whether or not you might be an entrepreneur vs. a small business owner, here are some questions you’ll want to consider to further determine your answer.

You might be an entrepreneur if…

1. You aren’t comfortable sitting on the sidelines waiting for solutions.

While a small business owner is certainly creative, an entrepreneur feels restless when they’re relegated to a “wait and see” stance within any business. Entrepreneurs thrive under pressure and will always look for solutions where they can excel. If working inside your comfort zone makes you restless, then you already have one of the most important traits of every entrepreneur. You seek out solutions and you want to discover and create your own version of an improved world. Your obsession with creating solutions is a large part of what will drive your scalability. That which is personal is most universal so you already know that if you have a deep personal problem with an issue, odds are good so do lots of other people. You want to create the answer and share that solution to scale so others can have an improved life.

2. You aren’t satisfied with the status quo

Entrepreneurs are the fanatics. Whatever their interests are, they dive into them full force. You’re not comfortable with “the way things have always been done.” Entrepreneurs look to the status quo as the baseline, the jumping off point to the next new frontier they’re going to create. You’re the one who would’ve ventured out to settle the west, not staying put in established territories. Excellence drives entrepreneurs, partially, but the more important motivator for the best entrepreneurs is the need to be at the bottom right side of any bell curve. Innovation is the name of the game for the most successful entrepreneurial minds. Look at someone like Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox. He was already a student at MIT when he and his cofounder came up with the idea for Dropbox. It wasn’t enough to be in the most prestigious tech school around, they were still thinking and driven by innovation. The status quo that drove them nuts was not being able to access their home computer files from campus and vice versa. There had to be an easier way than hauling around USB ports and thumb drives for their data, papers and presentations. That idea led them to notice their campus had an online file sharing access capability between labs at the university, why not come up with a cloud based solution that mirrored that same concept on a global scale? The status quo is never good enough for the entrepreneur.

3. Your decision-making is airtight, even under pressure

Entrepreneurs don’t pass the buck. You take responsibility for your success and for your failures and that’s universal across your whole life, not just your business. Other people find excuses, you find accountability and you stand for your decisions. You are the final say for every opportunity, partnership, and financial decision that your business will undergo. Trusting your instincts and decisions is a trait of entrepreneurs. You can’t be apologetic about your success or your failures. Entrepreneurs know that failures mean learning and learning means improvement and improvement means success. Look at the youngest self-made billionaire Sara Blakely. She touts being raised in a house where failure was actively encouraged and supported by her father. All that drive to fail meant the Blakely family was trying! That was more important than never failing because never failing meant never trying. She stumbled through a totally unknown industry based on her desire to come up with an answer for pantyhose causing fat bulges. That muffin top bulge was a simple (hint, hint: that means universal!) problem that she hated personally. She found the answer and discovered herself years later as a billionaire just from her scalable solution for women everywhere who hated that problem. Be secure in yourself, your intellect, and your perceptive nature and trust your gut. Make your decisions and celebrate your failures to learn!

4. You Have Endurance.

Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. If you find you’re easily burning out with life’s daily pressures than entrepreneurship may not be for you. There’s an idealized vision that you get to do what you want as an entrepreneur, which is absolutely true. However, the dark underbelly of that reality is that you’re also fully responsible for yourself. All your income, all your success, your team’s entire livelihood -- it all comes down to you and that’s a lot of pressure. There are no easy solutions or get-rich-quick schemes for the true entrepreneur. There will be ups and downs after starting your business, but the triumphs and hardships of entrepreneurship will make you a smarter and more effective businessperson. The best entrepreneurs never give up regardless of their success or failure. They stick with their vision and can handle the incredible pressures of entrepreneurship. They know life is all about the long game and they never get short sighted in their hardships.

5. You are absolutely beyond passionate about what you do

Many times those who struggle in school end up becoming successful entrepreneurs. Why is that? They weren’t bad students, just the ones that received notes on their report cards with phrases like ‘So much potential if only they would apply themselves.’ Setting out on your own means that you’re the judge of your own success. Think of the long list of “bad at school, great at innovation” list of entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. You build your company, you set your terms, and you release something that the world hasn’t seen yet. Don’t worry if you were good at school, that doesn’t preclude you from entrepreneurial greatness necessarily. There are plenty of great entrepreneurs who are also highly accredited through formalized education like Elon Musk, Drew Houston and Sara Blakely.

Because while school can be a determinate, it’s not the only factor. The important thing for an entrepreneur is their passion for their niche. Whatever it is they're doing needs to be the thing they’re willing to risk all the comforts and security of the world to accomplish.

5 ½: You have self-discipline (and you probably work out)

There seems to be a common correlation between successful entrepreneurs and highly disciplined character. Well-known lifestyle entrepreneurs and authors like Tim Ferriss or James Altucher are constantly making the case for disciplined behavior. Whether that’s in their highly regimented diets, strict adherence to physical activity or their deep connection to mindful practices like gratitude or meditation, the mega successful know that everything is connected. Good entrepreneurs tend to be organized. They tend to be punctual and respectful of their time and others. Entrepreneurs seem to be the same type of people who discipline their bodies through nutrition and exercise. Because really at the end of the day, it’s all a mental game. Your mind controls your belief system in what you can accomplish. Your mind controls your discipline to go to the gym even when you don’t want to or to eat the rights foods to fuel your long life. There’s a mind-body connection that entrepreneurs seem to be drawn to for longevity. They know that like their entrepreneurial path, life itself is a long term game and they want to enjoy the end results as much as the journey. Taking care of their mental, emotional and physical health is crucial to their long-game success.

While these aren’t the only rules that dictate success of entrepreneurship, they’re pretty good indicators into your abilities to join the entrepreneurial path. Are there any other key tenants of entrepreneurship you think help predetermine your success as an entrepreneur? We’d love to hear from you. Comment, like and share on our Facebook Page.

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Matthew Toren

About Matthew Toren

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right .