If you’re reading this article, chances are you possess many of these qualities already. I know this because you’ve been led to this page. You’ll recognize some of these personal qualities in yourself already, but others you may need to nurture in order to pick your business up by the bootstraps and take it to the next level.
There are many reasons that you may now find yourself in the entrepreneurial mindset. Perhaps you grew up in a home that modeled these kinds of thought processes and behaviors, or you may have been thrust into the “make lemonade” mentality after life gave you lemons. Perhaps you have overwhelming student debt that is affecting your credit score, making it impossible to find a “normal” job. Maybe you’re drowning in repayments on other loans that you’re desperate to pay off. You may even have experienced a divorce, illness, job loss, or other hardship.
Whatever circumstances brought you to this point, it is possible to gain clarity on the reasons you see the world differently. You can also work to nurture those qualities in yourself so that your new and innovative ideas not only survive the open market, but thrive.
Here are three key characteristics and qualities of a strong entrepreneurial spirit:
Work with the bird in hand
An entrepreneur, first and foremost, looks around them and avails opportunities without collecting massive resources and capital. This is known as the bird-in-hand principle, which means looking around us and observing both pressing needs and the available free or low-cost resources available to solve the “problem” at hand.
Entrepreneurs are much more likely to use what’s immediately available around them, rather than sourcing hard-to find talent or special raw materials. Entrepreneurs instinctively find creative uses for things they already have “in hand” to craft unique products and services - much like fashioning a quilt from various scraps of fabric to create a new, repurposed item.
Reinterpret the world
Entrepreneurs are very observant and creative - they constantly see problems as opportunities to make the world a better place. Many entrepreneurs have traveled quite extensively and have a vast wealth of knowledge and stored observations to draw upon when formulating their ideas, projects, and solutions. Not only are they very observant of their surroundings, but they love talking to and getting to know people from all walks of life. They use these conversations to learn what kinds of services or products people really want and need.
Entrepreneurs are constantly observing the world around them, analyzing the products and services already offered, and usually thinking “I can do better than that!”
An example of creating a new needed product out of an abundantly available local raw material is that of Bernice Dapaah, CEO of the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative in Kumasi, Ghana making bicycles out of bamboo. Her goals are to empower women, provide jobs, and create an affordable product with a smaller environmental footprint than the more traditional steel and aluminum-framed bicycles.
Another example of entrepreneurial ingenuity is the rags-to-riches story of Roxanne Quimby, co-founder of the company Burt's Bees.
Roxanne started her company from scratch in 1984. At that time, her assets were only a pile of unused beeswax and a used pickup truck. She literally started with nothing – not even her own phone to take orders on - and originally lived and worked in an off-the-grid cabin in the North Woods of Maine.
However, over the next three decades she grew her business into a company offering a huge line of cosmetic products, eventually selling an 80% share of the company, for a whopping $173,000,000 to a private equity firm in 2004.
Quimby once said that she’s had outstanding success because she lives her life on the edge, without predictability or planning. Entrepreneurs like her do tend to live lives in which they have less to lose, making it easier to take calculated risks and fear uncertainty less.
But this is not to say that we should throw caution to the wind and lone wolf it all the time either.
Building a strong team
If you take the time to read the Roxanne Quimby case, you’ll soon realize another factor that contributed to her success, took her business forward, and made it more lucrative to sell. After her move from the backwoods of Maine to North Carolina in 1995, she hired a strong team of industry savvy chemists, plant managers, consultants, directors, advisors, and accountants that could advise her in unfamiliar business matters. They offered their expertise and helped her make important decisions about her brand, her signature flagship stores, and other aspects of her business.
Another strategy that can push your business idea forward by leaps and bounds is to join a mastermind group of like-minded entrepreneurs. An unofficial team can push you towards your goals and offer moral support through difficult patches. If you help others through their issues, you will be helped in return. This is especially true even if the other business owners in your group are from different background and business niches. Their valuable experiential advice will fill in gaps in your knowledge and be that much more valuable.
As an entrepreneur it is crucial to surround ourselves as soon as possible with professionals (like experienced copy editors, marketing managers, graphic designers, and boutique accountants) possessing industry specific knowledge and expertise that complements and supports our grand vision. If we try to do everything ourselves, and micromanage our businesses, we will never make it out of second gear. Keeping an open mind and observing not only the assets we have available to us, but the needs of our clients and customers, will ensure that our business continues to evolve, and grow, with time.