There is a myth that entrepreneurs are born that way, just like there is a myth that talented sports people are born with a superstar gene. When we watched Usain Bolt run, it was easy to say that he won because he was born with the attributes that make a world class sprinter. Well, the reality was very different. In fact, Usain’s training regime was incredibly tough, and although he possessed some useful physical attributes for a top class sprinter, it was his commitment and discipline at putting in the training that made him so special.
If you look into the history of any successful entrepreneur, you will see a similar story. No child is born with an entrepreneurial gene, or one that makes them likely to be more successful than anybody else. Starting at an early age doesn’t seem to matter – while there are cases of teenage entrepreneurs, such as Alan Sugar and Richard Branson, there are many more successful entrepreneurs who started later in life, such as Duncan Bannatyne (30) and Ray Croc, founder of MacDonald’s, (52). What they had learnt is that if you want something in life you have to go out and get it, be prepared to fail, take risks, work very hard, ask for help, learn from your mistakes and never give up
In his book “The Emyth, why most small businesses fail”, Michael Gerber’s study showed that only 5% of business owners were what he classed as true entrepreneurs, (i.e. they were in business for the sake of business itself); 15% were managers (i.e. they were good at managing a business that was already up and running); while 80% were technicians (i.e. they were technically competent at the trade or profession that they were carrying out).
So if we are not born entrepreneurs and only 5% of business people actually become real entrepreneurs, then how do we increase our chances of becoming one of the 5%? As I said above, being successful in anything is hard work. Studies have found that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, so if you dedicated 8 hours a day 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year to one skill you could be a master in 5 years, although the norm is 10 years, because you cannot keep such a high level of training up.
This is why children who start a sport young, generally go on to be more successful – not because of their genetic talent, but because they have had a longer time practising. Tiger Woods and Lewis Hamilton started when they were 4, so by the time they were 14 they were masters of their sport and by the age of 24 they were superstars.
The difference between business and sport is that it business is more complex and so it is difficult to start learning at a very early age. The good thing is that it is more mental than physical, so we can continue participating far longer than in sport. In fact the ideal scenario might be to dedicate yourself to a sport from the age of 4 to 30, then to business from 30 to 60. If only my parents had told me this!
The key to the success of the great sport stars is that they want to be the best, they want to win and they are prepared to work hard to achieve it. The same applies in business. You first have to decide to be a successful entrepreneur, and what that success looks like to you. Then you have to start thinking like an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs look at a business not as a job, profession, or vocation, but as a game where the score is money and the more money you make, the more successful you are. Duncan Bannatyne said that he woke up one morning aged 30 and just decided he was going to be a millionaire and the quickest way to do that was to start a business, any business, so he chose an ice cream van – not because he knew anything about ice cream, just that it was available and it could make him cash.
Once you have committed to being a successful entrepreneur you then have to do something about it. So where do you go to learn the 10,000 hours to be a master entrepreneur? I suggest that traditional education such as college or university is not the answer – whilst it can give you useful tools, it relies on traditional teaching methods and teachers who are most likely not entrepreneurs themselves!
If you ask Alan Sugar, he will say the school of hard knocks worked for him and I would agree. The good thing about that is that you already started the course with your first job. You have been in and around business all your working life. The problem for most people though, is that they were not paying attention in class, they were too busy learning a technical skill – be it accounting, plumbing, or selling – to actually see what business was all about. Even if you worked for the worst run business on the planet, there were learnings to be had.
The best way to learn is to do. For those that have started a business then keep going, keep learning, but above all, avoid just employing yourself in a JOB. For those of you that have not started your business yet, Take ACTION and go for it, but just remember – a true entrepreneur has a profitable business that works without them, not one where they work the hardest and get paid the least!