9 Common Myths About Entrepreneurs
June 3, 2010
There is something about entrepreneurial success stories that makes people uncomfortable. After all, the very notion of working for oneself flies in the face of convention. An example of someone who not only tried an entrepreneurial gig but thrived in it seems to demand explanation.
The question seems to be “How did such an unnatural event occur?” In response, a great number of social and cultural myths have formed around the idea of what it “really” takes to be an entrepreneur. Below are some of the most prevailing myths.
“It Takes Money to Make Money”
This is perhaps the oldest entrepreneur’s myth of all. The first thing out of a naysayer’s mouth when confronted with a successful entrepreneur is “he must have had an inheritance/been rich/etc.” In fact, the world is full of self-made men and women who did not start out with any great deal of money. Many entrepreneurs have started businesses amidst troubling financial circumstances and only prospered monetarily once their companies took off.
“You Need a Great Idea”
Another commonly imagined stumbling block to being an entrepreneur is lack of a “great idea.” Somewhere along the line, “entrepreneurship” became synonymous in the public mind with “new-age” or “unconventional.” But while some entrepreneurs run unorthodox businesses, just as many (and probably far more) succeed in industries that are as old as commerce itself.
The owner of a restaurant, laundromat, or carpentry business is no less an entrepreneur than the founders of the next YouTube nestled in an expensive city loft. Furthermore, a “great idea” is less important than a profitable, proven business model.
“You Need a Business Plan”
Countless would-be entrepreneurs have delayed starting businesses because they did not have a lengthy, formal business plan. It has long been insinuated that “real” businesspeople do not take any kind of action without massive planning in advance. But while there is a grain of truth to this idea, it is not fully accurate, either.
What needs to be firmly understood before committing to a venture is the basic, underlying business model: who are the customers, what do they want, and can you profitably supply it. Beyond that, it is a waste of time to create elaborate plans and forecasts that will likely change later on.
“You Need to be Lucky”
Sometimes, the runaway success of an entrepreneur seems explainable only by luck. “How else could Bill Gates have become the world’s richest man?”, is a frequently asked question. Yet luck is not the essential ingredient to business success that we often believe it to be. Bill Gates, specifically, was the beneficiary of tremendously good luck (in addition to being smart and resourceful.) But scores of less celebrated businesspeople prospered with hard work, drive and intelligence. Most people are best served utilizing these things rather than waiting for their entrepreneurial “ship” to come in.
“You Need Support From Family & Friends”
There are plenty of books and stories about entrepreneurs who were bolstered by moral support from family and friends. Full-fledged endorsements of self-employment are especially common in stories of child or teenage entrepreneurs. This, too, is more the exception than the rule.
It’s easy to give someone a pat on the back once their company has succeeded, but such praise is rarely as forthcoming in the early, unproven days of a fledgling venture. Rather, friends and family are more likely to urge you toward a more proven path involving school or a “guaranteed” career.
“You Need a Type-A Personality”
Without question, vast numbers of entrepreneurs come off as tense, assertive and irritable. Psychologists and psychiatrists describe people who chronically exhibit these behaviors as having “Type-A” personalities. A Type-A personality is not, however, a requirement of working for oneself.
The reason Type-A’s often thrive in entrepreneurial roles is that they tend to be extremely focused, alert and driven. If you can will yourself to embrace the entrepreneurial lifestyle (self-motivation, task management, adherence to external or self-set deadlines), there is nothing to say you cannot also be a relaxed and fun-loving person.
“You Need Perfect Timing”
Some entrepreneurs can honestly say that the timing was right for them to go into business. Perhaps they were young, unmarried and not in debt. Undoubtedly, such circumstances can be more conducive to business success than others. That said, they are hardly a baseline necessity.
In reality, few entrepreneurs are likely to say that the timing was perfect for them. This is especially true as you age, when deciding to open a business usually entails a radical shift in career paths. Even younger businesspeople often find themselves juggling college in tandem with their start ups – far from an easy task, and hardly “perfect timing.”
“You Need to Succeed Immediately”
The most celebrated people in any field tend to be those who succeeded right out of the gate. Michael Jordan, Eddie Van Halen, and (in business) Google are cultural icons largely because of how quickly they established themselves as big-time stars.
Fortunately, there is room in the business world for people who make mistakes en route to succeeding. Winston Churchill famously said that “success consists of going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Along these lines, many entrepreneurs have prevailed after withstanding repeated false starts.
“Everyone Can Do It”
The flip side of the “entrepreneurs have special abilities or circumstances” myth is the idea that “everyone” is capable of working for themselves. In actuality, not everyone is capable of pulling it off. There are several important differences between entrepreneurship and employment, and some are incapable of making the needed adjustments. If you are the kind of person who cannot get work done without external pressure (like the hounding of a boss), for instance, then self-employment is probably an unrealistic goal.