I myself have had both a formal (through EU-funded workshops on youth entrepreneurship), and an informal education on the topic. I’ve worked with numerous people who have launched their own enterprises and have had a first-hand opportunity to witness the obstacles they faced, and even more important, the manner in which they reacted to overcome them. In this sense, there are several universal characteristics which can be observed in every good entrepreneur and are similar to those found on various “Tips” websites and blogs, but these are either too technical in their details, or too theoretical in their presentation. My experience has taught me that there are four major traits that are necessary for forming a good businessperson, and they are the following.
Use the resources you have at hand
When thinking about starting a new business, many beginners tend to regard the issue as a task based on creating a novelty, both for themselves and for their customers. For instance, they might notice that a particular area of their city lacks a good restaurant, and they should be the ones to open it; but in reality, they are kindergarten teachers, or mathematicians, or any other profession that is miles away from the hospitality industry. They would literally need to start from scratch, since they lack the skills, resources, real estate knowledge, and contacts to run a restaurant. Mounting a new enterprise that proves successful is almost always a continuation of something you are already doing or giving a boost to a thing that already exists. For instance, one of my friends in Serbia had a huge orchard in the countryside left to her by her grandfather. She lived all her live in the city and had excellent contacts in diplomacy, so she started producing plum brandy from the plums she grew at her family plantation and gave a second life to them. She basically combined the two things she had: personal contacts and a piece of arable land, and with a dose of faith and hard work she was able to launch a new brand of spirits, that is, a whole new product. Her product was not created out of thin air, but came as a logical consequence of the resource she had at her disposal, which was joined together with her idea and the workhours she had put in.
Once you have opted for the right kind of enterprise, you need to realize that in order to create something, you have to give something of your own. If you play it safe from the start, expect to stay safe until the end, that is, your business will not develop; and if you don’t develop it, you will definitely go down. For example, on a smaller scale, if you have 100 dollars set aside for your business, invest the whole amount and seek to find additional funds as you mustn’t hold anything back. The turning point of your investment is the very moment you decide to set up your own business, and after this decision you become the business yourself, sharing the ups and downs of your firm. Bigger companies can afford to speculate and be tentative, but you as a novice simply cannot afford such a luxury. And I’ll tell you what: the founders of almost all major multinational corporations started off just like you, by putting their entire property and even their lives at risk. In the 21st century, such a huge sacrifice is no longer needed, but it is still necessary for you to put on your A-game and not look back. Daniel Defoe, the man who wrote the famous novel Robinson Crusoe, was by his own accounting broke seven times before he became famous. It is better to fail utterly several times, than to make several cautious attempts to enter the market.
You will hear numerous stories, many from businesspeople themselves, that their success had nothing to do with their commitment, but that it was all a stroke of luck; they were simply in the right place at the right time. This might seem true at first glance, but once you think it through you will realize that luck does not favor those who sit home and do nothing, but those who endeavor and who are out there in the market, hustling to sell their product or service. Yes, to succeed one must be in the right place at a right time, but the very fact that you are somewhere is entirely thanks to your effort to get there.
Quality over quality
Visegrad Group have recently voiced their concerns over the food quality manufacturers from Western Europe are putting onto the market of the Balkan countries and the East of the European Union. The fact is, if a company grows in size it can allow itself to lower the quality of its product for whatever reason management may find suitable. They can do this since they already have a developed market, and this decrease is not likely to disrupt sales significantly. However, as a beginner, this is precisely the path you must not take under any circumstances. Potential customers have only the quality of your product to recognize you by, and that is why it must never be jeopardized by higher profit margins. The launch of your business is not supposed to be about making money, but about getting a brand established which will over time become profitable. In other words, quality is your primary asset, and if you try to diminish it in any way, you deprive your young enterprise of the sole factor responsible for shaping your reputation in a highly competitive market. Once your operations are in full swing and you start earning big money, you can put the issue of quantity before the issue of quality, but not before.
The smaller the business, the more important are the workers themselves. In terms of work force, as is the case with quality, you can be lenient and treat your employees in the manner of a 19th century capitalist slave driver, ensuring they work the most for the lowest possible wage. In the short term, this will cut your costs, but in the long run, your firm will be diminished because it will be deprived of its backbone: the people behind your potential success story. These people will not be mere pay recipients, but they will form a team that will help you to achieve your goal, and that is the stance you must assume if you are to succeed. They will be the ones bringing all your ideas to life, and besides the remuneration part, make them feel that they too are part of your success, as they will have to develop as the company grows. If you look around you, you will find numerous individuals willing to dedicate themselves to projects they believe in, and there is a good chance some of them share the same aspirations that you do.
In the end, all these pieces of advice would be incomplete without the most important, and coincidentally, the hardest thing: actually sticking to them from day one. It is important to understand that not everyone is born with an entrepreneurial spirit, but almost everyone can attain it if they want it badly enough. They can either follow simple guidelines such as the ones listed, or gain experience by starting various projects; but in the end, it is important to learn as you go along the way. By doing so, you are becoming an entrepreneur even without realizing it, which is the ultimate goal of thinking like an entrepreneur. This personality change will come as a result of staying focused and constantly exercising these virtues, much in the way we exercise our muscles, providing them with an impulse to grow. Performing all this while in your twenties can even turn out to be beneficial, since you learn new skills more easily. The problem with starting at a young age is precisely that: starting in the first place. Fear can be a great inhibitor, but you mustn’t let it overcome your drive for success. Just by setting up your first business, you are already a success.