Passion can be contagious, but it’s not always that simple when it comes to taking the idea in your head and transforming it into a strong business model. You have to do more than get others excited about the company you want to build. You need outsiders to believe that they can become a valuable part of helping you make your dream a reality.
“Truly great entrepreneurs communicate their vision so well that they are able to persuade others, including employees, investors and customers, to join them,” says Anuradha Basu, Ph.D., director for the Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship at San José State University.
“That’s really important because in today’s world, particularly for millennials who like to feel they are doing something valuable, it’s not all about the money. They want to feel like they are contributing to and doing something for a project that is going to help change the world.”
Smart Business spoke with Basu about what makes entrepreneurs tick and why that knowledge is helpful even if you’re not on a path to start your own business.
Can you learn to become an entrepreneur?
Few people were born with the gift to build a business. There are a lot more people who have some kind of interest or talent for entrepreneurship, and have other skills that need to be developed.
Entrepreneurship can be time- consuming, requiring a lot of hours and hard work. If you want to succeed, you have to be willing to put in that time. But if it’s something that you really enjoy doing, that’s typically not a problem. If you are passionate about your idea and you believe in it, you are willing to put in that effort to make it work. Even if you fail, it can be a huge learning experience.
How do entrepreneurs overcome the financial challenges of starting a business?
Try not to focus on the money that you need. When someone invests in an idea or a business, they are also investing in the entrepreneur. They are seeking reassurance that you have the fortitude to overcome the inevitable challenges that will come about as you build your business.
Often, an entrepreneur’s first idea will not work. If an investor does not believe that you have a solid backup plan in place to deal with this scenario, why would they invest their own valuable dollars in your proposal?
Focus on making connections with people who would have an interest in what you want to do. Build relationships, get people engaged in what you want to do, demonstrate that you have the ability to execute your plan, and secure customer validation.
Do what you can to reduce the uncertainty with potential investors and get them thinking about the opportunity. Once you’ve done that effectively, the money will come.
How has the mindset of young professionals changed?
We did a project last year looking at what it is that attracts students to companies. Students were shown three different job descriptions and asked which of those they would choose. They chose the job that involved getting more responsibility and sounded more challenging. The company’s reputation didn’t matter as much to them. Today’s young professionals don’t mind joining a startup if they feel they are going to have a more interesting ride.
Why is learning about entrepreneurship valuable for non-entrepreneurs?
Not everyone who takes a course about entrepreneurship has to become a company founder.
It’s a skill that teaches you how to deal with uncertainty and think outside the box to solve problems. If aspects of a project or goal are unclear, how do you find a way to make decisions? It’s a mindset that can be helpful at multiple levels in an organization.
Entrepreneurship is not just about finance, marketing or legal issues. It’s about team-building and leading people across all those functions. You have to see how everything connects to find innovative solutions to problems. That makes you a better employee and entrepreneur. ●
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