What does it take to start your own business? While there's no set formula (as some would have you believe), there are personality traits that most successful entrepreneurs share. And studies reveal that early experiences, family background, social skills, values and beliefs all play a part in shaping the entrepreneur.
Test your E.Q. (Entrepreneurial Quotient) with the quiz below. Be honest! Then, read on to learn some "winning moves" from experts and business owners themselves. The test can't predict your success, but it can give you an idea whether you'll have a handicap to overcome or a head start.
Do you ever wonder if you could succeed in your own business? This quiz is intended to help you see how you compare with others who have been successful, and to help you consider whether you really want to build your own enterprise.
1. Are your parents immigrants?
2. As a youngster, did you prefer to be alone?
3. Were you a stubborn child? (Did you have to learn the hard way?)
4. Were you daring as a youngster?
5. Would you like to change your daily routine?
6. Are you willing to work "as long as it takes" to finish a job?
7. When you complete a project, do you immediately start another?
8. Would you spend your savings to start a business?
9. Do you put your goals in writing?
10. Are you better able than others to handle money?
11. Do you become bored easily?
12. Are you basically an optimist? (Do you see the proverbial glass as half-full?)
Scoring: Give yourself five points for each positive answer, and subtract five points for every negative answer.
0-20. Your talents probably lie elsewhere. Another work arrangement, such as working for a company or developing a professional career, may be far more congenial and appropriate for you.
20-40. You might be able to make a go of it, but you need to apply yourself and learn the necessary skills to be a success at any venture-the skills that give others a "leg up" in starting a business.
40-60. Your background, skills and talents give you an excellent chance for success, and you have a head start in ability and/or experience in running a business. You should go far.
This quiz is adapted from one created for the Northwestern Mutual Life insurance company and given to their sales agents, many of whom are homebased-and many of whom held erroneous ideas about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
Donald Sexton, who, while a professor at Baylor University, tested both students enrolled in entrepreneurial programs and business owners, observes that "the biggest problem is proving that you can do as good a job as people who have been there." The results of the test showed that both groups exhibited an assortment of similar personality traits. However, those members of the study who had founded high-growth companies had a cluster of traits that were missing in the other entrepreneurs and entrepreneur-hopefuls. Following are the five traits shared by those high-growth business owners:
1.Risk-taker. One necessary characteristic, says Sexton, is the proper motivation to enable one to undertake the risky task of starting a business. There are many possible reasons for doing it, but the least of them is a desire to conform.
As a rule, successful entrepreneurs do not deliberately flout dress codes or accepted social canons of behavior. But when it comes to crucial matters, especially in business, they are not afraid to take an unpopular course of action and assume the responsibility for the risks.
In this sense, starting a business is not for timid spirits. But striking out on your own can be incredibly rewarding when you recognize that you can set your own course. "One of the basic traits of entrepreneurship," says Sexton, "is to not follow the beaten path."
2. High achiever. Entrepreneurs who found rapid-growth companies want to grow fast and become big. According to Sexton, they are characterized by a need to drive themselves and to do better. They are "idea people" who can see things in a unique way, and who use their creativity to generate business opportunities and solve problems.
Tom Monaghan, whose early life was spent in foster homes and orphanages, started with one Domino's store in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and built it into the world's largest pizza-delivery company.
Of his success, Monaghan says: "I disdain conformity in anything. Business is nothing more than people. Most important are your customers, and your job is to meet their needs and expectations. Most new ideas come from listening to them, and to your employees."
This need for achievement also may explain why entrepreneurs tend to be so independent-free to set and pursue personal goals. Others follow rules set by their employers. "Entrepreneurs don't like constraints of any kind," notes Sexton.
An entrepreneur likes to be his or her own boss. In fact, many start their own business simply because they can't stand working for someone else. (According to Opinion Research, one poll showed that the idea of owning a business was extremely or very interesting to 96 percent of adults aged 25 to 44.)
3. Persistent. One also needs the ability to persist in the face of obstacles. Even with painstaking planning, an entrepreneur almost invariably encounters setbacks: delays in obtaining financing, unexpected costs, poor initial customer response, and so on.
Real entrepreneurs "are not the kind of people that like to sit around the office discussing last night's baseball game," says Michael Gil, co-author of Fired Up! From Corporate Kiss-Off to Entrepreneurial Kick-Off. "What separates an entrepreneur from a company employee is the internal courage to turn dreams into reality."
But entrepreneurs are more than just dreamers. They aim their efforts at a desired goal: They decide what they want, plan to achieve it, and make the plan work. And being tired of a daily routine is often a precipitating factor in the decision to start an enterprise.
4. High energy. Growing a company is hard work, especially in the early stages. It requires a capacity for sustained effort and a high energy level. Creating a business plan, finding financing, hiring people-all of this has to be accomplished under seemingly impossible deadlines.
In the beginning, much of this work will fall upon the shoulders of the entrepreneurs, many of whom report having worked 60 to 80 hours a week for months at a stretch while starting a company. Consequently, it's not an appropriate career path for someone who lacks the energy or stamina.
And because growing a business demands a total and concentrated effort, successful entrepreneurs tend to avoid social interaction except when it involves business. They would rather spend their time on research, planning and strategy. "In the end, it all comes down to going with gut feelings," says Gil, who also founded his own consulting firm.
5. Efficiency-oriented. Highly successful entrepreneurs also tend to be interested in discovering faster or cheaper ways of doing things. For example, they may look for the shortest way to get to the office. Often, this search for efficiency will lead to product ideas upon which a company can be founded.
Bankers did not take Debbi Fields seriously when she tried to borrow money to start baking chocolate-chip cookies in the first Mrs. Fields store in Salt Lake City. Now, she has 700 stores worth more than $60 million and employs more than a thousand people.
"Never give up your dream," Fields says. "Everybody was sure I would fail. But my attitude was that 'no' is an unacceptable answer when it comes to your financing or anything else. And it helps if you believe in your product and love what you're doing."
Starting a small business is also easier than it ever was. Aside from retail stores and franchises, about 27 million Americans currently own and operate homebased businesses, according to Donald Kurato, director of the entrepreneurship program at Ball State University. Will you be one of them?
A former financial-relations counselor, Norman Brown now writes about business from his home office in Providence, Rhode Island.