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Are You Cut Out to Be An Entrepreneur? A No-nonsense View from the U.S.

by Fiona Christie on September 10, 2012

Thanks to Katheryn Rivas for submitting this guest post with some challenging thoughts for prospective entrepreneurs. If you feel you pass her rigorous personality test, bear in mind that Careers & Employability at the University can help you on your path to be an entrepreneur through our enterprise activities.

Start-ups are the new frontier in the business world.  Just as prospectors traveled west during the Gold Rush in the early 19th century in the hopes of finding gold, young people are flocking to entrepreneurship today hoping to strike it rich.

The problem is that, like any other market, even the start-up market has its limits and can only take so many new businesses.  More importantly, most people don’t understand the demands that the start-up life makes on those who pursue it, and they burn out because it doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations.

While the only way to truly be sure about whether you can make it as an entrepreneur is giving it a shot, there are some key indicators of success as a start-up cowboy (or girl).  Oliver Segovia, author, entrepreneur, and frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review called individuals who are more drawn to the glamour of start-ups than the grit “vanity entrepreneurs.”  As you can probably guess, vanity entrepreneurs usually don’t make it very far.

As any start-up founder will tell you, starting a business is constant hard work, psychologically challenging, calls for great social intelligence, as well as the ability to juggle priorities — and above all it requires endurance.

So how do you know if you’ve got what it takes or if you’re just jumping on the hip start-up bandwagon?  To start, check yourself for the following personality traits:

 “Great job, Smith!  Keep up the good work!”

In the start-up world, there’s no one to hold your hand or tell you how great you’re doing as you make everyday progress, so if you’re someone who needs constant affirmation, being an entrepreneur might not be the ideal route for you.  It’s not that you won’t ever get praise or validation, but often you have to wait long periods and keep working even if all your data tells you that you should quit.  Furthermore, not all praise is accurate, and you basically have to take everything with a grain of salt.

“So I see from your resume that you started a business, Smith …”

The entrepreneur who thinks that it will be fun to start a business because it will look great on a resume has her priorities completely wrong.  Your focus when starting a company should always be on making a great product, not on making yourself look good.

“Welcome back to Prada, Mrs. Smith.”

As an entrepreneur you have to learn to live on next to nothing and constantly find new ways to subsist while also funding your venture.  If you are very attached to a lifestyle that includes designer clothes and costly cars or living spaces, starting a business probably isn’t for you.  Very few entrepreneurs have the luxury of living lavishly while starting their business, so don’t count on being the exception.

“That’s DOCTOR Smith, to you, pal.”

There’s nothing wrong with being attached to titles (if you are lucky enough to have one), but if you are all about having them, you may want to steer clear of start-ups.  What most founders find is that titles quickly dissolve under the pressure of the work that needs to be done, and job responsibilities are not well confined.  Just because you are the founder doesn’t mean that you get out of taking the garbage out, if that’s what needs to be done.

Sure the entrepreneurship mythos is an exciting one, but at the end of the day, it’s just like any other job — it has its ups and downs, and will demand much of anyone brave and perseverant enough to chase it.


This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online university.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:



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