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Persistent Entrepreneur-ism

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | July 7, 2015

A mindset for growth, diversified income and sustained success

The Emporia Main Street newsletter often focuses on how to improve existing businesses, take advantage of business opportunities (market gaps) that exist, or new tools to aid your business.  We don’t spend enough time discussing how to think like an entrepreneur.  The entrepreneurial mindset is extremely important in a community of Emporia’s size and demographic configuration.  We are a bit of a “Goldilocks” community: just big enough to offer diversity in a variety of economic areas, but just small enough not to be dominated by large chains.  The problem (and opportunity) in a community like ours is that market gaps often have to be filled by individuals that start or expand a business to meet a market need or create a destination.  Entrepreneurs are a very special type of person with a specific mind set, skill set, inherent values, ethics and motivation.  Sufficed to say, not everyone is an entrepreneur.

Reading this article, you may say “but Casey, we are already entrepreneurs…  why talk to us about the entrepreneurial mind set?”  Well, this newsletter is exposed to about 5,000 people on a weekly basis, and not everyone that reads it is currently an entrepreneur.  And, it’s good for current entrepreneurs to look at the mind set and determine how they can use their entrepreneurial tendencies to continue to adapt, take advantage of opportunities, mitigate risks, invest and evolve.  So, here are some key tenants to the entrepreneurial mind set:

1.  They care more about the results than the process – Most entrepreneurs absolutely cringe and an “eight step process”, excessive paperwork or anything that they deem “unnecessary”.  That doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs aren’t detail oriented; it simply means that entrepreneurs are extremely goal focused.  They generally find pleasure in blazing their own trail and resist any “paint by numbers” approach.  Most entrepreneurs have been involved in the endless “concept” meeting that comes up with some tag line, graphic or word smithed message, but doesn’t actually tangibly DO anything…  They resist processes that don’t create results like the plague because for an entrepreneur time equals money.  Waste their time and you’ve wasted their money.

2.  They aren’t afraid of hard work – Show me someone that dives into the world of entrepreneurship to work less, and I’ll show you an unsuccessful entrepreneur.  The world of small and growing businesses means early hours, late hours, weekend hours and more.  If “screw around time” is at the top of your wish list, you probably aren’t entrepreneur material.  Now the good news: with technology rapidly replacing ever more complex tasks, some estimate that half of our workforce in the next twenty years will be classified as an “entrepreneur”.  People will have to create their own job if they want to have an income.  That means completing a meaningful education (getting a degree, training or certificate in an area that potential consumers actually value), finding a market that people can’t easily “jump into” and cornering expertise.

3.  They (typically) do what they love – Entrepreneurs spot opportunities to convert what they love into a business, or they identify a pervasive societal want/need that they can convert into a profit center.  For an entrepreneur, there is value to “driving the bus”.  Again, entrepreneurs are typically tangible, goal oriented people, so this mindset goes well beyond the “someone really ought to do something about this” armchair quarterback scenario.  Entrepreneurs typically get a “high” from finding something that they enjoy and flipping their experience into a profit center.

4.  They know the difference between what they like to do, and what someone will pay them to do – This is REALLY important, because the world is absolutely full of individuals that have an idea for a non-profit funded exclusively by grants/governmental funding that they love, but people won’t financially support.  You may be a foodie that loves to go out of town, eat at specialty restaurants, stay in hotels and go on adventure trips, but the amount of people that will actually pay you to do that (outside of an extremely small number of travel writers) is almost zero.  If you love to do something that people won’t pay you for- that’s called a hobby.  If you love to do something that people won’t pay you enough to live on- that’s called a side job.  Entrepreneurs understand this.  Existing entrepreneurs have the added flexibility that comes from adding a “line” that would normally constitute a “side job” and ends up enhancing the whole of their operation.

5.  They understand the concept of “investment” – The ultimate goal for most entrepreneurs is to involve themselves in “turn key” operations: business ventures that make them money even if they aren’t present or actively working that portion of the business.  Labor is a finite resource.  The expert labor/service provided by a singular entrepreneur is even a more finite resource.  Finding creative ways to induce an environment of investment is one way that entrepreneurs can maximize their financial impact.

6.  They understand the difference between generating income and generating wealth – The ability of entrepreneurs to identify opportunity often means that they rapidly reinvest dollars into their business interests to maximize opportunities.  The side effect of an entrepreneurial reinvestment strategy is often a lower initial income.  HOWEVER, many entrepreneurs don’t stop to identify the value that they create.  Inventory, customer lists, patents, procedures, the brand, “blue sky”, fixtures, buildings, vehicles…  The list goes on!  Understanding wealth and how to convert value into cash through a well defined transition strategy is critically important for an entrepreneur to sustain a venture.

7.  They understand the importance of creating a culture – The most successful entrepreneurs understand that they aren’t simply helping consumers with goods and services- they are creating a movement that consumers want to be a part of.  Biking cultures, beer cultures, pet cultures, renovation cultures, decorating cultures, fashion cultures, foodie cultures, crafting cultures, investing cultures and more pop up around successful entrepreneurs.  To these entrepreneurs, the consumption of goods and services comes as a result of the consumers advocacy for the cultural norms the entrepreneur projects.

8.  They get ready, fire and then aim – After talking to A LOT of entrepreneurs over the years, most will tell you “we didn’t know exactly what we were getting into”.  There is no perfect time to start a business, and you can absolutely paralyze the entrepreneurial process by overthinking things.  It’s good to be prepared, but most entrepreneurs have impressive freelance abilities.  If you have to have a three ring binder four inches thick full of information prior to pulling the trigger on a concept, you probably won’t be able to take advantage of opportunities or deal with threats as they emerge.

9.  They build supportive, dependable and loyal teams – Those attributes may not be in the right order…  Entrepreneurial enterprises, especially in the start up phase, can be pressure packed.  If your team can’t handle external drama or internal time lines, they probably can’t be on your team.  If people you depend on constantly have one foot out the door, it’s probably a good idea to just cut ties.  If you can’t count on a team member’s loyalty to your concept and their support during those difficult start up or growth phases, you may need to look elsewhere for team members.  Good team members believe in that higher purpose or “culture” that you are trying to attain, and they are willing to work shoulder to shoulder with you to attain it.  Identifying the difference between talkers and team members early in the entrepreneurial process can save you a lot of heart ache down the road.

10. They understand and can communicate value – A retail entrepreneur that tries to undercut a multinational business on the basis of price simply won’t last very long.  The modern entrepreneur needs to find ways to create value through bundling items, creating valued services, developing exclusive items, dominating a niche category and/or building expertise.  Remember, something is valuable only if it is perceived as valuable by your consuming audience.  The perception of value is created through effective communication, advertising, marketing and customer service strategies.

Take a little time to talk to your staff, your team outside of your staff and your most valued clients about opportunities.  How can your business evolve?  What are some profit centers that you aren’t currently tapping into?  How are you building a culture?  Who would you consider part of your supportive, local and DEPENDABLE team (outside of your employees)?  How do you communicate value in a way that your consuming public recognizes it?  What is the last calculated risk your business or organization took?

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get into a funk because they are naturally driven by innovation and achievement.  A lack of stimulus can spiral into a lack of productivity.  The environment surrounding entrepreneurs that contains a solid “push” factor is critically important to consistently engage the best parts of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Consider this our “push” for you.  Like always, Emporia Main Street is here to partner with you as you start or expand your next entrepreneurial venture!

For this article and MUCH more, check out this week’s Emporia Main Street E-newsletter!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.