Here are six tests you’ll have to face to make the grade.
When most people think about entrepreneurial potential, they tend to gravitate toward intellectual categories of thought: How much business knowledge or acumen do you have? How much experience have you held in this particular industry? Are you creative enough to come up with innovative new approaches?
The answers to these questions are important, but they ignore an entire realm of entrepreneurial traits attached to psychological and emotional health. Entrepreneurship is a demanding gig, and if you aren’t mentally ready for the challenge, it might do more than ruin your attempts to succeed in business — it could negatively impact your life.
First, you’ll need to be prepared to face adversity. You’ll be challenged and opposed as you try to develop your business into a successful enterprise, whether that occurs in the rise of a new competitor or a marketing strategy you can’t quite figure out. There are many potential responses to adversity, but the two big ones are intimidation and resilience.
With intimidation, you may give up in response, or you may continue moving forward but bear stress, doubt, and fear that affect your work in the future. With resilience, you’ll view adversity in a healthier way, understanding it as a temporary setback and committing to work past it.
Look at historical examples in your life; how well do you respond to adversity?
It’s no secret that startups are high-pressure environments, and as an entrepreneur, you’ll be in the hot seat. You’ll have investors asking you about future payoffs, you’ll have clients pushing your deadlines and threatening to leave and you’ll have teammates wondering about the future of the company. The stakes are high, and you’ll be the focal point for many individuals relevant to your business.
How well do you function in a high-pressure environment?
On top of that, you’ll face a level of accountability you may not be used to. There’s nobody above you that can step in to help you make decisions or bear partial responsibility when things go wrong. There won’t be anybody below you, either, making major decisions without your say-so (at least in the early stages).
You’ll be making all the major decisions yourself, and you’ll be the one responsible if anything goes wrong. Your investors, clients and employees will all be ready to blame you, which will make the decision making process even more stressful.
Are you prepared to handle this level of accountability?
Unless you’re already independently wealthy, you’ll have a lot riding on the success of your startup. The performance of your company will have a direct impact on the amount of money you make and what kind of future you build yourself. That can make handling the company financials exceptionally stressful, and put you in an unstable position (at least temporarily).
Can you deal with that degree of fiscal uncertainty?
It’s easy to look at some of the most successful celebrity entrepreneurs of our time and fantasize about how rewarding it must be to be a leader. But the realities of leadership are much more demanding. You’ll have to serve as a mediator between potential employee conflicts; you’ll have to remain poised and calm in your most emotional moments; and you’ll need to set an example — all the time — for your team to follow.
Are you stable and controlled enough to be a leader to your team?
It’s an oft-neglected but important side effect of entrepreneurship: You’re going to feel exceptionally lonely. You’ll be the one person in charge of most decisions, and you’ll need to remain calm, in control and confident in front of your team — no matter how much you’re struggling on the inside. On top of that, you’ll be working long hours, usually away from home and you won’t have as much time to spend with friends and family as you used to. If you’re going to be successful, you’ll need to be able to handle some degree of loneliness, but more importantly, you’ll need to recognize these effects and take personal time when you need it.
Are you prepared to handle the potential loneliness of entrepreneurship?
Only you know how equipped you are to deal with these major emotional hurdles. There isn’t much to measure here — chances are, you don’t hold a degree in mental well-being or have “X years of experience” in psychological resilience — but it’s important to understand who you are in light of these potential obstacles before you begin your entrepreneurial journey.
Fortunately, there’s always time to prepare yourself. If you’re lacking in a certain area — whether it’s patience, handling stress, or overcoming your own emotions — you can work on it proactively, before you step into a leadership position. Don’t view your weaknesses as permanent handicaps; see them as opportunities for growth.
Credit: Jayson Demers