Being an entrepreneur: from A to Z
People often ask, how did you end up doing what you do?
Truth be told, it was not a straightforward path, and I certainly didn’t wake up one day and decide that I would leave the safety and comfort of corporate life and venture into the wild.
It’s easy to start a company, but it’s much harder to sustain it. Life can be so full of surprises that sometimes, just sometimes, you wonder out loud: Why am I doing this? Do I have what it takes?
But you are not alone. Here are a few traits and tricks that we don’t talk about enough, though these are by no means exhaustive nor pre-determinant of success. Ping me if you have more to share!
Authenticity. You need to be you, the real you. Being genuine is probably one of the most important things that separates you from others. Don’t fake.
Brand. You are the brand. If you are a solo-entrepreneur, you are the only brand. What do you represent, as a brand? And is that something clients want to be associated with?
Curiosity. Being a problem solver is part of our mojo. Stay curious and ask why. And don’t stop learning. We can’t possibly know everything, can we?
Determination and Discipline. Starting out on your own is hard work; keeping it going is even harder. Being determined and disciplined will keep you going and keep you grounded. Once you have made a commitment to a client, you stick to it. Think Energizer Bunny.
Execution. A great idea is nothing but a pretty deck unless it’s executed.
Focus. The world is an exciting place. But don’t be like a squirrel. Focus. Focus. Focus. Entrepreneurship is like running a marathon. Stick to your strategy and stay focused.
Generosity. How do we embed generosity in our everyday lives? We can all be a bit more considerate, especially in trying times. Be generous when you are able to and pay forward. Be the light in the world you want to see.
Heart. What separates you from a machine? ‘Nuff said. You gotta have heart.
Integrity. I should not have to say this out loud. Good behavior is simply good for business. It’s your reputation after all. And to be honest, this is simply essential for anyone, not just entrepreneurs.
Judgement. Being able to exercise sound judgement is critical, especially in a highly uncertain environment. Slow down and clear your head; and it gets better with time and experience.
Kind. When you can be anything in the world, choose to be kind. That should be a guiding principle not only for entrepreneurs, but everyone.
Listening. Talk less, listen more. Make decisions based on not only what you know, but also what you learn from others around you, including your stakeholders, colleagues, advisors, VCs, and customers.
Motivation. We have all been there, having someone watching over us (and not always in a good way) as the year-end review approaches. Now that you are on your own, being goal-oriented is more important than ever. Don’t be lazy. Think of motivation as jet fuel. Now make a plan and go!
Network. It takes a village. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, so it’s even more important that we are there to support each other, share learnings, and celebrate small wins. Go build relationships. I can’t stress this enough.
Open mind. Listen to different points of view and try to look at a problem through different lenses. We all have much to learn.
Purpose. What guides when the going gets tough? What keeps you up at night and more importantly, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Ask yourself this: Why do you do what you do? And be honest with yourself.
Quality. According to Henry Ford, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” So make this a habit!
Reliability. Can your team rely on you? Can you clients depend on you to deliver? Remember the old adage: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
Storytelling. A successful leader is also a great storyteller.
Trust. Trust goes hand in hand with reliability, and it is the most powerful tool that you have. Building trust with your colleagues, stakeholders, and clients can go a long way in helping you grow your business and survive turbulent times (hint: now).
Uncompromising. Have a relentless and uncompromising focus on what matters most: culture and vision.
Vision. Having a vision is a great start. Being able to articulate it and inspire others to get behind it is even more crucial.
Why. Notice how kids always ask why? Learn from the kids!
eXperiment. We don’t always get it right the first time. Give yourself space to identify and prioritise risks and conceptualise experiments to address them. Experiments are there to help guide you which direction to go. And sometimes, it’s okay if experiments don’t work; you need to be able to learn from it and let go.
You. Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self? Would you have taken the same path? What would you change? Slow down and allow yourself a moment of reflection. Read a book. Take a walk. And take care of yourself.
Zigzag. You never know what life will throw at you and things aren’t always as straightforward as we would like. But these twists and turns can add to our lived experiences and make us stronger and more empathetic. Embrace the change and the challenges.
Remember, you got this!
About the author
Theodora (Theo) Lau is the founder of Unconventional Ventures. She is the co-author of Beyond Good and co-host of One Vision, a podcast on fintech and innovation.
She is also a regular contributor for top industry events and publications, including Harvard Business Review and Nikkei Asian Review.