Tinker, tailor, soldier, … entrepreneur?

by: May 15, 2014
How to become an entrepreneur
What if you want to be an entrepreneur? Do careers advisors at schools and universities have the expert knowledge to help you? So what is the right career path?
Choosing a career when you’re 16 or 18 or 21 has always seemed an impossibly difficult task.  How on earth are you supposed to know? Even the most streetwise and worldly-aware young person doesn’t have the life experience to fully understand the opportunities let alone know whether or not they’d enjoy them.
But what if you want to be an entrepreneur? Do careers advisors at schools and universities have the expert knowledge to help you? I suspect not. Yet entrepreneurs are the life-blood of our economy, they provide the vital employment, the wealth creation, the tax revenues that support our school, health service, road systems, and other public amenities and services. So it’s critical that potential entrepreneurs can find quality advice that allows them to increase their chances of success.
If you want to successfully build your own business, what’s the right career path?
There appear to be three main routes into entrepreneurship.
Firstly there’s “entrepreneurship by sheer grit”. This is the path taken by several well-known entrepreneurs like, for example, Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and James Caan, who started their own businesses pretty much as soon as they left school, if not earlier. They belong to that group of people who are lucky enough to have a good idea of what they want to be doing at a relatively early age. They knew what they wanted to do and were completely determined to achieve it.
This route is not without its challenges: there’s a lot to learn and you’ve got to learn it yourself as you go along.  That’s difficult; it takes time and there are numerous pitfalls and many mistakes to make.  In my opinion, this group of entrepreneurs frequently struggle to become quite as rounded in their experience, knowledge and outlook as those who take the other routes, but sheer grit, determination, single-mindedness and their capacity for extraordinary graft is core to their success.
Secondly there’s “entrepreneurship by circumstance”. Circumstances such as redundancy and/or difficulty getting appropriate employment force people into setting up their own business. The core driver is providing income. It’s not unusual for these entrepreneurs to be driven by fear of failure – a very powerful motivating force, not to be underestimated and, harnessed positively, can be the driver of great success.
They generally have the advantage of experience, and often either set themselves up doing on a self-employed basis what they previously did as an employee, or a version thereof.  The other very common type of business for this group of entrepreneurs is becoming a franchisee – with the training and support structure and marketing, brand, and sometimes lead generation provided by the franchisor.
And the third route is “entrepreneurship by career-morphing”. With increasing numbers, people are changing careers, jumping from one specialism to another seemingly completely different one, with apparent ease and frequency. In fact, a well-planned career-morphing route allows you to gain great experience while working in other organisations – preferably businesses that invest heavily in training their people and have great leadership and people managers.  That doesn’t mean learn some skills and move on straightaway – that would be perhaps somewhat immoral and actually is rather short-sighted.  You need to put your newly acquired skills into practice, to learn from experience and to hone them to near-perfection.
This way, you develop key skills that will be of considerable use when you eventually start your own business.  A more rounded, broader skill base will, for many people, result in a much greater chance of success.

Footnote: There are other quite legitimate routes into entrepreneurship but I’d hesitate to call them ‘career paths’.  For example “Entrepreneurship by Inheritance” although some might argue that that’s an oxymoron.  Or “Entrepreneurship by Chance” – people who, by following their interest or passion, end up running their own business, but without any really focused plan to do so.


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About Author

Paul is Zonata's founder and MD. He has a true passion for business and is massively excited by the opportunities that Zonata provides for its clients and partners. He loves helping owner-managed businesses be exceptionally successful, and enjoys the phenomenal quality of the people who work with him.

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