December 2009 Issue

Are You an Entrepreneur? How Personality Affects Career Success and Satisfaction
By Jean R. Caton, MS, MBA, RD
Today’s Dietitian
Vol. 11 No. 12 P. 10

You’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start your own business. Good for you! But perhaps you’re finding that being an entrepreneur is not what you anticipated. Or maybe you’re simply exploring the idea in these times of economic and job insecurity. You may be wondering whether you have what is takes to be in business for yourself.

Do I Have the Right Stuff?
An Internet search for “am I an entrepreneur” yields countless assessments and quizzes that attempt to answer that question for you. If you take a quiz and you rank high in entrepreneurial traits, don’t quit your day job just yet. On the other hand, do not despair if you rank low. Most of the quizzes are not reliable tools and only look at traits required for the stereotypical entrepreneurial business model. Many fall short because the results are affected by self-reported answers that are tainted with biases and beliefs. Online assessments can be fun but useful only as a starting point for your exploration.

The question, “Do I have what it takes to run my own business?” does not have a simple answer, in part because there are so many ways to be in business. The different entrepreneurial business models require various skills, strengths, and personality traits for success and satisfaction.

The following are examples of business models that have different challenges, advantages, and disadvantages that, as a result, require different strengths and styles to succeed:

• service business, product sales, manufacturing business;

• virtual business or brick-and-mortar business;

• solopreneur or small business with employees; and

• franchise.

To thrive as an entrepreneur, the closer the match between the demands of the work and your preferences, values, interests, strengths, and personality traits, the more likely you will enjoy your work. And when you enjoy your work, success will come more easily.

So how do you decide whether pursuing the entrepreneurial route is right for you? Consider these six steps:

1. Identify your reason for starting a business. There are many reasons for choosing the entrepreneurial path. Often, one of the first benefits that comes to mind is lifestyle: freedom and flexibility, the opportunity to be your own boss, and the prospect of working from home. Name your reason. Perhaps it is wealth, fortune, and fame, a lifestyle job that allows flexibility to spend time raising a family, or a business transition into retirement. Starting a business because you have lost your job and desperately need money is probably not a good reason.

2. Define success. What does success mean to you? Is success measured by the size of the business, the annual revenue and profit, or the work’s fit with your lifestyle goals? You decide. When you know where you are going, it is much easier to get there.

3. Explore different business models. There is a significant difference between the skills, strengths, and personality traits of a successful service-based solopreneur and those required to be a franchise owner. A creative, independent person with a lot of initiative who likes to do things his or her way may want to steer clear of a franchise model that typically has highly structured operating policies and procedures. It’s up to you what will work best.

4. Understand a “day in the life” of an entrepreneur. How you spend your time, day in and day out, is perhaps one of the most important yet least recognized aspects of a satisfying career path. A big mismatch between your passion and the skill set and the demands of the job can result in dissatisfaction and make success difficult to attain. Experienced entrepreneurs, professional speakers, authors, coaches, and nutrition counselors spend a relatively small amount of time practicing their trade and a large amount of time marketing and running the business.

5. Conduct information interviews. A good way to understand the daily job demands is to interview other entrepreneurs whose work is similar to your business vision. Ask them about their most and least favorite parts of the job, the strengths that are most responsible for their success, and the skills they wish they possessed. Discover how they manage the isolation of being an entrepreneur if they are extroverts or the marketing and sales tactics that work best if they are introverts.

6. Know thyself. Personality is only one factor, but it is key to your success and satisfaction. How well do you understand yourself from an objective viewpoint? What are your strengths and underlying motivations that drive your behavior? You may want to take one or two of the widely available validated and reliable personality assessments to get a more accurate understanding of your best self. Use the results to inform your decision rather than make the decision. Discuss the results in relation to your career path with a coach, mentor, or other trusted colleague.

So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur
After contemplating these six steps, if the entrepreneurial path sounds like a potentially good match for you, then continue exploring. Ask yourself whether you have adequate support from family and/or a significant other, are physically and emotionally fit to take on the long hours and challenge of starting a business at the present time, and are financially in shape to manage the lack of salary for an indefinite period.

You will not come up with a right or wrong, black-and-white answer. However, the better informed you are about the reality of being in business, the greater the chance you will be happy with the work.

When all is said and done, one of the most important aspects of success is a feasible business concept for which you have great passion. Great business plan or no business plan, it is this passion for your business vision that will help you endure the tough times, pick yourself up and move ahead after a setback, and persevere when it all seems impossible.

Finally, don’t go it alone. Solicit the support of a mentor, coach, or advocate. Ask others, especially those with strengths different from yours, to serve on an advisory board. Participate in entrepreneurial associations and in groups on LinkedIn and other social media sites where you can meet and speak with other entrepreneurs. If you have vision, passion, and persistence, you have a lot of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. You can hire or learn the rest.

— Jean R. Caton, MS, MBA, RD, is a speaker, writer, and career, business, and life coach based in St. Louis who works virtually with people across the country.