Entrepreneurship is all about knowing yourself

Published: April 13, 2015 12:02:22 AM

A good education background and a distinguished career can provide a solid foundation, but there’s no substitute for the entrepreneurial experience of trial and error

Are successful entrepreneurs born or made? I have been asked this question numerous times, and my answer has always been a complex one.

Entrepreneurs are both born and made. Those that are born to succeed as entrepreneurs are few and often end up changing the world—Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, for example. The rest find success through hard work, mentoring, hands-on learning and a good amount of luck. A great education and a distinguished career provide a solid foundation, but there’s no substitute for the entrepreneurial experience of trial and error.

While a tremendous amount of managerial knowledge, which is of great value, is available in the corporate environment, at the same time it is not as useful as doing it yourself. After all, actual success within the entrepreneurship journey depends on being able to do well by oneself.

Today’s conventional educational methods may not be enough for graduates entering the entrepreneurial world. A handful of non-profit organisations in the US, however, are working to bridge the gap between academic and entrepreneurial success. The Seattle Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) is one such network, built towards providing budding entrepreneurs the best of both worlds. The programme is designed to allow young apprentices to pair with experienced entrepreneurs who mentor them; helping them through various aspects of business, such as fund-raising, planning and operations. Until such initiatives move to emerging countries like India, here are some key considerations entrepreneurs should take into account.

Know your inner self: Among the major lessons they never teach you in business schools is the fact that your business is only as good as you. It is important to evaluate who you really are. Are you emotionally and financially ready to start your own business? An accurate identification of your own strengths and weaknesses will be a good starting point to understand why you want to be an entrepreneur. When we founded Icertis, an enterprise software provider in the Microsoft Cloud, we started with a vision to apply the cloud where it matters. Our core values—fairness, openness, respect, teamwork and execution, or FORTE—were defined at the outset. As we work constantly to grow and scale up the company, these values have built a foundation to create a positive environment and win the respect of Fortune 1,000 customers, employees and analysts.
Surround yourself with motivated team: Starting your venture is about a lot of aspects coming together—product development, sales, marketing, finance and operations. Building a team that complements you and your business is necessary for the success and long-term sustainability of any enterprise. From partnering with Monish Darda (CTO & co-founder, Icertis), to getting knowledgeable advisors on board, I spent a lot of my time putting together the right team. We debate and collaborate, like a professional family.

Learning never ends: Socrates was dubbed the wisest man in Greece, because “he knew that he knew nothing.” Entrepreneurs should embrace this attitude. Regardless of how and where the knowledge comes from, you should be ready to embrace it.

Pragmatism pays: As they say, “Only a dreamer can be an inventor, but an entrepreneur is never only a dreamer.” Everyone dreams of success, but the drive to accomplish something significant must be rational. When I started a consultancy firm with a friend from Wharton with only $40,000, we were unaware of what we did not know, or rather, we thought we knew all we needed to know. Needless to say, we failed. This is where you need to be realistic. Thousands of ideas that are born every day, die. Dreamers hope that someone or something else will bring their ideas to reality for them. Entrepreneurs are doers, those that roll up their sleeves and get the work done.

Right place, right time: Luck is such a powerful thing that no one can deny its significance. That said, as they say, luck is nothing but the intersection of preparation and opportunity. So all you need to do is prepare and have patience. And while you wait, prepare some more!

So go and create something that you believe in and is entirely yours. What are you waiting for?

The author is the CEO & co-founder of Icertis. He contributes as a board member of the Seattle Chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a not-for-profit organisation that supports and mentors budding entrepreneurs.

By Samir Bodas

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