Entrepreneurs thrive on identifying opportunities that can’t be spotted by those around them and finding a way to navigate through adverse situations.
One of the driving forces that set entrepreneurs apart from their business counterparts is their legendary ‘entrepreneurial spirit,’ which helps them to succeed even if the odds may be against them. But what exactly is entrepreneurial spirit? And how can entrepreneurs keep it alive and thriving even when things become difficult?
Let’s explore what entrepreneurial spirit actually means and the significant role it plays in modern business:
What is Entrepreneurial Spirit?
There are some key distinctions to make between entrepreneurs and business founders or ‘risk takers’ in business. While some within the industry may treat the terms as largely synonymous, there are some vital differences in their characteristics that set entrepreneurs apart from other decision-makers in business.
One of the most pertinent of these distinctions revolves around the ‘entrepreneurial spirit,’ and its importance within the leaders of an enterprise – regardless of who actually founded the business.
But what actually is ‘entrepreneurial spirit’? Naturally, the term can mean different things to different people, which is understandable when the world of entrepreneurship typically revolves around risk-taking, subjectivity and spotting opportunities that others can’t see.
However, we can use some descriptions of entrepreneurial spirit from successful entrepreneurs to help illuminate a term that can be largely open to interpretation.
“To me, an entrepreneurial spirit is a way of approaching situations where you feel empowered, motivated, and capable of taking things into your own hands,” explained Sara Sutton Fell, CEO and founder of FlexJobs.
Another significant quote comes from the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg: “The question I ask myself almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?’”
Both quotes emphasise the importance of choosing productivity and having the confidence to make big decisions as and when they’re required.
Herein lies the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit, but what characteristics highlight the entrepreneurial spirit and its value to the business? Let’s take a deeper look into the facets that drive success for entrepreneurs around the world:
The Characteristics of The Entrepreneurial Spirit
The entrepreneurial spirit can influence a wide range of business operations, ideas, and company structures.
Being a great entrepreneur isn’t just about being brave and taking risks, it’s about unprecedented levels of attention to detail, and a positive, productive mentality that resonates with team members across the entirety of an organisation.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key characteristics that contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit:
One of the most significant traits you’ll find in all business owners and founders is determination. Although this is a difficult trait to quantify, it can be commonly found in the DNA of ambitious entrepreneurs.
Building a business from the ground up requires a significant level of planning and motivation. Whether you’re launching a new product, establishing a digital concept or attempting to create a fitting team to suit your business culture, determination is crucial in helping you to generate the willpower you need to succeed.
The task of creating a business can be extremely daunting and draining, but the determination exhibited by entrepreneurs is essential in giving you the drive to succeed even when progress is slowing to a snail’s pace.
As the data above shows, startup failure rates can be as high as 63%, depending on the industry that you find yourself in. This means that there are going to be plenty of tests of your drive to succeed. In a landscape that’s plagued by failure, only the most determined of entrepreneurs succeed.
2. Personability and Persuasiveness
An essential aspect in the building of a successful business is to ensure that your team believes in your idea and is ready to commit themselves to help you to achieve your ambitions. For a lot of entrepreneurs, the first people that need to be persuaded are investors. Seed investment is a popular method of helping to convert ideas into functioning prototypes and potential market viability. The process of turning ideas into a reality is a costly one and generally takes much more than a great concept alone.
Seed funding can emerge from many different sources in terms of equity – from angel investors, venture capitalists, bank funding, bootstrapping and crowdfunding to friends and family; all of whom can require a level of persuasion before committing their money. The act of securing seed funding can take a significant and sustained effort in demonstrating your value and setting the right goals.
It’s one thing to win the interest of investors after pitching your idea, but another key factor is winning their trust on a more personal level. It’s important for investors to invest in both businesses and the people behind them. They’re likely to find specific characteristics within the people they invest in, and the onus is firmly on the entrepreneur to persuade them that they fit the bill.
If investors intend to give their money to hard-working, motivated and ambitious entrepreneurs, it’s vital that founders exercise their personable and communicative qualities to share the presentation skills and strengths they need to pitch their idea successfully.
3. Leading by Example
As with many aspects of a company’s culture, the entrepreneurial spirit should be capable of passing through the entirety of the business from the top down.
Regardless of your position in a business, establishing a company culture and then adhering to it is an excellent way of triggering a positive response in your teams and encouraging the sharing of innovative ideas around you.
One of the best ways to lead by example is to establish an open-door policy where all employees can feel emboldened to share their thoughts and ideas with you.
In more restrictive and rigid company hierarchies, teams can sometimes find themselves too fearful, or too timid to share their ideas or suggestions with you. While listening to suggestions that you’re unsure of may seem like a waste of time, opening yourself up to new insight can help to provide a fresh perspective that could directly benefit the company.
With this in mind, it’s worth setting up a ‘crazy ideas’ file, where employees can submit any ideas they have without the fear of rejection or scrutiny. This can help all of your workers to feel emboldened and valued within your organisation. You never know, they may even offer you a money-spinning idea in return.
4. Champion Optimism
Life as an entrepreneur can be difficult, desperate and distressing. Securing the right investment opportunities for your enterprise or idea can be a long and drawn-out process and there can be times where it seems like your business plan will never see the light of day.
The only thing that can get you through these inevitable hardships is a glass-half-full optimistic attitude. Rather than taking time to dwell on the things they can’t do, entrepreneurs dare to ask ‘why can’t I?’ and endeavour to beat the odds and make the best of an adverse situation.
Furthermore, this high degree of optimism will naturally align with the recruitment decisions that you make. By establishing teams that share your positivity and can-do attitude, you’ll be able to set up a slick workforce that won’t drag their heels when the going gets tough.
5. You’re a (Calculated) Risk Taker
All business owners are risk-takers. It’s a vital facet of building your own startup to take a chance on yourself. However, not all business owners take the same level of risks that their entrepreneurial counterparts take on the path to success.
Bootstrapping your idea from the ground up is a massive risk that could cost you a fair chunk of your savings if it fails. Opting to scale your startup to outpace your rivals is another huge risk that could ultimately undermine all of your hard work so far.
The life of the entrepreneur is built on risky decisions, but no successful entrepreneur takes blind risks in the hope that their manoeuvres work out. Each risky move you make is backed by risk assessments, research, myriad calculations and a fair understanding of your chances of success.
Taking calculated risks is an important part of the entrepreneurial spirit, and it helps business owners to outpace their rivals by taking the right chance at the right time.
6. You’re eager to Question Established Norms
One of the first signs that you may possess the entrepreneurial spirit can be found in your eagerness to question the status quo in life. Are you continually questioning things? Asking why we approach tasks in certain ways? Or wondering what would happen if we tried doing things differently? It’s this curious mindset that can be a huge asset to entrepreneurs due to how it can help you to solve problems and see solutions in things that nobody else had even considered.
Many entrepreneurs in the world today are preoccupied with attempting to make sense of the world around them. This thought process can help them to stumble upon innovative ideas and solutions to lingering problems that other business owners would never have the ability to dream up.
To add some context to the notion that entrepreneurs continually question the world around them, Oberlo offers up the example of Uber – a cab-hailing service that noticed paying in cash for journeys around town was highly inefficient and awkward for users.
Their solution was to turn taxis digital. Through the use of an app, Uber allowed users to connect to a huge network of drivers to arrange much faster pickups and a fully automated payment service – with all rides tracked for greater levels of safety.
To see this vestige of the entrepreneurial spirit in action, all you have to do is to wait for the next great innovation in the world of technology. The chances are that the idea will be the brainchild of an entrepreneur who decided to reimagine an existing service as a means of exploring how to make it more efficient, safe, and effective for all users.
7. Self-Starter Mentality
Self-efficacy is central to the heart of the entrepreneurial spirit. People who showcase high levels of entrepreneurial spirit tend to have high self-efficacy when it comes to entrepreneurial veneers – this self-starter mentality can pay dividends when it comes to overcoming challenges and tackling issues head-on.
According to Alexander Newman, professor of management at the Deakin Business School in Australia, entrepreneurial self-efficacy refers to the belief in his or her capability to perform tasks and roles aimed at entrepreneurial outcomes. To further illustrate this concept, Newman has published a review on the matter, with an accompanying flowchart listed below to better understand what entrepreneurial self-efficacy is:
What does it mean to be a self-starter in the world of business? It takes a proactive mindset that’s unique in the entrepreneurial world to drive decisive decision making without hesitation or second-guessing to steal a march on rivals and secure the right opportunities.
Quoted in Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, Albert Bandura, leading Stanford psychologist said: “People’s beliefs about their abilities have a profound effect on those abilities. Ability is not a fixed property; there is huge variability in how you perform. People who have a sense of self-efficacy bounce back from failures; they approach things in terms of how to handle them rather than worrying about what can go wrong.”
For those in business who struggle to uphold the mentality of a self-starter, it can lead to feelings that life is happening outside of their control, the belief that challenges are more insurmountable, a greater likelihood of abandoning work that isn’t stimulating and feelings of helplessness when it comes to making positive changes on a subjective and objective level.
8. Passion For Positive Change
While a big part of the entrepreneurial spirit revolves around making things happen on your own, and trusting yourself to make the right calls at the right time, another key part of the genetic makeup of a successful entrepreneur is to look at the bigger picture surrounding the decisions and actions that they take.
Entrepreneurs understand that everything they do will carry significant ramifications around them in terms of their wider impact on the environment, society and quality of life. They know that when they create a business, their choice of location could carry an impact on the town or region they set up in.
Although not all business owners are social entrepreneurs, there are many founders who have used their stake in society to drive visionary change through unconventional ideas and calculated risks with the goal of social betterment.
This facet of the entrepreneurial spirit can help to drive positive change for communities through their efforts and initiatives in ways that other decision-makers in the world of business are unable to engage in – or are unwilling to take such financial risks.
The reason that this is such a key part of the DNA of entrepreneurs is down to the significant scale of their ambition and willingness to take ownership of the situation around them. As a result, it can be highly beneficial for a geographical location to welcome entrepreneurs. Unlike other business owners, entrepreneurs may be more likely to drive positive change by hiring locally, investing back into the community, and scale their business using more sustainable materials and ethical practices.
This forward-thinking dedication to the bigger picture around business ownership may not always be prevalent in the actions of entrepreneurs, but it’s certainly a part of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Keeping The Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive
The cult of the entrepreneur has become predominant across the world of business. As we continue to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, a brand new level of emphasis will be placed on business growth, and the task of strategically scaling ahead of competitors.
This movement will push the entrepreneurial spirit to the front and centre of operations as businesses attempt to build momentum. After such a tumultuous period in the midst of the health crisis, the task of keeping the entrepreneurial spirit alive ahead of the arrival of the ‘new normal’ has never been more important.
So, how can we keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive? Let’s take a look at some of the key ways to ensure that your organisation taps into your entrepreneurial DNA to act proactively at this time of significant opportunity:
Maintain an Innovation-Friendly Culture Among Your Teams
Creativity breeds creativity. Although you may have not lost your taste for innovation during the pandemic, it’s vital that your team maintains the same sense for an opportunity.
One of the biggest aspects of the entrepreneurial spirit involves sharing your insights, lessons learned, and experience with those around you. This helps to inspire them to adopt your characteristics for the betterment of the company as a whole.
Your insight could even help to drive further innovation outside the confines of your business model.
(Image: Luisa Zhou)
As the stat above shows, around one-third of mentees of successful entrepreneurs go on to become top performers – showing that it’s possible for the entrepreneurial spirit to be passed on to willing incumbents.
Remember to always keep a little bit of time free in your schedule to interact with your teams and help them to gain insights into your thought processes. Even if your plans and ideas don’t directly involve your employees when it comes to discussing them, just sharing what’s on your mind is an excellent way of helping them to get into your head and to see the world through your eyes for a little while.
Always Adhere to a Strategic Direction
Yes, it’s important for entrepreneurs to have the strength to change their minds when new information is presented to them, but it’s also extremely important to ensure that they’re always aware of the direction that the business is going in and that there’s a viable roadmap to follow at all times.
It’s vital to set your boundaries accordingly. By formulating a plan and sticking to it, you have the power to focus your attention, energy, and resources towards areas of your strategy that look like they need some help.
With this in mind, it’s worth revising and continually consulting your business plan as your company grows. Keep an eye out for inconsistencies or areas that have been affected either positively or negatively by external factors. By knowing where you’re headed and where your next steps will take you, it’s far easier to chart your progress or identify setbacks as they emerge.
Never Let The Fear of Failure Control You
Times recently have become very difficult across a range of industries. This presents a landscape for entrepreneurs to navigate. One bad decision could be disastrous in a declining market, but the fear of failure should never consume you.
Innovation always requires a level of risk, and this means that a chance of failure is always looming over the decisions that you make. However, when people try to steer clear of the prospect of failure, they’ll often also lose out on the chance of success. In many important business decisions, you can’t have the prospect of success without the prospect of failure also.
Here, it’s important to point out that no entrepreneur should fully throw caution to the wind and chase every idea that they have second thoughts about, but it’s certainly worth noting that the best ideas tend to be risky ones at the start, and risk means that you may not achieve your goals at the end.
Failure means letting yourself and those around you down, and it’s a terrible feeling to come to terms with. However, the entrepreneurial spirit is defined by calculated risk-taking, and that means staring failure in the face and overcoming the risks laid out in front of you.
The entrepreneurial spirit is an intangible but essential quality possessed by entrepreneurs. It helps to set them apart from business owners and decision-makers and helps them to thrive under pressure, take the right calculated risks at the right time, and to shake off the threat of failure even as things start to look desperate.
As we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the risks and opportunities for entrepreneurs are bigger than ever. At such a significant time in the business management landscape, it’s likely to be those who best encapsulate the entrepreneurial spirit who will thrive.