Turns out your attitude is the most important factor in your success or failure as an entrepreneur. Not personality. And not character. Oh sure, whether you are outgoing or risk averse, full-to-the-brim with new ideas or resilient – can all make a difference.
Vince Fowler is a Calgary-based leadership coach, speaker and owner of Vested Interest Group. His coaching contracts often begin with a personality test which he explains is simply a self-awareness tool. He uses the DISC system, which analyzes responses to a series of questions and places you in one of four personality quadrants: dominant, inspiring, supportive, or cautious.
“You can be a successful entrepreneur regardless of which quadrant you’re in,” reports Fowler, “It’s true more entrepreneurs fall into the dominant quadrant, but that’s not what determines their success.”
Your birth determines your personality, your experiences develop your character, but your attitude is a choice. Every successful entrepreneur, according to Fowler, will choose an abundance of the following five key attitudes.
- Choose to see past the pain
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, says Fowler. While it’s true there are times of joy and fun, enthusiasm and energy, it is also a rough, dark and scary journey. Most of the entrepreneurs who quit do so because they don’t have the stomach to get past those dark days.
- Clarity of purpose
When you have clarity of purpose, you will always have the confidence to execute. That means you’re willing to put up with lots of discomfort – emotional, financial, sometimes even physical – to do what you know you have to do. Fowler paints a picture to demonstrate this point. If there’s a fire in your house and you live on the second floor, you know what you need to do to survive: you jump, even though you may break a leg. You take the risk because you have clarity of purpose: I must survive this fire. Without clarity of purpose, you will not inspire staff, or potential clients, or even vendors. They will walk. And your business will fail.
- Willing to execute
Being an entrepreneur means making decisions and acting without the luxury of having all the facts. Sometimes very few facts. If you’re the type of person who prefers not to make your move without knowing all the variables, you’ll have a hard time moving your business forward. And moving it forward is the key: go north, or go south, it doesn’t matter. But standing still will get you nowhere. Let’s take the decision of firing someone, for example. Fowler is clear. “Do they align with your values or not? If not, they’ve gotta go. Now, before they do more damage to your brand.”
- Respect the data
Relevant data simply has to be reviewed. Every time you execute there is a result. If you don’t pay attention to the data in that result, and compare it with the data from previous results, then how can you measure your progress or make changes?
“If people don’t pay attention to data I don’t see how they’re going to be competitive,” says Fowler. “I don’t see how they’re going to win and I don’t see how they’re going to achieve what they say they want to achieve.”
- Embrace failure
Failure is the currency with which success is bought. If you do not fail, you will not learn. If you do not learn, you will not succeed.
“The entrepreneur’s mantra should be ‘I eat failure for breakfast’”, quips Fowler. “There is significant failure in entrepreneurship, in start-ups, in scaling a business, because we are always coming up with new ideas. Innovation is just a way of asking for problems.”
Fowler himself took a failure-riddled road to his current happy-entrepreneur status. Fired three times, he thought for a time that he was broken because he could not stay employed.
Why can’t I make things work? Fowler asked himself. “I’d get frustrated or bored, or both, and either I’d get fired, or I’d quit. Since working on my own, I’ve been the happiest man on the planet.”
Between them, Boni and John Wagner-Stafford have five decades of experience as entrepreneurs and/or providing consulting services to other small businesses across Canada.