Beyoncé recently spoke to OUT magazine about the traits she focused on in developing her latest album. Interestingly, as a professor of entrepreneurship, I can use these same six traits -- discipline, patience, control, truth, risk, and effortlessness -- to teach about the entrepreneurial mindset.
Starting a successful business requires discipline: the discipline to wake up every day and unwaveringly believe that today is going to be better than yesterday, the discipline to get on the phone to make the next sale, the discipline to hammer out that next line of code or the discipline simply to do what needs to be done in spite of any obstacles. Discipline drives an entrepreneur (and Beyoncé) to continue past the limits where others often give up, stop and ultimately fail.
As the saying goes, it takes a number of years to become an overnight sensation. As any serial entrepreneur knows, building a successful business often takes time. In this day and age, when we are used to immediate gratification, the pace of building a successful business may seem like an eternity, especially for a new entrepreneur. While there are actions that an entrepreneur can and should take to reduce the time to success, patience is often a necessary part of the equation, in spite of one's best efforts to accelerate the process.
Just as Beyoncé needs to maintain strong vocal and creative control over her music, voice and album, an entrepreneur needs to recognize the importance of control. That control manifests in many ways, including financial control, control over a business' ownership, controlling risk and control over the critical path a new business needs to take in order to be successful.
The primary task of an entrepreneur is to uncover a viable business model. Entrepreneurs, especially first timers, often paint a rosy picture of their business' prospects. This may include overly optimistic projections of sales numbers, social media activity or new member accretion. This rosy outlook may obscure the truth in discovering that viable business model and the ensuing successful business path. As a new business owner, it is critical that you set realistic, truthful expectations about your business.
Risk is inherent in any decision (or non-decision) we make. For an artist like Beyoncé, taking a risk means remaining on the cutting edge of music but also not alienating fans, or worse, becoming irrelevant.
For an entrepreneur, risks come in many forms: financial risks, time to market and competition, to name a few. Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of minimizing risk. This may mean offloading or sharing risk with others who may have a greater tolerance or ability to weather a loss. Alternatively it may mean accepting the risk as a part of the pursuit of the business venture. In either case, clearly understanding, to the extent possible, what the risks are and how best to mitigate them is an integral part of entrepreneurship.
When I worked in corporate America, every year I would be required to complete a self-evaluation. Even though I excelled at my primary job responsibilities, there were some things that I hated doing and that I frankly was not even good at performing. In other words, there were some tasks that just didn't come effortlessly. Every yearly evaluation, my manager would identify those same areas where I'd need to improve. Every year I didn't.
Successful entrepreneurs understand working effortlessly, or in other words, focusing on those skills that they are particularly good at doing and finding others to focus on complementary skills that come effortlessly to other people instead of trying to improve skills that inherently don't come naturally. Leveraging the talents and skills of other people allows entrepreneurs to focus on building the business while offloading tasks at which they simply aren't good.