Home Articles Entrepreneurship: Do you have what it takes? (A warts-and-all checklist)

Entrepreneurship: Do you have what it takes? (A warts-and-all checklist)


Can entrepreneurship be taught? This is a question I get asked every other week. Some people are quite sceptical about the graduate entrepreneurship programs around the world, while others embrace them.

I think these people are getting lost in the question they are asking. What they need to realise is that anything can be taught. Whether you want to become a mortician, an acrobat or an entrepreneur, you can read a blog, pick up a book or take a course. We live in an information rich world, where we can learn anything we want.

The real question should not be: “Can it be taught?” The real question should be: “Do people have the stomach to do it?”

Could you embalm a dead body? Could you be flung through the air? Could you fire your best friend?

Daniel Isenberg recently posted a blog on Harvard Business Review titled Should you be an Entrepreneur? The post consisted of a list of 20 questions about your habits to determine whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Isenberg’s test was quite a positive view on entrepreneurship, listing statements such as “I always look for new and better ways to do things” and “I like challenging myself”. Although these questions may separate some entrepreneurs from the masses, they may also mislead people who are simply enthusiastic or driven.

In response to Isenberg’s blog, Seth Kravitz (CEO of InsuranceAgents.com) created a list of his own. The list contains a set of 20 statements based on his own experiences as an entrepreneur.
Here is the list:

  1. I am willing to lose everything.
  2. I embrace failure.
  3. I am always willing to do tedious work.
  4. I can handle watching my dreams fall apart.
  5. Even if I am puking my guts out with the flu and my mother passed away last week, there is nothing that will keep me from being ready to work.
  6. My relationship/marriage is so strong, nothing work related could ever damage it.
  7. My family doesn’t need an income.
  8. This is a connected world and I don’t need alone time. I want to be reachable 24/7 by my employees, customers, and business partners.
  9. I like instability and I live for uncertainty.
  10. I don’t need a vacation for years at a time.
  11. I accept that not everyone likes my ideas and that it’s quite likely that many of my ideas are garbage.
  12. If I go into business with friends or family, I am OK with losing that relationship forever if things end badly.
  13. I don’t have existing anxiety issues and I handle stress with ease.
  14. I am willing to fire or layoff anyone no matter how good a friend they are, if they are my own sibling, if they just had a baby, if they have worked with me for 20 years, if their spouse also just lost their job, if I know they might end up homeless, if they have cancer but no outside medical insurance, or any other horrible scenario millions of bosses and HR people have faced countless times.
  15. I am OK with being socially cut-off and walking away from my friends when work beckons.
  16. I love naysayers and I won’t explode or give-up when a family member, friend, customer, business associate, partner or anyone for that matter tells me my idea, product or service is a terrible idea, a waste of time, will never work or that I must be a moron.
  17. I accept the fact that I can do everything right, can work 70 hours a week for years, can hire all the right people, can arrange amazing business deals, and still lose everything in a flash due to something out of my control.
  18. I accept that I may hire people that are much better at my job than I am and I will get out of their way.
  19. I realise and accept that I am wrong ten times more than I am right.
  20. I am willing to walk away if it doesn’t work out.

Kravitz’s list may seem pessimistic to some, but he has beautifully cut through the motivational hype about entrepreneurship and presented a realistic view of what you can expect.

Starting and running a company is a lot of fun, but it also takes a lot of hard work and commitment. The best thing to do when going through the tough times is to remember why you are doing it. For me, it’s because it gives me the freedom to test my ideas in the global marketplace while living my life with passion and enthusiasm.

I can answer ‘Yes’ to 18 of those questions. Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Matt Leeburn is co-founder and Managing Director of Interaction Dynamics and Click Logic. He has extensive experience in new business development, marketing and digital strategy. Follow him on Twitter @intdynamics.

Photo: Paul Allsop