I just completed a 15-day solo journey on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, whereby I expanded my horizons and worked on some writing projects. One thing I did not expect from my experience is the degree to which I would encounter and converse with so many small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Throughout the two-plus weeks of traveling in such a stunningly beautiful region, I spent time with Vincenzo, the owner of a taxi service; Lucy, a tour guide and personal concierge; Peter, a private chef; and Jody, a dynamic entrepreneur from Australia who has started and sold two business services companies. Each is deeply passionate about doing what they love on their terms.
Vincenzo and I clocked a particular amount of time chatting since he toured me around on two separate occasions; first, along the winding Sorrento Coast and then zig-zagging along the roads of vertical Positano. Relaying the day he decided to take the leap of faith into entrepreneurism, Vincenzo expressed in his thick accent: "I told my wife that I was gonna to get a license for a taxi and start my own business. She cried for three days about how we gonna to a make it." Six years later, Vincenzo's business is on fire and his wife now manages the entire back-end for him.
I totally related with the many stories shared by Vincenzo and the other entrepreneurs I met in Italy even though we speak different languages and offer different services worlds apart. In fact, regardless of where entrepreneurs hail from on this planet, and whether our companies are large or small, I've observed that there are several shared traits that unify us.
Passion Entrepreneurs have a fire in their bellies for what they do, why they are doing it and who they are serving. Passion is why we sacrifice the steady paycheck to unleash our ability to create. Passion is why we work our tails off week after week, month after month and year after year. The burning desire to earn a living on one’s own term while bringing value to others is a powerful, roaring engine.
Desire for Freedom Most entrepreneurs have a deep-seated desire for freedom and don’t like being told they cannot try out a new idea, invent a new product or that they have to follow someone else's rules. It's not that entrepreneurs aren't great team players, far from it. But their appetite for freedom and independence outweighs the costs. In the words of John Maxwell, "An entrepreneur will give up an eight hour (a day) secure job to work 16 hours (a day) for himself to have the freedom to put his ideas out there..." So true.
Risk-taker Living outside the comfort zone is a standard existence for the entrepreneur. Starting and growing a business requires a healthy level of risk-taking. There’s nothing wrong with people who prefer to play it safe in life, but taking regular leaps of faith is a solid standard for business ownership. I have yelled “Geronimo” on many occasions during the 14 years of being an entrepreneur and am skilled at growing wings after I jump followed by calling out for people to help me safely land.
Confidence While there are times that entrepreneurs might be unsure about their path or decisions, launching into the world of business ownership entails a huge dose of confidence and belief in oneself. Every entrepreneur must have a down-to-the-core conviction that her or his service or product provides tremendous value and that their business is the best to provide it in the target marketplace.
Hard Working To start, manage and grow a business through many stages of evolution requires plain old-fashioned hard work and grit. Anyone who is not willing to work like mad for years on end will never make it as a business owner. It's completely okay to prefer the 9 to 5 scene. However, operating a business can many times be an around-the-clock job. The amazing thing? Most entrepreneurs report that even though they work intense hours, what they do for a living doesn't seem like a job.
Ability to Persuade There are no better persuasion strategies than enthusiasm, passion and conviction. Successful business owners are masters at authentic promotion. Most entrepreneurs love to talk about what they do. They are not afraid to market their services and products while clearly explaining how they bring value to their customers.
Resilient & Flexible Hope and belief are like jet fuel for keeping a business owner going during challenging times. Entrepreneurs are flexible and know how to roll with the punches. They get knocked down and derailed, but dust themselves off and jump back in the game, usually with even greater gusto.
My final point is inspired by author Sue Monk Kidd. I once heard her say, "If I don't write I will die." For all of the entrepreneurs out there who would rather die than go back to the world of working for someone else, you are part of a passionate, global network of dynamos and are to be applauded. Keep going. The world needs what you have to offer.
Kathleen DuBois is a 14-year entrepreneur and president of Progressity, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in three core processes: Leadership Development, Intentional Marketing™ and Nonprofit Development. Visit Progressity.com for more information and resources.