Earlier this year I published a book: “Wantrepreneur: Do You Have What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur?” In the book I defined a term “wantrepreneur.”
Although this term has been used in the past in some circles – usually by entrepreneurs who have a tendency to look down on the “wantres” because, in their eyes, they have not accomplished anything. I approach the term with a different, albeit more optimistic, lens. In the book I defined a concept called “e-band,” where the wantrepreneurs may land (more details on e-band later in this post).
Do any of the following describe you?
You might be a wantrepreneur because you lack CLARITY.
If one (or multiple) of these scenarios above sound like you, you’re not alone. Your opportunity is to learn whether you can make the transition to entrepreneurship. With that said, let’s first delve into the concept of entrepreneurship and we’ll come full circle back to the wantrepreneur.
There’s a quote from a once-popular cable show Entourage, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life, like most people won’t, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.”
For some, if you ask for their reaction to that definition, that’s what they’d envision. When we apply that definition and ask the question, “Who do we think of?” We have a tendency of thinking of entrepreneurs who created multi-billion dollar enterprises. We think of the someone who started from nothing and started out of a garage. Hewlett Packard is one example. Think of the Steve’s (Jobs and Wozniak), who started Apple by basically farming computer chips, creating motherboards, “borrowing” technology ideas (e.g. graphical user interface, icons, and a thing called a mouse), thus creating something called an Apple computer. Or, Michael Dell (founder of Dell Computer), selling computer stuff out of his dorm room.
Yes, those are some of the legends in that space. Go back even further, you might think of Henry Ford and how he used the concept of mass production to produce the Model T, a product that, up to that point, only a small portion of the general population could afford to buy. As a result, a greater number of people were able to buy the product at a mass produced investment level (i.e. less).
Other entrepreneurs of note:
The reality of it though, at the core, is the definition of an entrepreneur is a bit different than what’s being positioned in the definition provided by The Entourage. Which brings us to the question, what’s an entrepreneur, really?
The definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary, defines entrepreneur as, “One who organizes, manages and assumes the risk and rewards of a business or enterprise.” I like this definition because it speaks to what an entrepreneur really is. At the end of the day, when you apply this definition to the concept of entrepreneurship, you get into this category I call the “e-band”. More on the “e-band” in a little bit.
Are entrepreneurs born or made?
Researchers have concluded there are entrepreneurial attributes people possess. Some show up as “dominant” (i.e. natural abilities AKA gifts/talents/strengths), some as “contributing” (in other words, you can turn them off and on, but it requires focus) and some as “supporting” (actually it’s weak – you’ll need help with that).
According to the same researchers, they determined entrepreneurial attributes are “set” as early as someone turns 14-years-old, with the average American possessing two dominant attributes. Based on a recent sampling, the average Inc. 500 CEO had four dominant attributes.
The researchers also identified that new entrepreneurs over the age of 40 have a higher propensity of succeeding in their ventures. This begs to support that although entrepreneurs are not necessarily born since their traits for entrepreneurship may not be entirely developed into strengths by age 14: it takes time, education and life/work experiences to hone and develop those attributes. Some attributes will flourish. Some will be developed and others will not be activated/enhanced regardless of how much time/effort is expended.
The key is to figure out if you have any that have flourished and enhanced and which ones you would need help. A COACH can help you figure that out.
Now, what is the “e-band”?
This is a concept where the “E” stands for entrepreneur. When you look at the concept of entrepreneurship, and an entrepreneur, you’ll see that there’s a band that businesses or types of businesses, fall in.
| Startup | Standalone | Business-in-a-Box | 1099 Independent Contractor |
Going from left to right, you’ll see a range of entrepreneurship: start up, standalone, business-in-a-box and 1099 independent contractor.
Definition: A business less than one-year-old. An employer firm employing at least one person besides the owner.
Definition: The Small Business Administration (SBA) defines a standalone as a business concern that is organized for profit. A place of business in the United States. Operates primarily within the US or makes a significant contribution to the US economy through payment of taxes or the use of American products, materials of labor.
Definition: You are provided everything you need to get started. Think of the model erector set or a box of Legos. In some ways, a business-in-a-box is very similar to the template where you go to local department store and get your box. The box usually comes with all the parts you’ll need to get up and running (eg: a franchise opportunity with an existing chain). In that box, you’ll usually find a guide—instructions, if you will, also known as standard operating procedures (SOP) for putting all of the pieces together.
Definition: A person who contracts to do work for another person according to his or her own processes and methods. The contractor is not subject to anyone’s control, except what is specified in a mutually binding agreement for a specific job. An independent contractor contracts with an employer to do a particular piece of work.
When you apply the definition of entrepreneur to Webster, you notice at each section on that band, there will be one person who “organizes, manages, and assumes the risk and rewards of a business or enterprise.”
If you’re not currently on the e-band, yet have thoughts of wanting to fall in/join the band, I affectionately call you a wantrepreneur – people at that professional fork in the road, who are not sure they want to go down this road. You’ll have an opportunity to discern through the process outlined in this blog whether or not you fit on this e-band.
Where on the e-band will you be best aligned? Still not sure? Keep reading.
Again, don’t fret! As you read, I’ll give you a mechanism by which you can achieve just that: clarity. Clarity as to whether or not you fall on the e-band and where potentially you might be predisposed to fall.
There’s a formula you can apply to achieve clarity. The formula: (R+F+I+E+R) C1 = C2
What does that formula mean?
(Reflection + feedback + insight + education + resources) multiplied by your degree of confidence (C1), will equal clarity (C2).
The opportunity you have going forward is to assess and determine, in a step-by-step process, if doing something entrepreneurial is an option. For the remainder of the blog, I’ll review what each step looks like and how you can begin to gain clarity as to whether or not doing something entrepreneurial is in your best interest or not.
Ideally, this would be something you feel strong enough that it’s worth having a coach facilitate with the objective of getting you to the point of clarity.
Reflection has multiple phases. In this case, three: Retrospective, current state and future focus.
1. Retrospective – Where you look back on your career. As the questions below will illustrate, there’s a series of questions you can begin to ask yourself to begin to zero in on your previous career or your previous experiences in corporate America
Some questions you can ask yourself:
2. Current state – Where you begin to understand and reflect on what your current state is in your job/current quest. Below are suggested strategies for how to identify where you are in your current state.
Have an assessment done! (That’s what I do for my clients!)
3. Future state – Where you put your “magic wand” in your hand and you reflect on a one, three-to-five and five to 10-year visio,n where you’re reflecting outward to see what you want your life to be like in one, three, five and 10 years. Below are suggested questions to help you begin to identify what life can look like for you in the future.
Feedback for what you’re aspiring to do, what you’re assessing about the opportunity of doing something entrepreneurial is going to be very important for you. The feedback can be driven by technology, where you can have access to an assessment that will literally measure your entrepreneurial attributes. It can be driven by feedback from a coach. It can also be driven by feedback from family, friends and peers.
A note about family, friends, and peer feedback
You should take feedback from family, friends, and peers with a grain of salt. They will insert their own fears, hesitations and challenges into their responses. As well-intentioned as family, friends, and peers can be, providing feedback for the possibilities of doing something entrepreneurial, be prepared for people who will not be as supportive as you would need or as objective about what you’re assessing. That’s why having a coach with no vested interest other than you achieving clarity is critical.
Perhaps a trusted advisor instead
Sure you can share your thoughts and ideas with family, friends, and peers, but at the end of the day, you might be better served to rely on the insights of a trusted advisor. Someone who can act a sounding board and someone not tied to the outcome – a COACH!
What about your gut?
The third level of feedback you can derive is your gut. Don’t underestimate how you’re feeling internally about the opportunity.
How will you know?
A number of years ago, my wife Mary Martha and I made the decision to adopt two children from Russia (not by any means to infer adopting two children from Russia is akin to becoming an entrepreneur. At the end of the story, you’ll appreciate the intent).
When we were trying to find and learn about the children who could become our own, we were given the opportunity to meet with children—one boy and one girl—a day. After meeting with the orphanage director and doctor and being with the infants for an hour or so, we were driven back to our hotel and the next morning we had to let the Russian officials know whether or not we wanted to adopt the boy, girl or both.
This went on for a few days and, at times, became heart-wrenching. As you can imagine, knowing our decision was going to mean the difference of a child staying at an orphanage or a child eventually coming home to be our children was difficult. During the process, the one piece of advice we received, which relates to your journey, “You will know when you know.”
Try not to pressure yourself too much to make a decision. If you “lean in” on a coach, educate yourself, get feedback and have an open mind, as well as the other suggested steps, over time you’ll be able to listen to your gut and it will feel right. Never underestimate the power of your gut.
Insight will come throughout this process. I call them the “aha moments.” Seeking someone’s insight is important. You WILL gain insight, whether it’s insight you arrived at on your own or insight provided from a coach or trusted advisor or insight you gain from reading and accumulating information. The insight will provide you reinforcement whether going down the entrepreneurial road makes sense.
The next phase towards gaining clarity is education. There are numerous educational resources that exist to help you learn about and to become more comfortable with opportunities on the entrepreneurial band that might make sense for you to pursue. One of those sources includes the education provided by coaches. I do this every day with my clients. Part of your education will be driven by your interaction with that type of resource.
What if I’ve landed on what I want to pursue?
Outside a coach, there are also a number of groups that specialize in helping people (wantrepreneurs) who have landed on what they want to do. Specifically:
In addition, there are numerous books written that will supplement this step as well. The ones I suggest:
Additional resources you should “lean in” on to help you discern where you’re at and whether or not this makes sense include:
Previously mentioned resources:
* For the Wantrepreneur who has landed on what they want to do and don’t believe a coach would be a resource.
Other traditional career resources not mentioned:
Now, couple all of those previous phases together and the next part is where you will multiply all the outputs from those steps. You multiply the sum results of (reflection + feedback + insight + education + resources) with your level of confidence.
No accident, the more thoroughly you work through the journey of discovery and work with an alternative career coach the more confident you will become.
Let’s talk about confidence…
Confidence is different for every individual. In some ways, confidence is also impacted by your perception of risk. Risk tolerance is something that’s important for you to understand about yourself. Some questions to answer:
Aspects of risk tolerance will impact your degree and level of confidence. The more confidence you have and the more you’ve been able to reduce the feeling of risk in this endeavor, then you will be able to get to a point where the holy grail will be clarity about whether or not doing something entrepreneurial makes sense or not, which leads to the concept of clarity.
Let’s be clear, clarity should reinforce you to do the following:
The key is going through the process to achieve a level of clarity. The worst thing you could do is not to try to arrive at a point of clarity. Imagine years from now sitting on the rocking chair staring off into the distance and wondering “what if” or worse, the U2 song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” continues to play.
A note about spiritual faith: this blog has not spent time discussing an important resource —your spiritual faith. Suffice to say, whatever you believe, your faith can play an important role in helping you navigate this all-too-common life event. Please “lean in” on your faith and seek that resource in helping you navigate and you will find many of the challenges outlined may be less of an issue.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5
My best in your quest!
Since 2012, Mark (a certified “gifts” coach) has been working with wantrepreneurs to help them determine if the entrepreneurial route makes sense for them and their families. He believes someone's wiring can make all the difference. To that end, he wrote an Amazon best seller Wantrepreneur: Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur. Connect with Mark through Noomii, Twitter, LinkedIn or visit his website.