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Overwhelmed by Starting a Business? Utilize Your Strengths

Mar 4, 2008
Making the shift from employee to entrepreneur can be a daunting task. The changes necessary to master entrepreneurial skill sets, habits, and paradigms can be overwhelming. "Do I have what it takes to become an entrepreneur?" you ask yourself for the tenth, twentieth, or even fiftieth time. Setbacks and frustrations come with the territory, and eventually many budding entrepreneurs believe that they have made a huge mistake and go back to the familiar, with their tails tucked between their legs and a massive failure hangover.

The good news is that you do not have to master everything. I know you don't believe it, so let me say it again: You don't have to master every attitude, skill set, technique, and body of knowledge to successfully start your own business. It is impossible for you to do so, being human. Cut yourself some slack. Those who have successfully made the transition will freely tell you that they are not fluent in all the necessary entrepreneurial skills. Even Bill Gates will tell you that!

More good news: Entrepreneurs are made, not born. If you are willing, you can acquire many of the attitudes and skills of an entrepreneur. If there is one quality that is paramount in your quest to start your own business, it is the willingness and desire to learn, change, and grow. If you are not interested in learning new things, changing yourself, and experiencing personal growth, you will find having your own business and making it prosper very difficult. Let's face it; you know the old paradigms aren't working, or else you wouldn't be interested in making such a radical change in your life.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of characteristics of successful entrepreneurs (Let me encourage you to read it dispassionately, without measuring yourself against each one right now):

* Self-motivating; able to take independent action

* A commitment to personal and business integrity

* A capacity for hard work with little to no feedback

* Problem-solving skills

* People skills - among them toleration, the ability to listen, encourage, and mediate

* Stubborn, persistent, able to tolerate frustration and failure

* Self-aware with the ability to modify your own behavior

* Reliability - a person who keeps commitments

* The ability to seize the moment and take risks

* Creativity - a "big-picture" thinker, innovative, visionary

* Strong capability to organize self, people, and resources

* Good self-esteem with positive self-talk

* Able to say "no" and set boundaries

* Adaptable

* Tolerance for ambivalence, uncertainty, and ambiguity

* A burning desire to achieve and succeed

* A wealthy, rather than middle-class, understanding of money

* An openness to ideas and inspiration from unfamiliar sources

* The ability to delegate and to ask for help

* Proficiency in communicating and getting your ideas across

* Able to learn from mistakes, criticism, and feedback

Here is an exercise that is very important in assessing your strengths and where you are right now. Take a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and label the right column "strengths." Label the left column "liabilities" as opposed to "weaknesses." Words are important! Now give yourself a block of quiet time without interruptions or distracting stimuli to take an inventory of your strengths and liabilities. Since we humans often have large blind spots about ourselves, it would be valuable to seek information from someone who knows you well and who will be supportive. Please note, that person being supportive is crucial! Don't ask critical, unsupportive people for feedback about your strengths and liabilities. This is akin to throwing your pearls before swine.

Don't look at the liabilities column right now. Also, don't be discouraged if the liabilities column is longer than the strengths column. You should have at least seven to ten strengths listed. If not, keep asking supportive people (or yourself) until you can come up with them. Once you have them, that is the time to look at the list above and see where your strengths dovetail with the entrepreneurial qualities listed.

I would lay a wager that if you took the necessary time, and were able to ask for help, you were amazed at the list of strengths you finally came up with. You were also astonished at how many of the qualities on the list you actually had. Here's where the fun part comes in. Take each of your strengths, and envision yourself in a business-related scenario using that strength successfully. Here are a couple of examples.

If you are a creative visionary, imagine yourself seeing the future of your business, and successfully planning to get it there. Don't be brief with this vision, but play it out. What obstacles do you see that others are oblivious to? What trends in the marketplace do you see that would provide a niche for your business, and how to you set yourself up to capitalize on this information? How do you capture your visions? Do you write them down? Dictate them? Draw them? Where are you when you do so?

If you are skilled at communicating and getting your ideas across, picture yourself communicating to a group of people your understanding of the benefits of your product or service. Do you write them down? Or do you make a PowerPoint and show it to them? You don't have to be physically present with them to communicate. How would you do so, if that were the case? Make sure you picture your success in the endeavor. If thoughts of failure or humiliation cross your mind, capture them quickly and get rid of them.

What about that list of liabilities? Glance through it briefly, then put it aside for the future. When you start focusing on and utilizing your strengths, you will gain self-confidence. As that confidence grows, and you start seeing success in your business, you can pull that list out to start working on one or two liabilities at a time.

The secret? Always operate from your strengths. As you learn, grow, prosper, succeed, and overcome challenges, you will see that list of liabilities grow smaller and smaller.

copyright 2008 Suzanne Thomas
About the Author
Suzanne Thomas is a psychiatric RN with 28 years of experience. During her nursing career, she acquired many skills that easily transferred to entrepreneurship, she was delighted to discover. She is now building an online business using the strategies listed here.
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