The most important trait to have as an entrepreneur: do you know what it is?

By Rob GroenendaalBusiness Coach

“A few years ago, in the summer of 2018, we organised the IMPROVE programme for the first time. Not in the exact same way that we are currently running it, but we organized a summer school ‘’crash course’’ edition. This summer school was basically our first pilot and we learned a lot. In this article, I would like to tell you what happened during this pilot and how I discovered the most important trait to have as an entrepreneur.

The one word that defines your why
One of the topics we addressed at the start of the course (and still do) is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle, a.k.a. Find your Why. The Golden Circle is a great tool to find that one important word on which your whole startup is founded. As the why of startups is often very personal (you are the startup, the startup is you), it is also a great method to trigger people to open up about their true motivation behind the wish of becoming an entrepreneur. During that specific summer school edition, I had a chat with starting entrepreneurs about their why and one of the answers I received still triggers me to this day: “We want to make as much money as possible and become rich!”.

Can money be a motivator?

It was a very interesting response and not quite what I expected. But there is some truth in it: money does play a key role in our society and if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you will definitely need a business model in which revenue exceeds costs. For most of us, this is a desired result. But this person actually said that money was their why. Can money ever be your true why? The reason you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

My simple answer

No, I believe money can never be the why of an innovative startup. Because if earning a lot of money really was your true heart’s desire, you would not start your own company. There are easier ways to earn money than entrepreneurship. I know far more poor entrepreneurs than rich entrepreneurs, to be honest. But most starting entrepreneurs are only ‘poor’ when it comes to money, because they are very rich in another sense. That is because they have the single most important trait you can have as an entrepreneur: passion! They are not in it for the money, but they are starting their business out of passion. A key element for success! And when it comes to passion, the opposite is true: I know far more entrepreneurs rich in passion than poor in passion.  

The “truth” about passion

If you want to start an innovative company, you either want to create something that isn’t there yet or improve an existing product, service or process. Additionally, you probably want to make a difference and maybe even create societal impact with your startup. If this is the vision you have for your startup, then passion is a must! Without it, your entrepreneurial journey will be difficult and your chances of success are low. I will explain why:

Passion stimulates your intrinsic motivation. And let’s be honest, you will need a lot of that when you are setting up a business from scratch.

Passion will help you overcome your screw ups. Yes, you read that correctly, you will inevitably screw up. Not once, not twice, but many times. That is how you learn and improve. Screw ups are necessary, however that doesn’t mean you like them. Passion is needed to accept and overcome them. It helps you to acknowledge the positive side of failure and to use it to your advantage.

Passion will be that unique thing other people notice. Whether you are trying to convince a partner to cooperate, an investor to invest, or a Mercator Launch business coach to let you participate in an IMPROVE track J. Passion is part of the decision more often than you might think.

Passion will drive you to persevere, when it is time to persevere. Starting up is dealing with a lot of risks and assumptions. Everything is mostly unclear and pivots are just around the corner. However, sometimes you just need stick to what you believe, keep going and dig even further. Passion is needed the most in these situations.

Passion is the clickbait for customers. Let’s be honest, why do customers choose to do business with your startup? Because of your buggy prototype? Your basic knowledge of the problems your customer is facing every day? Your assumed Value Proposition? Of course, all of the above. You know what else?

The level of . . . . . . . of the entrepreneur.

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