Building a business is not a sprint, but a marathon, with hills, headwinds, heat and dust. Those entrepreneurs who succeed are not necessarily the fastest or the strongest, but those who are able to endure the ups and downs.
Having seen hundreds of entrepreneurs set out on their own business marathon over the years, I have identified eight characteristics that make an entrepreneur resilient enough to go the distance in their business venture:
1. Possession of a strong internal sense of control
Building a business is not a sprint, but a marathon, with hills, headwinds, heat and dust.
Resilient entrepreneurs are disciplined individuals whose working hours, pace, workload and output are not controlled by something imposed upon them from the outside, such as an employment contract, peer pressure, a boss or the clock on the wall. Entrepreneurs set their own standards and targets – and set them high. Their ‘boss’ is their own psyche, which, more often than not, can be very demanding.
2. Ability to diversify and expand
Single-outlet, single-product and single-client businesses are very vulnerable to setbacks, as the loss of an important contract, the opening up of a competitor across the road, or the sudden market influx of a cheaper competing product can be fatal to a business. The more entrepreneurial type of business owner will constantly look for new markets, product lines and clients so that they have more than one income stream to fall back on.
3. Development of strong social connections
Resilient entrepreneurs constantly cultivate their networks of clients, suppliers, peers, friends and family, not only to promote their business and to support them emotionally, but also to learn, source new opportunities and keep updated with changes in the market,.
4. Attitude of a survivor, not a victim
Setbacks are a certainty for any business, and when they do strike, a resilient entrepreneur will get up, dust himself off and move forward. They have little time for self-pity, and while they may be quick to apportion blame, the focus is on the action needed to get going again.
5. Skill to learn from setbacks
All entrepreneurs do their best to avoid setbacks, however when they do happen, resilient entrepreneurs have the ability to not only focus on what went wrong, but also on how to improve themselves or their business in order to avoid a repeat of the same setback. The new set of circumstances following a setback is also viewed entrepreneurially as the entrepreneur seeks to explore what new business opportunities the setback presented, and if there is a chance to change direction or seek new markets and income streams.
6. Frugal and cash-flow conscious habits
Flashy high-flyers don’t tend to last long in the world of owner-managed businesses. Resilient entrepreneurs tend to adopt low-key lifestyles. The frugality of resilient entrepreneurs is linked to their tendency to keep the cash flow through their business top of mind. They save and cut costs where they can, but they do so sensibly without choking the growth of their business. They are also constantly aware of who owes the business money, when they can expect income, how much money the business owes and to what extent the business is meeting its sales targets.
7. Ability to look at the bigger picture
It is easy for anyone running a business to get lost and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information, systems, tasks and crises that shout for the attention of a business owner. A resilient entrepreneur however has the ability to see the bigger picture amid all the chaos of running a business. They have a clear picture of where the business will be in a year's time, or even three, five or ten years' time. This outlook thinking enables them to prioritise business objectives and remain emotionally resilient against temporary setbacks.
8. Attention to detail
Paradoxically, entrepreneurs who survive also have the ability to focus on the minutiae of the day-to-day running of the business, even as they keep a constant eye on their long-term goal. They check and recheck prices, costing, supplier arrangements, contracts, insurance premiums, staff performance, production systems and all of the innumerable things that could stand in the way of reaching the finish line.
All entrepreneurs have the ability to be resilient – it simply takes perseverance and dedication.
Gerrie van Biljon, executive director of Business Partners Limited