There are too many of my peers who are studying entrepreneurship in school while at the same time beginning to job search. Isn’t that, wrong? Not necessarily that they are job searching, but that they are studying entrepreneurship. The fact that they let themselves believe that they could deem themselves the sexy title of “Entrepreneur” by getting an undergraduate degree named after it is borderline comical. It has always amazed me that schools also feel comfortable offering entrepreneurial majors – that they believe their academic approach to opportunistic business and risk management is worth a students four years at school.
Personally, I rather study botany than entrepreneurship because at least then I would have a degree that is at least a bit tangible. My idea of an entrepreneur is a person who takes a creative approach to business and risk management, structuring unique deals through all means and resources available. Sadly, most of the entrepreneurship majors I’ve met haven’t had a creative thought in their lives and think of the lottery as an “investment”. Meanwhile, they are wasting away their years at school with the belief that their books and professors are molding them into cold blooded and gun-slinging entrepreneurs.
Disclaimer: I’ve never started my own (legitimate) company, or structured a creative deal for profit, so I do not have an opinion that is based off experience on this topic. However, all my life I’ve been surrounded by entrepreneurs, and have noticed some common traits amongst them.
The number one characteristic is that they have balls, big ones. As students, most of us have little to no wealth in our name. Thus, it is easy to image ourselves being big dogs when it comes to taking a risk because it is easy to be bold with things we don’t have. How do you think you’d like having little to no security/guarantee on a deal you put together yourself where half your net worth is on the line, though? Hell, are you even willing to trust your own judgements and then own up to them when you are wrong? Entrepreneurs have no job security, source their own deals, are personally liable for all their mistakes, and have to trust and act upon their own judgement – the hardest part of all. To me, that takes balls. If you think that school will help you grow a pair, it’s probably best that you look into another major.
The second is that they know how to take losses. Conceptually we all accept the fact that “you win some, you lose some”. But how did you act the last time you lost one? Did you seek out people for whom you believed were responsible for your misfortune? Did you decide you’ll never do that again? Most importantly, are you still bitter about it today? Entrepreneurs don’t have time to fret loses, since they take them too often. They understand that losing is a part of the game and they keep pursuing opportunities regardless. When it comes down to it, I believe this to be strength of character. For it takes a strong person to simply shrug off their misfortunes and keep pushing forward – don’t expect to develop strength of character in school either.
The third one is that they are creative as hell. Not in the sense that they are struggling painters and musicians in their spare time (though some of them are), but in the sense that there is no “how-to” manual they follow for their deals. They are masters of organization and creation, bringing together all of their different skills and sometimes others to make a deal work. Even though schools love to say that they “foster creativity in their students”, be honest. Some people have it, some people don’t, and to be an entrepreneur you need to be able to draw both in and out of the lines.
In summary, the types of people I’ve met who’ve been most successful as entrepreneurs are those who are able to recognize a deal, structure it, put their own skin in the game by taking a risk, and not look back or lament when it blows up in their faces. If you don’t have that attitude and skill set already, you’ll never learn it in school.