Being an entrepreneur is not an easy task – and statistics prove it. According to the latest reports from the Office of National Statistics, the number of businesses in the UK that went under increased from 246,000 to 252,000 between 2014 and 2015!
When you consider the financial and emotional impact of business failure, one would assume that people would be wary of starting their own business. On the contrary, it seems even more individuals have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Data from the ONS shows that there was an increase of almost 36,000 business births in the same time period. Despite the seeming inevitability of failure, more people are launching their own businesses.
But what really causes businesses to fail?
Entrepreneurs can run out of funding, markets can change suddenly, regulatory bodies can make it too hard to turn a profit; these are all valid reasons for a business to fail. But what about the person at the helm of the business? According to an extensive Gallup study, the success of a new business has a lot to do with the person starting the company.
We're quick to blame the economy, but we rarely stop and ask, “Did that person have the right talent or personality for the role?”
Entrepreneurs find they have to wear many hats and perform different roles, sometimes even simultaneously. To do this successfully, they must possess certain personality traits. Some of these traits are considered must-haves for anyone going into business for themselves. But what are they?
For one, you should be willing to take huge risks, be assertive, show empathy, and have excellent communication skills. And although these traits come naturally to some people, others have to develop them using different personal development activities. For example, as a first step, taking personal development tests in order to identify exactly where improvement is needed.
But there are many entrepreneurs who feel investing in personal development is a waste of time. In their opinion, there simply isn't enough time to devote to personal development – which shouldn’t be the case.
In this article, I’m going to highlight 6 reasons why these entrepreneurs, who ignore personal development, tend to fail.
1. They can’t focus.
Starting and running a successful business will require 100% of your attention. If you try to work on multiple projects, you'll only spend less time on the tasks that really matter. Sooner or later, any initial business growth will stall.
Successful entrepreneurs are able to focus on being productive, not just being busy. They know it's more important to get the right things done rather than simply getting things done. They also know that having a business focus prevents them from spreading themselves (and their resources) too thin.
Before you kick off any additional projects, stop and ask yourself if what you’re about to start is bringing you in the same direction as your overarching goals. And if you find yourself spending time on non-revenue-generating tasks that are outside your skill set, it's time to delegate and outsource those tasks.
2. They insist on doing it all alone.
How often do you find yourself saying “nobody can do it as well as I can?”
It's one thing for entrepreneurs to believe in themselves and in their ideas. But believing that they can carry out every single task on their own is foolhardy.
Successful entrepreneurs know the value of working with others. They know there is a limit to what an individual can achieve alone, so they look for help, whether it's by working with a mentor or growing a team.
People who try to do everything on their own will soon find that great things are never achieved alone. Working with a team increases the likelihood of success as skill-sets are exponentially increased.
My advice for you: don’t be afraid to ask questions about improving your business. As you ask questions and connect with people in your industry, you'll also build mutually beneficial networks that you can tap into over and over again.
3. They're afraid of criticism.
Would you rather be right or rich?
The idea of the maverick entrepreneur who gets it right all the time, is a pipe dream that new business owners need to wake up from. How do you expect to be successful without receiving (and learning) from any feedback?
Successful entrepreneurs listen to feedback or, you could even say they thrive on criticism. Even if it stings, they know the feedback will help them avoid repeating those mistakes. People who constantly argue against advice tend to be perfectionists. But in the real world, perfectionism doesn't exist. Too often, it's just an excuse not to get started.
So instead of being afraid of criticism, listen and discern the kind of criticism you should accept and the kind that you should discard.
4. They lack grit.
Do you consider yourself a serial entrepreneur? Do you spend your time flitting from opportunity to opportunity simply because the last one didn't pan out exactly as you planned?
Call them resilient, resourceful or enterprising, but successful entrepreneurs do not give up. They know that entrepreneurship comes with no guarantees unless you count setbacks, temporary failures, and uncertainty.
So they come up with novel ways to solve any problems they encounter. Just look at James Dyson who spent 15 years (and went through 3,727 prototypes) before taking his first product to market in 1993.
My advice for you is to stop giving up so early! See failures as learning experiences and stepping stones. Be like James.
5. They are unwilling to adapt.
In business, 90% of the time, your final product will be different from your original idea. Unsuccessful entrepreneurs are not comfortable with change and refuse to pivot. Instead, they stay their course – even when new legislation, industry rules, or market conditions will negatively affect their current business model.
Successful people, on the other hand, always keep a finger on the pulse of their industry and are willing to listen, learn, and change based on conversations and new data. The world (and every industry) is in a state of constant flux, and the sooner you accept and prepare your business for this, the better your chances are of thriving.
6. They stop learning.
Successful business owners know the importance of maintaining a competitive edge. So without losing sight of their primary mission, they're constantly asking themselves questions like “how can we improve?”, or “what are not doing?”
Take Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, for example. Before he started the SpaceX program, he read as many books as possible on rocketry and propulsion. Was he going to build the rockets himself?
No, but being able to understand the basic concept of his business was key to successfully directing its growth.
Successful people understand that they need to constantly sharpen their skills. Whether it's by reading or attending seminars, they ensure they are kept up to date with the latest trends in their industry. If you want to do the same, try and set yourself a goal to read for at least 30 minutes a day. You'll be surprised how many books you will have gone through 30 days from now.
7. They lack emotional intelligence.
Do you interrupt or talk over people during conversations? Can you read others and pick up on what's implied and not just what's said? Do your customers and employees find it easy to talk to you?
Good communication skills are critical to survive and thrive in business. But it's more than just speaking – you must be able to understand human nature and connect with people on an emotional level.
Successful entrepreneurs have high levels of emotional intelligence, allowing them to influence, collaborate, and communicate effectively with others. Considered the cornerstone of Emotional Intelligence, empathy is the entrepreneur's secret weapon for keeping employees and clients happy. To develop empathy, listen more and talk less.
If you want to improve your skills, make it your goal, in every conversation, to really understand the other person's point of view. This includes asking thoughtful questions to clarify points, engaging in active listening, repeating back what you have heard to show that you understand, and paying attention to their body language.
Listening is a skill that takes a lot of patience and practice to perfect, but it can be a huge bonus in both your personal and professional life.
8. They can’t manage their time.
As an entrepreneur, 8-hour work days simply won't cut it, especially when you are first starting out. Plus, if your already insufficient hours are also being constantly interrupted, you'll be operating very inefficiently.
If you plan to be successful in business you must invest your most valuable personal asset – your time – wisely.
Remember that it's not just about working harder, it’s about working smarter too. We have a finite number of hours in the day. So to get more done, start to:
- Delegate more
- Accept that you cannot breeze through all the items on your to-do lists, so prioritize what actually goes on your to-do lists.
- Avoid the trap of multitasking – it simply doesn’t work.
Getting a grip on where you spend your time will help you become more productive and efficient, without elevated stress levels.
Like the late Jim Rohn said, personal development is an ongoing and life-long process. If done right, it can help everyone improve the quality of their life as it helps them discover themselves, develop their potential and increase the chances of achieving important goals.
Are you ready to become a happier, less stressed, and more productive entrepreneur?
What are your personal development goals for the next 30, 90, 365 days? Let me know in the comments below.
Ashley Andrews is an Inbound Marketing Strategist at Activia Training, a UK-based training provider specializing in improving delegates' workplace performance in business skills, management development, and IT applications. Ashley is passionate about self-improvement and time management, and regularly blogs about these – and many other topics – on the Activia blog.