We’ve all heard the old joke, “in a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.”
This quote epitomizes the true essence of commitment, and gives a preview of the following advice for entrepreneurs. We all know at least one small business owner who claims to be committed but seems to treat the business like a part-time hobby. They don’t put personal skin in the game and are quick to give up when things are tough.
There are no middle roads to real commitment, and if you are not ready to fully commit to all the rigors of owning a business, you are better off sticking with some lesser role taking orders from someone else. For your calibration, here are some characteristics that you and others need to recognize in yourself as signs you’re a truly committed entrepreneur:
1. Actively seek leadership and responsibility.
Many people need the comfort of following, rather than leading. When things go wrong, it’s easier to point to someone else as the scapegoat. As an entrepreneur, the promises anyone makes on your behalf are yours. You need to be ready to accept “the buck stops here” and make it work.
2. Exhibit surging raw ambition.
Successful entrepreneurs are generally ambitious and confident in their abilities. They may have many ideas, but some of them are more workable than others. Failure is viewed as a learning opportunity, so it’s no disaster that some ideas don’t actually get done the first time.
3. Minimum positive feedback required.
As I’ve said previously, it’s lonely at the top. If your psyche is one that needs regular positive feedback — and a commensurate paycheck — to stay motivated, you need to find a real job rather than an entrepreneurial one.
4. Social life is not the highest priority.
If you find yourself unable to clear your head of work-related thoughts at the end of the day, that’s committed. Social relationships are important, and you do need to blank out work from time to time, but if social priorities are at the top of your list, you probably won’t enjoy the role of entrepreneur.
5. Comfortable with unpredictable working hours.
Some people need a predictable schedule, for family reasons or just peace of mind. Entrepreneurs need to be flexible and assume there will be long working hours. If you are annoyed rather than exhilarated at the long or unpredictable schedule at your start-up, you are involved but not committed.
6. See vacation as an interruption.
Most entrepreneurs I know can’t remember the last time they had a real vacation (without bringing their work along). This may not be healthy, but it illustrates the level of commitment that you are competing with in the marketplace. If you insist on vacations “without checking in,” go and work for a big company that gives you a holiday allowance.
7. Haven’t even thought about retirement.
Many people involved with start-ups are working hard, but are looking forward to retirement. Committed entrepreneurs wouldn’t think of retiring, even if they made millions from the current project. They enjoy work too much to stop, and can’t wait to start their next venture.
Making a commitment is a serious matter and one that should not be taken lightly, especially in a startup venture where the team needs to pull its weight together to achieve goals. Individuals who need structure and workload predictability won’t be able to maintain the high levels of enthusiasm and motivation of a startup team.
This isn’t a statement of right or wrong, just different strokes for different folks. The next time you have the urge to chuck your day job and live the dream of being your own boss, remember to test for yourself how committed you really are before you jump off the cliff!
Martin Zwilling is the founder and chief executive officer of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to start-up founders and small business owners. Check out his daily blog or email him.
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