What it takes to be an entrepreneur: Part 1

Last fall I had the opportunity to hear authors Clifton Taulbert and Gary Schoeniger deliver a keynote address at the annual conference of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, which is one of my clients. They talked about their new book, Who Owns the Ice House? Eight Life Lessons from an Unlikely Entrepreneur.

The book tells the story of Clifton’s Uncle Cleve, a black man who owned the only ice house in a town in the Mississippi Delta in the late 1950s. As you can imagine, Uncle Clive had some challenges trying to build a business that served both blacks and whites during the Jim Crow era. But fortunately, he had the elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, and so he succeeded in this tough environment.

I bought the book after the session and read it a few weeks later. I have been meaning ever since to write about the eight elements of the entrepreneurial mindset the authors say helped Uncle Clive succeed because I think it’s really inspiring stuff! But other ideas for posts kept coming up so I am just now getting to it. This post contains the first four mindset elements; in Part II next Tuesday, I’ll get to the other four. I am going to quote liberally from the book because Taulbert and Schoeniger, both very successful entrepreneurs themselves, say it better than I can.

Lesson 1: Choice – “The ability to choose the way we respond to our individual circumstances is perhaps the single most powerful ability we have as human beings. It is also a fundamental concept that lies at the core of an entrepreneurial mindset. Rather than reacting to our circumstances, we all have the ability to choose the way we respond. It is a subtle yet powerful distinction, yet it is one that many overlook.”

Lesson 2: Opportunity – “Problems are simply opportunities in disguise. This elementary yet powerful concept holds the secret to an entrepreneurial mindset. It holds the keys to creating success, regardless of your circumstances…This shift in perspective can expose a world of opportunities as well as our own untapped potential. It is a concept that anyone can apply. It does not require unique abilities or special talent, nor power or privilege.”

Lesson 3: Action – “Entrepreneurs are action oriented…they are internally driven, and they clearly understand the power of effort applied to knowledge and new ideas. They view their time as currency–and they spend it well. They do not waste time and energy on things over which they have no control. And they won’t complain about a problem without also considering a solution.”

Lesson 4: Knowledge – “Curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge are critical aspects to an entrepreneurial mindset. And, like the other mindset lessons, they are skills we can all learn to develop, ones we can all learn to apply. Knowledge–combined with effort–is the engine that drives entrepreneurs…We often make important choices based on incomplete knowledge and limited expectations. We make choices based on unchallenged assumptions, things we may have been told or assume to be true, yet have never really tested for ourselves. When we do so, we may overlook new opportunities that untap our potential.”

These lessons are things we may already know but sometimes forget in the daily press of business. It’s important to be reminded now and again of their importance. Come back on Tuesday for the last four lessons. And needless to say, I recommend you consider buying this book; it’s a quick but meaningful read that will help keep you inspired on your entrepreneurial journey to small business success.

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