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The Mindset Of An Entrepreneur

By Irene Ng, Partner, Chooi Law LLP

What is the mindset of an entrepreneur?  The Financial Times lexicon defines an entrepreneurial mindset as ‘a specific state of mind which orientates human conduct towards entrepreneurial activities and outcomes. Individuals with entrepreneurial mindsets are often drawn to opportunities, innovation and new value creation’. Bearing in mind this definition, many of us have come across successful entrepreneurs in the course of our day-to-day lives. This includes the new cafe near your office which is always packed during lunch time to that website on Shopify which sells bespoke products and has a huge group of followers. So, what is it that all these people behind the various successful businesses have in common? Does one need to have a particular mindset in order to succeed as an entrepreneur?

Like many of you, I’ve met and worked with a number of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders. In my interactions with them, I have noticed a few key traits that many of them do have. These traits have given me insights into the mindset of an entrepreneur.  Here are my observations.


#1: Passionate about an idea and a vision

It all starts with an idea. With the iPhone in 2007, Steve Jobs wanted to revolutionize the way mobile phones are used – creating a user friendly phone with touch controls that could be used to make voice calls, access the internet and listen to music. Travis Kalanick, co-founder of Uber, had the idea of making it easier for people to hail cabs through ‘one tap of a button’ on their mobile phones. That one simple idea led to a bigger vision that would change the way consumers viewed their transportation needs and created a new business model altogether – one that allows Uber drivers to earn income whilst driving their cars.

Here in Toronto, Idas Levato, founder of Gugoiza, had the idea of helping communities, start-ups and independent businesses create their own marketplace where resources could be pooled together and those seeking jobs, services or office space can easily find them. Her vision is a bold one – to mobilize local communities to become efficient marketplaces in order to better meet supply and demand needs.

In the above examples, it’s not just the clarity of the idea and vision that stands out; there is also the underlying passion that these entrepreneurs have for their idea and vision. It comes out when you hear them speak about the subject or when you see the tremendous energy that they put into implementing those ideas.

#2: Don’t just talk, take action

Whilst it’s great to have ideas, the mindset of an entrepreneur and entrepreneurship is all about making those ideas work. Thus, you need to plan and find ways to bring your idea to fruition. This involves identifying the resources that you would need, thinking about how to finance the project and finding others who can help you or provide advice on next steps. After all, the iPhone would not have happened without the team of creators and engineers in Apple working on the idea, refining the prototype and developing it into the final product that we see today. Likewise, Gugoiza would not have happened if Idas Levato and her team of creators did not develop the platform and the business model to support the free marketplace that they have established.

#3: Be a risk-taker

For every business that succeeds, there would be many more that would have failed. In that sense, an entrepreneur needs to be a risk-taker and to be aware that business failure is certainly a possibility. This is at the core of the mindset of an entrepreneur. After all, many successful entrepreneurs have had their share of failures and set-backs before achieving any real success. Notwithstanding this, a potential entrepreneur can always take appropriate steps to mitigate against such risks. For example, this can be achieved through careful planning, seeking out professional advice, being practical about how much financial exposure one is able to absorb and finding partners to help finance and manage the business. There are lots more resources available these days to guide new entrepreneurs on how to mitigate potential pitfalls when starting a business as well as mentors that one can speak to and learn from. Thus, make good use of these resources and be as prepared as possible before taking the plunge. As the saying goes, ‘being prepared is half the battle’.

#4: Power of perseverance

My final observation on the mindset of an entrepreneur is that entrepreneurship is a journey – you have to keep at it even when the going is tough. I was at a conference in Toronto this year and had the pleasure of hearing Michele Romanow and Rajen Ruparell – both successful entrepreneurs and both having co-founded companies that were eventually bought over by Groupon – share their experience as entrepreneurs. They spoke about their early ventures whilst still in University and the need to persevere in the face of adversity and set-backs. The key lesson from their presentation was that each obstacle presents a learning opportunity and in order to succeed, you need to keep your focus and to work hard at being better than your competitors. And eventually, you will reach your desired goal.

Irene Ng, Partner, Chooi Law LLP

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