Should You Be An Entrepreneur? Take This Test

Should You Be An Entrepreneur? Take This Test

Some of your friends are doing it. People who do it are in the front pages and web almost every day. Even President Obama is talking about it. So should you do it? Should you join the millions of people every year who take the plunge and start their first ventures? I’ve learned in my own years as an entrepreneur — and now an entrepreneurship professor — that there is a gut level “fit” for people who are potential entrepreneurs. There are strong internal drivers that compel people to create their own business. I’ve developed a 2-minute Isenberg Entrepreneur Test, below, to help you find out. Just answer yes or no. Be honest with yourself — remember from my last post: the worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

If you answered “yes” on 17 or more of these questions, look at your paycheck (if you are lucky enough to still get one). If the company that issued the check isn’t owned by you, it is time for some soul searching: Do you have debts to pay? Kids in college? Alimony? Want to take it easy? Maybe better to wait. Do you have a little extra cash in the bank and several credit cards? Do you have a spouse, partner, friends, or kids who will cheer you on? If so, start thinking about what kind of business you want to set up. It doesn’t matter what age you are: research by the Kauffman Foundation shows that more and more over-50s are setting up their own businesses. Talk to people who have made the plunge, learn how to plan and deliver a product or service, think about that small business you might buy, talk to people with whom you would like to work, and talk to customers.

“I like to take risks” is not on the list. People don’t choose to be entrepreneurs by opting for a riskier lifestyle. What they do, instead, is reframe the salary vs. entrepreneur choice as between two different sets of risk: the things they don’t like about having a steady job — such as the risk of boredom, working for a bad boss, lack of autonomy, lack of control over your fate, and getting laid off — and the things they fear about being an entrepreneur — possible failure, financial uncertainty, shame or embarrassment, and lost investment. In the end, people who are meant to be entrepreneurs believe that their own abilities (e.g. leadership, resourcefulness, pluck, hard work) or assets (e.g. money, intellectual property, information, access to customers) significantly mitigate the risks of entrepreneurship. Risk is ultimately a personal assessment: what is risky for me is not risky for you.

“I want to get rich” is not on the list either. All else being equal (and all else is rarely equal in the real world), on the average, people who set up their own businesses don’t make more money, although a few do succeed in grabbing the brass ring. But the “psychic benefits” — the challenge, autonomy, recognition, excitement, and creativity — make it all worthwhile.

Daniel Isenberg is a Professor of Management Practice, Babson College

Daniel Isenberg is president of Entrepreneurship Policy Advisors and adjunct professor at Columbia Business School and Babson. He is also the author of the book, Worthless, Impossible, and Stupid: How Contrarian Entrepreneurs Create and Capture Extraordinary Value (July 2013).

Should You Be An Entrepreneur? Take This Test

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