I never planned to be an entrepreneur. When I graduated college in 1981 and moved to Chicago, my goal was to be the president of IBM. Ten years later, I ran into a boss there who held sales contests where first prize was lunch with him. (I wondered what second prize was—two lunches with him?)
I left soon after to start my own business after having been inspired by Paul Hawken’s Growing a Business. To evaluate my motivations at the time, I took all the entrepreneur tests I could find. They asked questions such as:
Do you want to make a lot of money? My answer: Yes, double yes. Next question.
Do you want to be your own boss? My Answer: Yes, after my last IBM boss, of course.
Do you have great ideas you want to see succeed? My Answer: Yes, I have a million ideas that pop into my head every day.
These tests “confirmed” that I was ready to start my own business. In fact, Harvard has an entrepreneurship test, too. Professor Daniel Isenberg published his own version of an Entrepreneur’s Test in the Harvard Business Review. While Isenberg is probably an excellent professor, his test, in my opinion, is not that relevant to the skills needed to be an entrepreneur. How would any person, entrepreneur or not, disagree with any of these statements included in his test?
I don’t like being told what to do by people who are less capable than I am. My answer: Who does?
I like challenging myself. My answer: How can any self-respecting person say they don't?
I like to win. My answer: What, there are some people that like to lose?
I like to question conventional wisdom. My answer: Who doesn’t?
I can’t sit still. My answer: In this multi-tasking culture, who can?
Instead, take my entrepreneurship test to see if you are prepared to venture out on your own.
1. Are you resilient? This is the key skill all entrepreneurs need to be successful. Can you ride the rollercoaster of good and bad results on a daily basis?
2. Can you ask for help? Surprise, you don’t know everything. Can you listen and evaluate the advice of the people around you?
3. Can you get people to follow you? Entrepreneurship is not a solo sport. n order to build a profitable business, you need to build a team and delegate tasks.
4. Do you like to network and stay connected to people? Business is ultimately about people and growing long- term trustful relationships with them.
5. Do you like to sell? Ultimately, you will be the chief sales officer in some capacity.
6. Do you do well in chaos? The “charm” of having you own business is that everyday is different. Get used to it.
7. Can you live on a variable monthly compensation? You don’t collect a paycheck every two weeks like at a job. You pay your employees and vendors first. Some months, there may not be anything left to pay you.
8. Do you have a good personal support structure? When you have a bad day, you will need someone to pick you up. When you have a good day, you will want to celebrate with the people you love.
9. Can you forgive yourself when you fail? Failure is part of the business cycle. Can you learn what you can, let go and take another action toward success instead of just mourning your failure? ou will need to set patient interim goals and adjust your target as you succeed and fail.
10. Can you hold a real job and work for someone else? If you can, do it. Having a job is probably an easier career move than starting a business—especially in the short term.
Entrepreneurship is a tough test to score. If you answered "Yes" to eight of 10, then you are ready. There is no bigger reward in business than being an entrepreneur. If you scored below that, you are not quite ready to quit your day job. If you no longer have a day job, consider joining a small business to get the experience you will need to venture out on your own.
How did you score? What questions would you add to the test?