Jim Duffy - What does an entrepreneur look like?

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Jim Duffy

Since starting Entrepreneurial Spark in 2011 I’ve worked with over 700 entrepreneurs across all sectors.

It’s a funny word ‘entrepreneur’, and something which has a vastly different meaning depending who you talk to. Some people see entrepreneurs as being the wacky guys and girls who spent their school years doodling ideas on their notebooks, while others see them as brainboxes looking to make millions and change the business world.

Oxford Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”. Me? I define an entrepreneur by their passion, their mindset and their ultimate drive and determination to see their business idea through and make it a reality.

Too many people focus on the business idea when thinking about what an entrepreneur is, but what they really need to focus on is the person. The individual behind the idea. Because if you don’t have the right attitude and hunger to grow your business? You might have the most incredible idea in the world but you’ll never make it.

So let’s take a step back – what do Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and I have in common? We’re entrepreneurs. We saw a gap in the market, came up with and tested our business idea, and made it our life goal to turn it into a reality. If you were to line us up in a row it might seem like we have nothing in common, we don’t look the same, talk the same or act the same, but we all share the same entrepreneurial mindset and behaviours.

As I travel around our Entrepreneurial Spark Hatcheries I meet entrepreneurs of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and demographics. From the guy who started out with us while on benefits and looking to pave his own path, to the girl rocking up in her Audi and designer shoes, and the husband and wife team who’ve put their life savings into starting their business.

Walking about the Hatchery what strikes me is the attitude of these entrepreneurs. Still hard at work at 7pm they are well aware that the fate of their business rests on their shoulders. No-one is going to walk up to them and hand over thousands of pounds in cash to help them get to the next stage of their business, or hand them success on a plate, they had to face the obstacles on the start-up journey and overcome them. And with 88% of the companies we’ve worked with still trading today, it just goes to show that this dedication pays off.

Good entrepreneurs are those who go the extra mile. They know they have five million things going on in their head, deadlines to meet and a bunch of other ‘stuff’ they need to do, but they’re all in.

And that’s incredibly important.

I’ve seen a huge number of fantastic ideas land flat because the ‘entrepreneurs’ behind them weren’t fully invested in the idea and didn’t have the right attitude. These are the people who pooh-pooh hard work and want to cruise along in life without getting their hands dirty.

While you’re reading this article there are hundreds of entrepreneurs out there who are working on their business or coming up with new ideas – so what’s stopping you? Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone, but I can honestly say it can be the most rewarding career out there. You don’t have to look a certain way, talk a certain way or even think a certain way. If you want to become your own boss, are prepared to work hard, and have the right #GoDo attitude, then why not? Who knows, maybe you could be the next Steve Jobs?

Jim Duffy is the founder and Head of #GoDo of Entrepreneurial Spark, the world’s leading free business accelerator for start-up and scaleup businesses. He is also Visiting Professor – Entrepreneurship at Edinburgh Napier University.

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