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Are You An Entrepreneur? — E-Week Workshop Focuses on You

By Stephanie Soderborg and Kathleen Chaykowski | 28 Feb 2012

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John Gillespie-Brown, author of "So You Want to Be an Entrepreneur," spoke about entrepreneurship myths and the 10 qualities it takes to be an entrepreneur in an interactive workshop Monday night. (Photo: Kathleen Chaykowski/ Peninsula Press)

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”

“There’s the life you live…and the life you WANT to live.”

“Maybe there’s a bigger plan for me than I had for myself. – This journey is not over.”

Entrepreneurial quotations on red posters lined the walls of the Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford Medical School, which hosted the first session of the two-part E-Week workshop series “Are you an Entrepreneur?” last night at 6 p.m. AIMS, a Stanford postdoctoral entrepreneurship group, hosted the event.

The quotations were hand-picked favorites of one of the event’s two speakers, Mary Etta Eaton, a Silicon Valley leadership communications consultant, coach, and public speaking instructor.

AIMS member, Hyejun Ra (co-president), introduced the event and the two speakers, Jon Gillespie-Brown and Mary Etta Eaton. Eaton introduced the event and its second speaker John Gillespie-Brown, a CEO Founder of several companies, angel investor and a mentor at Stanford Engineering and Business Schools, who discussed qualities that make entrepreneurs successful and debunked common myths about entrepreneurs.

“This is a two-part workshop, and tonight our main objective was to lay the foundation. What is entrepreneurship?” Eaton said in an interview after the event. “What are some of the common success traits of entrepreneurship, and what are some of the personalities that have been successful in entrepreneurship?”

The workshop series is intended to help attendees determine whether or not they are entrepreneurs and if they are, how they capitalize on their skills and the resources available to them, Gillespie-Brown said.

Gillespie-Brown opened his talk by discussing why it is critical that entrepreneurs consistently engage in philanthropy and giving.

“Contribution is critical to thinking about the start of a business,” he said, adding that leaders in a company must be supportive of their co-workers, team focused, and conscious of the needs of their customers as well as the community at large.

He also emphasized that while some people are born entrepreneurs, others work at developing the necessary skills. The most important thing for success is to dream big and have a solid understanding of yourself and what you bring to the table in order to create a strong team with complimentary talents.

Further highlighting what makes a successful entrepreneur, Gillespie-Brown offered 10 essential characteristics.

“If you don’t feel like you are persistent,” he began, “then please, please do not become an entrepreneur.” If you are not persistent, he continued, then being an entrepreneur will be miserable. You have to continue with your dream, even if roadblocks get in your way.

Along with persistence, successful entrepreneurs have to have confidence. Gillespie-Brown, however, appeased the fears of those who tend to be introverts, explaining that he, too, is not the most confident person. Rather, he learned confidence, and it is a trait that, with persistence, can be developed. At its heart, the confidence of an entrepreneur stems from passion.

Vision, too, is critical. Even with the best idea in the world, an entrepreneur that cannot envision end goals and the long-term future of a company is doomed. Vision does not entail an exact road map for implementing a dream, but rather “an idea of future goals” that help guide the business’ direction.

But don’t just have a vision, Gillespie-Brown said, do something about it. Action, even in the smallest form, shows that an entrepreneur wants to see something done. Nothing else matters if an entrepreneur is not prepared to follow through with an idea.

Dedication, like persistence, is at the very core of a successful entrepreneur. “The dedication it takes to be an entrepreneur,” Gillespie-Brown explained, “is way beyond anything you can imagine. Some people might even say nuts.” If you are not 100 percent dedicated to your idea, then it will be nearly impossible to get others on board, he continued.

“The ones that don’t really love it quit, because they are sane,” said Steve Jobs in a video Gillespie-Brown used to further emphasize this point. “If you don’t love it, you are going to fail.”

Even with all the determination in the world, every entrepreneur will come to a point where he needs to take a leap of faith, Gillespie-Brown said. “You might be thinking, ‘I am about to run out of money, all my staff have left me, the ship is sinking,’” he said. “You have to have deep-rooted faith to take your business one more day. Something inside you says I have got to give this another shot.”

Entrepreneurs also have to have integrity and adaptability. While it is essential to have a set of business principles, and stick to them, a successful company adapts its products and services to the actual needs of the customers. Never refuse to listen to customer feedback because you are so dedicated to your original idea that you refuse to change it. Being able to pivot, when necessary, is essential.

Startup founders, especially, need a big dose of courage to succeed. “Everyone will be relying on you,” Gillespie-Brown said. “Their dreams and finances are all in your hands.”

Finally, you cannot get funded if you cannot effectively communicate your dream to funders, Gillespie-Brown said.

Even with these qualities, Gillespie-Brown explains that an entrepreneur might fail. But when an individual demonstrates passion and puts in 150 percent to making something work, then the likelihood that they will get funded again greatly increases.

If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, Gillespie-Brown said, “You have got to be able to be knocked down and get back up again.”

Understanding of oneself is critical to being able to do this. The workshop aims to guide participants to this understanding.

“At the end of the four hours, you should have a good sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you will do to develop yourself,” Eaton said after the event.

“And when you hold your tin cup to angel investors or the VCs you will be much more successful because you know what the odds are,” she said. “You’re not going to take no for an answer if you’re clear about what’s important to you, and that’s our job.”

Stanford Entrepreneurship Week 2012 takes place February 27 through March 7. This collection of over 30 events is hosted by the Stanford Entrepreneurship Network (SEN), a federation of programs, student groups and organizations supporting entrepreneurship in the Stanford community. For a complete listing of events check: https://sen.stanford.edu/e-week/calendardu/e-week/calendar

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