Notables and entrepreneurs
One thing that is common to both notable professions (professions related to law, medicine, politics or higher education) and entrepreneurship is the length of time it takes to acquire the skills. However, there is a big difference between the professions of notables and entrepreneurship, and that is the formality of the studies. There are no – or very few – schools for entrepreneurship. There are business schools, you will say, but most of them have kept the spirit that was theirs at their creation, that is to say, to train executives destined to occupy functions as company directors. Of course, there are more and more entrepreneurial courses in these business schools, but they remain marginal within the curriculum, with rare exceptions.
Moreover, the true profession of entrepreneur is learned through contact with reality, in the same way that a surgeon learns in an operating room much more than in a lecture hall. Often, society’s view of aspiring notables is quite positive: students embark on an ambitious career and submit to the rigors of a long and challenging education. Conversely, the path to entrepreneurship does not offer the same prestige, and the years of apprenticeship are often looked upon with acrimony by those around them who dare to take the plunge.
It takes at least 8 years to be a doctor and almost as long to be a lawyer. These are difficult studies, but it can be said that students of such careers receive rather favorable support from their families since the outcome is clear, safe and well regarded by society. As such, I have never heard an anecdote of a parent asking their child to finish medical school in order to find a job quickly. It must exist, certainly, but it’s still rare.
The opacity of the entrepreneurial path
Learning to be an entrepreneur is a time-consuming profession. Like any profession, the hardest part is often learning to think like the people who make up the profession. The problem with learning to be an entrepreneur is that it lacks the prestige of the notable professions (with rare exceptions, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries) and that there is no formalized learning process with clearly defined outcomes (income and status in society). Entrepreneurship is cloaked in mystery and uncertainty when it comes to society. It becomes an obscure science, even though it is present in every profession to a greater or lesser degree. Thus, a doctor who sets up his own business is an entrepreneur. He may have less need to innovate than a startup owner, but his approach makes him an entrepreneur in his own right.
The scarcity of role models
Yet, like any discipline, entrepreneurship produces predictable results if one is able to define the right performance indicators. In traditional careers, a professional’s success can be predicted by his or her ability to execute quality work. There is a ratio of quality and quantity to be maintained in some way. For example, this may mean publishing a certain number of articles in prestigious journals for a researcher. The same is true for those who embark on an entrepreneurial career. An important difference is that they have to define their own indicators, they do not always have clear and obvious models to follow.
Defining performance indicators
It is therefore necessary to rethink the entrepreneurial profession and see the first years as part of an apprenticeship in the same way as the years of study for a doctor. Trial and error is normal when starting out, but in order not to take an unfavorable trajectory, you must set clear production objectives. This will depend a lot on your industry, of course. If you decide to embark on a project related to new technologies, there will be indicators to define for each department of your structure. For example, marketing can use traffic and conversion rate, R&D will opt for the number of key features available, support will focus on the customer satisfaction rate etc. Of course, this applies to the startup world, so there is a good chance that you will start out alone. In this case, it is good to define indicators that are specific to the skill you want to monetize.
Plan for outsourcing and automation
In many cases, an entrepreneur is an employee who wants to work independently, this is a trap that many people fall into. Thinking like an employee while having self-employed status is a common problem. It is the subject of a whole book (E-myth revisited, Michael E. Gerber). Learning to think differently takes time. What distinguishes an employee’s way of thinking from an entrepreneur’s is primarily the use of growth levers. The main pitfall of the employee mentality is the perfectionism that pushes us to want to do everything alone, which greatly penalizes our development. The need to outsource or automate certain tasks is what gradually brings us closer to the entrepreneurial spirit. To do this, it is advisable to define a subcontracting plan that will be deployed as your development progresses. It delimits your field of action and allows you to detail the key competencies on which you have the most added value.
Find your points of excellence
In short, it’s about defining what your points of excellence are (not just the ones you’re just good at) and creating systems to delegate or automate everything else progressively.
Let’s say you want to sell products online and you do it using copywriting. At the beginning you take care of everything, but gradually you focus on outsourcing the support, you outsource the design of your products to a team, you also outsource the maintenance of the website etc. Eventually you realize that you are excellent at writing compelling pages, recruiting and training your teams. These are the three things (often less than 3) that you will focus on and you will “eliminate” everything else.