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March - 2008 - issue > Entrepreneur
Psychology of successful entrepreneurs
Gunjan Sinha
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Entrepreneurship is often studied and analyzed from the perspective of how an entrepreneur can undertake business or social ventures and build them into a flourishing enterprise. Equally important is the amount of psychological stress an entrepreneur endures to sustain his or her focus and commitment in the course of the roller coaster process of building a business. How does one manage the ‘emotional quotient’ that it takes to lead entrepreneurial ventures, given the high unpredictability in day–to-day occurrences?

Feel Special and Humble: Every entrepreneur who has gone through the jerky journey knows that you have to learn to feel both special about the creative process of building something significant, while being humble enough to keep your feet on the ground. Entrepreneurs who either don’t possess the sense of special privilege to lead the business or lack the sense of humility are prone to obstructing the creative process of new venture creation. To face the inherent volatility of startups with a balanced approach one has to develop an entrepreneurial psychology and withstand the big swings in the business. One day you get a big customer order, the next day your investors pulls off the support or a key employee leaves, or the market makers and analysts question your business strategy. To withstand this volatility and have enough energy to carry on with one’s mission a balanced entrepreneurial psychology of perceiving a sense of being ‘special and humble’ is essential. It’s a mechanism to avoid going up and down uncontrollably with the roller coaster ride of your venture.

Create a Sustainable Approach: One of my mentors, Prof William Miller, Stanford University, who is now an 85 plus year old has just co-founded a new venture in ‘nano technology’. I found while talking to him that he plans to own this market in the next decade. His words, “If you live long enough you will do well in life!” apply well to business ventures also. Entrepreneurs need to have a sustainable approach towards their ventures - one that may allow you to forego growth for the sake of preserving longevity of the venture. There may be few quarters or years of hunkering down and rebuilding the process because what you had originally envisioned did not pan out. A sustainable mind-set will adapt to such circumstances with greater ease and less stress.

Missionaries versus Mercenaries: Successful entrepreneurs are more likely to be on a mission to change something that bothers them, or to take advantage of an opportunity they have identified as significant to their business. They are focused on being the agent of change and while making their impact felt and establishing their ventures profitably. Financial outcomes, while they play a significant role in motivating them, are not the prime focus of their day-to-day journey. It is the mission of changing something, or establishing their legacy, that inspires them. From large successful entrepreneurial ventures like Google, Infosys, and Microsoft to young businesses like SiliconIndia, Metricstream, eGain, and others that I have been part of, the psychology of impact and legacy clearly overshadows the financial outcomes. This enables the entrepreneur to focus all their energies in the best interest of their venture, rather than just purely taking care of their personal interests.
Let the World Change You: As an entrepreneur you are constantly obsessed with changing the world, building new concepts, and building products or services which will create a big impact. Well, I urge you to think about the flip side of the coin. While you are in the trenches working on changing the world around you, it is equally important to recognize that to become successful and grow as an entrepreneur you need to allow the world to change you. You have to personally embrace learning from your peers and employees and customers to make possible for yourself to think differently. Good entrepreneurs always see this learning as a two way street, never a one-way street.

Hope, these few ideas force us to probe deeper into the psychology of the winning entrepreneurs. One could literally write a book on this subject, but to begin with, it is good to at least recognize the significance of understanding the winning entrepreneurial psychology!

The author is the chairman of SiliconIndia.com and MetricStream. An Internet pioneer, he was the co-founder and president of WhoWhere? Inc., an Internet directory services company acquired by Lycos in 1998 as well as eGain, an online customer service company. Sinha can be reached at gunjan@metricstream.com
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