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Teaching Your Inner Entrepreneur: 4 Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss

Teaching Your Inner Entrepreneur: 4 Steps To Becoming Your Own Boss

Can entrepreneurship be taught, or is it an innate skillset? It’s a question that many budding entrepreneurs want answered. In a recent interview by MBA@UNC, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s online MBA programAmy Palmer, the president and CEO of Soldiers' Angels, says that teaching a person the skills required to be an entrepreneur is possible. “I believe entrepreneurship can be taught. While you can’t always teach people to think outside of the box, I think you can teach them to avoid pitfalls, and I think you can teach people valuable entrepreneurial skills from your own prior experiences.”

A number of experts agree with Palmer, citing a hybrid of innate entrepreneurial traits that blend well with some form of business education. If you have aspirations to be your own boss and start something new, here are four steps that will help get you there.

1. Assess your current reality.

Wendy Torrance, director of entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation, says it’s important for startup founders to first assess their skills, where they are in life, and whether there’s a market for the ideas they’re hatching. Then, it’s key to build a team that can bridge the gaps in skills they may be lacking. "Sixty-four percent of companies fail because of people-related problems… [Entrepreneurs] should identify their strengths and weaknesses with respect to the people around them,” she says. “They might have knowledge about a technology, but a co-founder might understand the market better and help the company."

[Related: Practical Thoughts on How to Start Your Own Business]

2. Find a good mentor

The entrepreneurial journey can be a lonely one, especially when you’re in the midst of dealing with the negative ramifications of a decision you shouldn’t have made. Having a mentor who has already traveled the path is essential to ensuring that you get the guidance you need. Rod Ebrahimi, CEO of ReadyForZero, says he knows the bumpy journey of a startup all too well. “As an aspiring company-builder, you always find yourself in situations where you ‘don’t know what you don’t know’ but you have to stay in motion and make decisions regardless,” he says. “Without a savvy guide, in the form of a mentor, you may wind up making crucial early mistakes that would have otherwise been avoidable. The smaller your company, the faster you need to move, often without enough information to make perfect choices.”

[Read more: How Do I Ask Someone To Be My Mentor?]

3. Polish your listening skills

Market research is key for any new business endeavor, and with the wide range of social media sources available today, it’s easier than ever to hear what your target customers want. In her interview with MBA@UNC, Palmer keys in on the need for every startup owner to perk up his or her ears. “When I work with others who are trying to start nonprofit organizations, I always advise them to talk to as many people as they can about their business idea,” she says. “Some people assume that just because they believe in their idea and would be supportive of it, others will feel the same way.”

Linda Lacina of Entrepreneur Magazine highlights one female entrepreneur who did this with great success: Cassey Ho of Blogilates. Lacina says that listening to her followers allowed Ho to transform a simple video for her pilates students into a YouTube channel with more than 2 million subscribers and an e-commerce platform that drives nearly 70 percent of the revenue for her multi-million dollar brand.

4. Find the resources you need.

This is where education comes in. In addition to what a mentor can teach, you can also receive formal education in business school, or through some type of entrepreneurial training that best fits your needs.

Citing the stark startup reality that “36 percent of new businesses fold after just two years and 90 percent of technology startups simply don’t make it,” Bob Glazer, Founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, says that one of the best methods for obtaining the education you need is to include it in your business plan for investors. “Too often, VCs focus on short-term, top-line growth without making the investment necessary to be successful in the long term. Expecting entrepreneurs to be successful at something they’ve never done without investing in their professional development is not realistic,” he says. “Lobby to build leadership training into your budget and time line for you and your team, so investors view these efforts as a path to ROI rather than a distraction from daily business operations.”

In this connected world where it increasingly seems anything is possible, you can tap into your inner entrepreneur and teach her the skills she needs to be her own boss — if she’s wise about taking the steps that are required to help make it happen.

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Molly Greenberg is the community content manager for MBA@UNC. Molly has a background in journalism, specializing in education technology, education policy, business, and higher education lifestyle coverage. In her free time, Molly enjoys cooking, running, playing soccer, traveling, identifying grammar mistakes, and reading in-depth profiles of fascinating start-up founders.


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