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Deciding if you have the personality to run your own business

August 21, 2008

Carrying on with the conversation I had with my friend, one of the things he wondered out loud was the idea of setting up something of his own but he’s not sure if he’s the type. As I sat there listening, I swear he sounded like someone agonizing whether to get married. šŸ™‚

Knowing that I’m not the typical textbook idealist, he asked me for an opinion anyway. Do I think he’s got what it takes to be on his own? I knew he had been reading entreprenuer books and I think he was expecting me to rattle off a list of 4 or 5 must-have personality traits he would have been reading about.

I was quite happy to disappoint him. I asked him a question instead.

“Do you remember the time when we went out with Martin, had dinner at this restaurant where the service was so bad we complained to the owner. And the owner just gave us this if you don’t like it you can leave attitude?”

“Yes I remember,” he said.

“Do you think someone like that fits the profile of a good businessman?”

“No, you have to please your customers to be sucessful.”

“Well he obviously didn’t give a rodent’s ass. Now you were reading their brochure. How many restaurants did he have in his chain?”

“I dunno, 5 or 6?”

“There’s your answer,” I said to him.

I had to explain. Just forget about yourself for a moment, I said, because there are bigger things to worry about in business. Like whether you actually have something that people want.

Here’s a fact. Entrepreneurs come in every stripe you can think of. Hardworking, lazy, miserly, spendthrift, clever, stupid, talkative, quiet, bla bla bla. And you know what? Many of them become millionaires despite failing every test in the entreprenuer playbook. Like the ill-mannered har mein hawker who abuses his customers every day for the last 15 years and still makes enough to buy 2 houses and send 2 kids overseas.

No I’m not saying that being foolish or unpleasant is a better route to take. Good attitude helps but when you start talking about “right personality” as a condition to doing business, then I think you’ve missed the point.

One thing I’ve learnt. If you have something people want, nobody cares if you’re nice or a jerk; you can still make a lot of money. But if you have nothing people want, no amount of being nice or clever will save you.

So put away those entreprenuer books for a moment and take a good look around you. The reality is, some people make it big doing something they’re “not supposed” to do and some people go brankrupt doing something they’re “supposed” to do. People are desperate to find the connection between effort and success, a predictable formula of some sort. I hate to say this but sometimes you won’t find any. If there was, banks would be smiling as there’d be no such thing as non-performing loans.

So if you ask me, your personality is the least of your worries. Its whether you have something people want that you should be worried about.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. angeles permalink
    August 21, 2008 11:59 am

    i must say… u are one wise bloke šŸ˜‰

  2. Damien permalink*
    August 21, 2008 10:43 pm

    Haha, its just plain unsexy common sense I’m afraid šŸ™‚

  3. LC Teh permalink
    August 22, 2008 3:54 pm

    To be a chef it’s not just knowing how to cook. You have to stay on your feet for long hours and stand the heat of the kitchen.

  4. stella permalink
    August 22, 2008 4:10 pm

    I feel pity for your friend. Guide and help him more. Maybe he will change for the better.

  5. Damien permalink*
    August 22, 2008 9:26 pm

    @LC, yup once u have what people want, u’ll need the strength and fortitude to keep it going.

    @stella, my friend and I are of the same age so its kinda hard for him to take me seriously. But that’s okay, I still try … šŸ™‚

  6. LC Teh permalink
    August 23, 2008 8:52 pm

    I suspect lots of people tend to overlook the ‘bottom-line’ requirements. Positive attitudes and great personalities only help to run an organization or a business more efficiently and make everyone’s life more pleasant.
    But the fact of life is, you wouldn’t really know if you’re gonna make it or not unless you get in there and have a go at it. No amount of dry land practice in technicals is going to teach you how to swim. One just have to jump in the water. It’s good to have a life jacket on, though.

  7. Damien permalink*
    August 24, 2008 9:22 am

    Yeah, that’s true. One nice thing about being a writer is you can be as idealistic as you want about the 10 secret steps to success etc and nobody will fault you. And you can leave it to the university of hard knocks to jolt people to their senses.

  8. byfallenangel permalink
    August 25, 2008 12:13 am

    When you are a employer, employee or a customer you will be standing in different angle and have different perspective.

  9. Damien permalink*
    August 25, 2008 8:31 am

    Exactly. The beauty of perspective is perfectly captured in the old saying there’s 3 sides to every story – your side, my side and the truth. Lolz…

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