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4 ways to think like an entrepreneur

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Entrepreneurs have a different mindset.

One that increases flexibility, positive thinking and success. Entrepreneurs such as Tom Chapman of Matchesfashion, Daniel Ek of Spotify and Martin Dickie of BrewDog all demonstrate the ability to be comfortable with risk, embrace failure, spot gaps in the market and build great teams.

Here are four ways to start thinking like these entrepreneurs and maximise the chances of expanding your business and its profits.

1. Get comfortable with risk

Most people are risk-averse. They don’t like to try anything too risky, just in case something goes wrong. Entrepreneurs have a very different attitude, and can tolerate a greater level of risk. But that’s not to say they don’t think about what might happen if they get it wrong. They’re just better at calculating the risk.

Part of this ability to calculate risks comes from a mindset that naturally thinks in a bigger way. Richard Branson says: “When we began Virgin, I didn’t see it as an end in itself, a noun; I saw it as the beginning of a whole range of services, an adjective. Successful entrepreneurs take an idea and let it fly.”

One of the best ways to get comfortable with risk is to stop yourself overthinking every decision. When you overthink, you start to allow your mind to speculate on all the various worst-case scenarios and extrapolate them into infinity. Before you know it you’re dead-set against taking any risks at all, ever.

Yes, calculate the risk but stop before you reach the point where you’re creating your own obstacles. Approach anything risky in an orderly and strategic way, one step at a time, and if it starts to look like a dead end cut your losses and walk away.

2. Learn to embrace your failures

Calculating risks leads neatly into one of the biggest lessons that entrepreneurs can teach every single person: fail fast, fail often, and embrace those failures as friends. As LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman says: “If you tune it so that you have zero chance of failure, you usually also have zero chance of success.”

Failure in an integral part of success but it can be difficult to find the positives. Even the greatest entrepreneurs will begrudge the wasted time, effort and money – not to mention the disappointment. But entrepreneurs do learn to embrace failure because it moves you forward, discounts weak ideas or projects, and allows you to learn valuable new skills.

The other thing that failure teaches you is tenacity. All successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they never ever give up. If one idea of process doesn’t work, they get right back in the saddle and start all over again.

A fine example of this attitude is British entrepreneur and inventor James Dyson, the founder of the eponymous vacuum-cleaner company. An engineer by trade, it took Dyson 15 years and more than 5000 failed prototypes before he developed a bagless cleaner that worked. The company is now iconic and has net revenues of more than £3.5 billion per year.

3. Stay alert to new opportunities

The combination of calculated risk taking and a healthy attitude to failure gives you the right mindset to spot new opportunities that come your way. Entrepreneurs are experts at seeing a way to leverage gain in an industry and get a march on the existing players with a new innovation.

Most people look at a sector they understand and think: there is no way to break in here. Entrepreneurs think: who has a good idea or good product but is not moving fast enough? When it comes to opportunities, to think like an entrepreneur you need to act like a shark. Where are the vulnerabilities? What ideas can I change and do better?

Creating opportunities requires that you get serious about research and data. You need to start by doing a deep dive on the internet. Look for vulnerabilities, gaps and poor reviews, and try and get first-hand experience of products or services.

This process and attitude creates space for you in even the most saturated market, and teaches you that to create success you have to be a bit ruthless. As Richard Reed, Co-Founder of Innocent Drinks says: “Be nicer to your customers than your competitors.”

4. Take your employees with you

Changing your attitudes to risks, failure and new opportunities is only half of the story when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur. The biggest and most important element is ensuring that you’re not alone in your adventure and that you can take your team with you.

Entrepreneurs know this better than most. They know the value of a vision but also know that having a vision is nothing if you don’t get people to buy into it with you. The first thing to recognise is that most people resist change. And they do so because they feel out of control. This lack of control stems directly from two things: a lack of trust and poor communication.

To think and act like an entrepreneur you need to run ideas past the team continuously. You need to expose your vulnerabilities, explore your fears and communicate your big vision in a way that inspires. There is no room for an us-and-them attitude in the life of an entrepreneur. As the business-management author Patrick Lencioni says: “Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”

These are just three ways you can learn to think like an entrepreneur. Developing just one of these attitudes could help you become a more successful and more resilient leader.

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