10 Characteristics of an Entrepreneur That Owns the Corporate Ladder
One of the most frightening days of my life was the day I quit my job and officially became an entrepreneur. On that day, I knew there were no more steady paychecks, no more health insurance or retirement plans. No more days off for being sick or paid vacations.
On that day, my income went to zero. The terror of not having a steady paycheck was one of the most frightening experiences I had ever experienced. Worst of all, I did not know how long it would be before I would have another steady paycheck. It might be years.
The moment I quit my job I knew the real reason why many employees do not become entrepreneurs. It is fear of not having any money, no guaranteed income, no steady paycheck. Very few people can operate for long periods of time without money. Entrepreneurs are different, and one of those differences is their ability to operate sanely and intelligently without money.
On that same day, my expenses went up. As an entrepreneur, I had to rent an office, a parking stall, and a warehouse; buy a desk and a lamp; rent a phone; and pay for travel, hotels, taxis, meals, copies, pens, paper, staples, stationery, legal tablets, postage, brochures, products, and even coffee for the office.
I also had to hire a secretary, an accountant, an attorney, a bookkeeper, a business insurance agent, and even a janitorial service. These were all expenses my employer had once paid for me. I began to realize how expensive it had been to hire me as an employee. I realized that employees cost far more than the number of dollars reflected in their paychecks.
The Day I Officially Left The Company
I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was in June 1978. I was in Puerto Rico because I was attending the Xerox Corporation’s President’s Club celebration, an event recognizing the top achievers in the company. People had come from all over the world to be recognized.
It was a great event, a gala I will always remember. I could not believe how much money Xerox was spending just to recognize the top salespeople in the company. But even though it was a celebration, I was having a miserable time. Throughout the three-day event, all I could think about was leaving the job, the steady paycheck, and the security of the company. I realized that once the party in San Juan was over, I was going to go on my own. I was not going back to work at the Honolulu branch office or the Xerox Corporation.
When leaving San Juan, our plane experienced some kind of emergency. In preparing to land at Miami, the pilot had us all brace, cradle our heads, and prepare for a possible crash.
I was already feeling bad enough about this being my first day as an entrepreneur, but on top of that, I had to prepare to die? My first day as an entrepreneur was not off to a very good start.
Obviously, the plane did not crash, and I flew on to Chicago where I was going to do a sales presentation for my line of nylon surfer wallets. I arrived at the Chicago Mercantile Mart late because of the flight delays, and the client I was supposed to meet, a buyer from a large chain of department stores, was already gone. Once again, I thought to myself, “This is not a good way to start my new career as an entrepreneur. If I don’t make this sale, there will be no income for the business, no paycheck for me, and no food on the table.”
Since I like to eat, having no food disturbed me the most.
Entrepreneur Vs. Employee
“Are people born entrepreneurs, or are they trained to be entrepreneurs?” When I asked my rich dad his opinion on this age-old question, he said, “Asking if people are born or trained to be entrepreneurs is a question that makes no sense. It would be like asking if people are born employees or trained to become employees?” He went on to say, “People are trainable. They can be trained to be either employees or entrepreneurs. The reason there are more employees than entrepreneurs is simply that our schools train young people to become employees. That is why so many parents say to their child, “Go to school so you can get a good job.”
I have yet to hear any parent say, “Go to school so you can become an entrepreneur.”
Entrepreneurs are always looking for the opportunity without much regard to whether they have resources. Employee-type persons focus on what resources they have or do not have, which is why so many people say, “How can I start my business? I don’t have the money.” An entrepreneur would say, “Tie up the deal, and then we’ll find the money.” This difference in mindsets is a very big difference between an employee and an entrepreneur.
Employees want job security with a strong company, a steady paycheck, and the opportunity for promotion—a chance to climb the corporate ladder. Many employees consider a promotion and title more important than money. I know my poor dad did. He loved his title, Superintendent of Public Education, even though he was not paid much.
Entrepreneur doesn’t want to climb the corporate ladder. He or she wants to own the corporate ladder. An entrepreneur is not driven by a paycheck, but by the results of the team. Also, as Howard Stevenson states, many entrepreneurs start a business because they have very strong values that are more important than simply job security and a steady paycheck. For many entrepreneurs, their values are more important than money. They are passionate about their work, their mission, and love what they do. Many entrepreneurs will do their work even though there is no money. Rich dad said, “Many employees are passionate about their work only as long as there is a paycheck.”
The Characteristics of an Entrepreneur
You may notice that farmers, possibly our earliest entrepreneurs, have had to develop most of these traits in order to survive as farmers. Most had to plant in the spring in order to harvest in the fall. Most had to pray that the weather was in their favor and that pests, diseases, and insects left enough for their family to live on through a long hard winter. Rich dad said, “If you have the mindset and toughness of a farmer, you will be a great entrepreneur.”
- A mindset of freedom instead of security
- The ability to operate without money
- The ability to operate without security
- A focus on opportunity rather than resources
- Different management styles to manage different people
- The ability to manage people and resources they do not control
- A focus on team and value rather than pay or promotion
- An active learner—no graduation day
- Generalized education rather than specialized
- The courage to be responsible for the entire business
Becoming an entrepreneur began with a change of philosophy. The day in Puerto Rico that I left the Xerox Corporation, my philosophy shifted from the philosophy of my poor dad to the philosophy of my rich dad.
If you have tremendous odds stacked against you, and you don’t have any other choice but to take matters into your own hands, you might be surprised to discover just how many characteristics of an entrepreneur you possess.
Editor, Rich Dad Poor Dad Daily