Courage: The Entrepreneur’s Most Important Tool
Updated: May 30, 2019
It Takes More Courage To Be An Entrepreneur
Let's talk about the difference between an entrepreneur and a contractor. Contractors rent out their hands; entrepreneurs sell a completed idea.
Rather than hiring an employee for a job that will only take twenty hours, a company might hire a contractor to do it instead. The contractor is basically filling in for an employee. Companies hire contractors when they don’t want the commitment of an employee (if it’s a one-time or short term project, for example), they don’t want to have to pay benefits, or they need a specialized skill that they need occasionally but not often enough to bring it in-house.
An entrepreneur, in contrast, is someone who's starting a business with the intention of selling a finished product or service. I would hire a graphic designer as a contractor to do four hours of work on my website or to make a specific change, but I would hire an entrepreneur to design, develop, and create a whole new website for me.
Entrepreneurs deliver a whole solution, whether that's a finished product or service, and take ownership of the process to a much greater degree. They're creating a brand, an identity, a group of processes around how they do their work, and that allows them to deliver higher value for a given hour of their time than a contractor can. Because they're delivering higher value to their clients, they can and should capture some of that extra value that they create.
Beyond this sort of fundamental difference is a bigger difference between the two. You've probably heard the expression, “high risk, high reward, low risk, low reward,” and that's pretty applicable here. Entrepreneurs ultimately take a much greater risk and can potentially earn a much greater reward.
It boils down to the amount of courage it takes to be an entrepreneur versus a contractor or an employee. To be a contractor takes a little bit more courage than it does to be an employee, because you do have to step out on your own. But the real test of courage comes when you go beyond just being a contractor and try to actually create a full-fledged business.
The courage that I'm talking about is the courage to send a proposal for something that's probably at a higher rate than just working as a contractor. It's a lot safer and easier to say, "Hey, here's my per hour fee," as a contractor and go from there. But it's a lot harder to say, "I have scoped out the project you asked me to do, and in total I think this is what it'll cost." If you, as the business owner, get it right, you stand to be rewarded well, but if you mess up on your estimate, you could end up losing money on the job. High risk, but also high reward.
How Courage Helps You Succeed
If you're going to play in this arena and truly be an entrepreneur rather than a contractor, you need to develop your sense of courage. Courage is what will help you stand your ground when a prospect flinches at your price. Courage is what will help you when an existing client doesn't understand the value you bring, and you're tempted to cave and give them a discount instead of getting to the heart of the matter and solving the issue. Courage is required to part ways with clients who aren't a good fit for you or to turn away those prospects in the first place. It takes a lot of courage, especially when you're getting started, to pass up revenue opportunities that you know aren't right for your business.
Even when your business has been around for a while, how far you will go is determined, in part, on how courageous you are. I work with some small business owners who aren't necessarily leaders in their company. They start the company, gather the capital, and sell their products or services to clients. But when it comes to their own team, they don't take a strong leadership role. Maybe they've never had that modeled for them. Maybe they're not comfortable being the boss. Maybe it feels too much like they are being arrogant if they take that leadership role. But it is absolutely required if you are going to be an entrepreneur.
There's risk involved in standing up in front of your team and sharing your vision. You could be laughed at. People may think you're crazy. In reality, this happens a lot less than you may think, but that's what the little voice in the back of your head tells you. "Don't stand up. Don't paint your vision. It's silly for you to think that you could grow to a big successful enterprise when you're so small." It is courage that allows you to consistently communicate your vision. It is courage that forces you to have those tough conversations with employees instead of avoiding them. And this same entrepreneurial courage will allow you to take your business so much farther than you would expect.
Maintaining and Cultivating Courage
Like gasoline to a car, it is courage that ignites you to get going. As the leader of your business, what do you do to fill up your “tank” of courage? On any given day, things will happen that can shake your courage. Your personal life takes an unexpected bad turn. Situations arise with employees, vendors, and customers that have to be dealt with. As an entrepreneur, you can’t shirk your duties, and it is courage that allows you to deal with these situations and move on.
If you haven't ever stopped to think about it, now is a great time to do so. What books are you reading? What podcasts are you listening to? What examples are you following? What is it that puts more courage into your system to help keep you going despite the things that sap your energy?
Let me suggest that if you don't have someone else on your leadership team who shares your vision and encourages you (and vice versa), then you should consider hiring a coach. Coaches are excellent at helping fill the courage tank. They give you an outside perspective when you need to make a big decision. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of at crucial stages in your business. A good coach shares the same values and goals that you do and helps you reach them.
Coaches also bring accountability so that you have someone else pushing you toward your goals. They can also bring different perspective to the table too. Since I am a CPA and former chief financial officer, I tend to see things differently than most business owners do. I love explaining financial statements to my clients so they can make better, more informed choices, while also weighing the tax and profit ramifications of those decisions.
But even more than the technical things I bring, one of my favorite parts of coaching is helping people develop the courage they need to turn their business dream into a reality.