There’s Type A, and I’ve coined a Type E. Type As are not necessarily Type Es, and a very small percentage of humans are in the Type E category.
So what’s Type E? It’s the Entrepreneur type—and an alluring prospect for women who feel that there could be no greater flexibility than being your own boss. But most people have absolutely no idea what it means to have your own business day in and day out. And quite a lot of people are just not cut out for this work option.
I know this because I’ve owned and operated a variety of businesses since I was 18. Back in my college days I corralled all my friends to be waitresses, cooks and bartenders for high-end parties. I’ve had my own “sole proprieter” consulting businesses, I’ve helped people launch and run their own start-ups and I ran Women@Work with a partner for 10 years. All these entrepreneurial ventures have had one major thing in common: the need to be on the case 24/7. In your own business you work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life because it’s yours, it’s always staring you in the face, and if you don’t exert a 150% effort you’re only hurting yourself.
Most people are not Type E because they don’t have the interest, ability, tenacity or energy to wear 20 hats of every shape and size every single day (including weekends, holidays and times when you wish you could pack it in and have a more predictable job at JCrew). When you launch your own business delegating not always an immediate option. So that means that you do everything until you can afford to outsource or hire. You may love your core business, but not bookkeeping, facilities management, mailing, errands and the 99,000 details that you and only you are available to do.
Then there’s sales and marketing. All business owners have to grow their businesses. If you’ve always been very happy to let the corporate sales and marketing departments take care of promotional activities, you may have a hard time getting the word out about what your new business sells.
The most successful Type Es can sell and promote—and they have the money to do so. One of the biggest reasons that most entrepreneurs fail is related to their bank accounts. There are lots of good ideas in the world that never reach prime time because of weak financial backing. It’s simply a fact that it takes money to launch, build out and expand a business. Most often it’s your own money, because banks are wary of lending to start-ups unless they see that you’re willing to risk your own money, too.
The other side of the money issue is how long you are willing to earn little or no money. Few entrepreneurs hit the jackpot in the first year, and sometimes it can take many years to make serious money. Some entrepreneurs try to offset this by taking on part-time jobs to provide another source of income—but this takes away from critical time that you really should be spending developing your own business.
All of this “negative” talk might sound odd coming from a serial entrepreneur like me. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely love having my own business and I’m a Type E through and through. I just know too many people who have the “start your own business” fantasy without ever considering the day-to-day reality.
HOW DO YOU FIND OUT IF YOU’RE REALLY TYPE E?
- Shadow some entrepreneurs you know for a day and see how much of their time is NOT spent on the fun part of their core business.
- Decide if you are looking for a new hobby or a full-fledged business. You can compartmentalize a hobby. A business is life-consuming.
- Think back to your corporate days and assess how often you were the one rolling up your sleeves and doing the menial work that needed to be done to meet a deadline.
- Take your sales and marketing temperature. If you’re someone who likes to do the work–not the sell the work—an entrepreneurial venture may not be for you.
- Assess your finances and a) how long you can wait to earn real money and b) whether you’re willing to risk your own money to fully establish, promote and expand your business.
The flexible entrepreneurial option is a focus of my upcoming book, Ambition Redefined: Why the Corner Office Doesn’t Work for Every Woman & What to Do Instead (Nicholas Brealey, Hachette Book Group, October 2018)