Whether it’s been a passing thought or a serious consideration, many of us have had an idea for a small business or invention we thought would take off.
But if you’ve watched even one episode of Shark Tank, you’d know that some people – despite their good ideas – just don’t have what it takes to run a company.
“I think when people originally think of getting involved in starting their own business for the first time is that it seems very daunting,” says Alexandra Clark, director of public policy and government affairs at Shopify. “But what I think what we’re seeing in Canada is there are a lot of resources out there to support [entrepreneurs] in taking that first leap.”
But just how alive is the entrepreneurial spirit in Canada?
Shopify recently conducted a survey of 1,735 Canadians in correlation with their countrywide entrepreneurial Shop Class Canada workshops and found that 68 per cent say they’d love to be their own boss. But while 53 per cent believe entrepreneurialship is a real possibility in the future, only three in 10 Canadians have already started their own business.
What’s holding Canadian entrepreneurs back?
These findings, Clark says, show that while the drive for Canadians is high, it still isn’t translating into new startups.
So when asked what Canadians felt was holding them back from taking that leap of faith, the study found that the barriers entrepreneurs are facing aren’t institutional, but are rather personal barriers.
In fact, 41 per cent say they’re too scared to take the risk of starting their own business, while 26 per cent say they’re unsure of how to get the products to market and 20 per cent say they don’t have enough time to dedicate to their project.
What you need to succeed as a leader
But according to a 2016 study by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and the Copenhagen Business School in Denmark, successful CEOs of company possess four main traits – charisma, strong execution and strategic skills and are generally talented overall.
The study looked at a data set of over 2,600 assessments to identify 30 individual characteristics of people who hold top executive positions. From there, researchers then grouped those individual traits into four main characteristics.
When it comes to execution skills, speed, efficiency, aggressiveness, persistence and proactivity were related characteristics, while enthusiasm, persuasion, aggressiveness, proactivity, analytical skills, organization and attention to detail were related.
For strategic ability, the connected traits were strategic vision, brainpower, creativity, attention to detail, holding people accountable and organization. And all 30 characteristics went into general talent.
(Some of these characteristics appeared in more than one of the four categories, according to the researcher’s classification system.)
Clark agrees, also adding that risk-taking is a must for leadership success.
“When I say risk-taker, it’s even having that thought in the first place that you’re willing to start a business,” Clark says. “You also have to be incredibly disciplined – it’s long hours and knowing when something isn’t working and needing to go in a different direction. Are you disciplined enough to know when to move on and let something go in order to be successful? And don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
And, most of all, be passionate about what you do, Clark says.
“This idea of taking your vision and turning it into something real and then selling it to the world is something that can create that passion and motivation and it’s so crucial that you have that burning inside of you,” Clark says. “That’ll be felt by your consumers and it creates a very genuine brand – about why you care about what you’re selling.”
From idea to fruition to execution
So you want to be your own boss – but where does one even begin?
First, come up with an idea for a business.
“I would start first with identifying something you’re passionate about,” Clark says. “With entrepreneurship, it takes a lot of work being your own boss, so if you can find something that excites you and that’s going to motivate you to get up every single morning and stay up late to work on, that’s what you need.”
Next, think about your audience – who do you plan on marketing to?
“This is really going to help shape how you build your business model and how you’re going to target your consumers,” Clark says. “Do they shop online or a brick and motor store or both? So once you identify how you’re going to reach your clients and build customer and loyalty, that’s really going to start you down the path of where you’re going to spend your time and resources right away.”
Clark also stresses the importance of mentorship.
“Everyone needs a mentor,” she says. “Find someone you can trust to give you the advice that you’re going to need when you hit a crossroads. Mentorship is something that is crucial to success, and someone who can find a mentor early on will have a higher success rate for starting their own business.”
And don’t be afraid to take advantage of the tools and resources that are out there, Clark says. This can be through programs and grants offered by other companies or the Government of Canada, among other places.