How to become an Entrepreneur
The world of work is changing. As technology and globalisation rapidly develop and jobs that once could have easily employed someone for a lifetime begin to disappear, we are going to need to find other ways to earn a living. This is why Paul B. Brown, writing for Forbes, has argued that over the coming decades more and more people will need to become entrepreneurs.
But what does it actually mean to be an entrepreneur? Entrepreneurs are fundamentally people who start companies with the hope of making a profit . However there’s more to it than just making money, entrepreneurs set themselves apart from business owners by being visionary, by spotting a gap in the market and coming up with a product that fills that gap. They build a business on ideas.
But ideas themselves are no good unless supported by actions.
Once they have come up with a good idea, entrepreneurs must move quickly, often working long hours, in order to realise their dream and capitalise on the gap in the market before someone else does.
Entrepreneurs must be masters of all trades, managing and understanding every aspect of the business from what taxes it must pay through to branding and website design. They must have enough self-belief to follow through with their ideas and convince clients to invest in their product, yet also humble enough to know their own weaknesses and hire experts in fields they are less experienced in.
Being an entrepreneur can be hugely challenging, and there are great risks involved, but if you enjoy working for yourself, are creative and innovative, then it can be one of the most interesting, rewarding, and lucrative career paths out there.
What subjects do you need to become an entrepreneur?
As an entrepreneur you work for yourself, so you can take whatever subjects you want. If you’re prepared to learn on the job, then your past education will never hold you back from starting your own business. However, below are a number of subjects that can be useful in developing the type of skills needed to own and run your own business.
Maths: Successful entrepreneurship is about running a profitable business. In order to make a profit, you need to be on top of your finances, your income and your expenses. Having a good background in maths and arithmetic is vital to maximise the efficiency of your business and thus maximise profits.
Economics: Economics involves many of the skills that you’ll need as an entrepreneur. It gives you an understanding of how business works and problem-solving abilities that could prove invaluable to your new company.
English Language: The ability to sell your product requires the use of language, and skills in persuasion can make or break a company. A good understanding of language for marketing will be the pillar of your commercial success.
Computer Science: We live in a digital age and every business will have at least some online presence. Often the easiest way of starting your business is through an online platform, so a background in computer science and web design can be a huge help to your life as an entrepreneur.
Learn what it’s like to study business by joining our Oxford Business Summer School.
How do I start a business?
Setting up a new business is the hardest part of being a new entrepreneur as it almost always involves a considerable amount of financial and emotional investment. However, it can also be the most exciting time, with so much opportunity and flexibility in what you do. The most crucial aspect of setting yourself up to be an entrepreneur is thorough preparation. As the old saying goes, prior preparation prevents poor performance.
Almost all business ideas will require financial investment in order to get them off the ground. This can be a daunting prospect for a new entrepreneur as that kind of money can seem impossible to obtain. You may be surprised, however, by the number of resources and institutions out there that are set up to help this sort of thing. Prospects.ac.uk lists a number of options available to you when looking for funding for your startup. All of these institutions will need to be presented with a detailed and well thought out business plan to convince them to loan you what can sometimes be an eye-watering amount of cash.
Writing a good business plan requires market research with realistic strategic and financial planning. It should outline the gap in the market your company will fill, your USP and a plan of action on how, at least in the short term, your company will operate to fulfil its goal. Market research must be thorough and it is important to listen and adapt to any constructive negative feedback. It can be very easy to get carried away with a new business idea and not see the flaws in it so a second opinion is incredibly valuable. Someone reading your business plan will want to see evidence of a considered response to any problems that the market research has shown. Similarly, they will want to see realistic financial plans and explanations as to how these profit goals will be achieved. Everyone wants to make a million pounds by year one, but investors will take you far more seriously if your goals look feasible and thought-through.
Once you’ve secured investment, the real challenge begins – putting all your plans into action. Building a good team of colleagues around you who are knowledgeable in the right areas can help a lot, but there are obvious costs to consider first. Overall once you’ve secured funding it’s all down to you. Enjoy the successes and don’t be scared of failure. Remember all the big famous entrepreneurs failed multiple times before ultimately achieving their goal!
What books can I read about entrepreneurship?
(2009: Virgin Books)
Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is Shaping our Future
(2016: Virgin Books)
Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business
John Mackey & Raj Sisodia