Common Myths About Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship


Throughout the history of the United States, entrepreneurs and innovators have provided inspiration to others. The 19th and 20th centuries saw more than their share of individuals who seemed to turn nothing more than an idea into a thriving business, many of which are still household names. If the launch of a home-based business is in your recent past or immediate future, you may have the same dreams and challenges of the country’s first entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, over the years, when people have tried to understand the success of these early entrepreneurs, they have often given most of the credit to luck, connections, or simply being in the right place at the right time. All of these things can certainly help, but none of them are enough to provide an adequate explanation. Therefore, when people delve a bit deeper, they tend to focus on the entrepreneur’s personality and talents. This has led to the creation of several myths about what it takes to found and lead a successful business. If you buy into any of the following myths, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Have Massive Egos.

If you examine the traits of people who have been remembered in the history books as great leaders, you will find that the opposite is true. Great leaders are more interested in achieving goals than reaping praise and acclaim. In fact, egotistical leaders are more likely to be remembered as cruel dictators who showed little regard for others, were obsessed with securing public demonstrations of loyalty and support, and brutally silenced any dissent. Successful entrepreneurs know that they are only one cog in the company wheel, and although they may be an extremely vital cog, they understand that they need others to help the company succeed.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Must Understand Every Aspect of the Business.

When you first start a business, you will likely need to wear many different hats. You may be producing your items, making your own sales calls, handling all the shipping chores, paying the bills, and cleaning your work area. However, even in these early days, you do not need to have an in-depth knowledge of everything that could possibly have an impact on your business. As your business grows, it will become increasingly difficult for you to absorb all of the information you will need. Instead, you should build relationships with professionals who can advise you. For example, instead of trying to decipher the federal and state tax codes, enlist the services of a qualified accountant. Other areas you might want to outsource include marketing, website design, and labor law.

Myth: All Successful Entrepreneurs Are Natural Extroverts.

Everything else aside, entrepreneurs are people, and people can have a wide range of characteristics. It is not at all uncommon for an individual to have some characteristics of both an introvert and an extrovert. That said, some of the most successful entrepreneurs in history have actually been introverts. An extroverted personality may be great for making cold calls on potential customers, but you might be better off hiring a salesperson to make those calls. If you are an introvert, use your characteristics where they will be the most valuable. For example, introverts are normally good listeners, making them ideal candidates for gathering feedback from customers and employees. Introverts are often capable of stepping back to take the time to reflect rationally on situations before reacting. The key is to understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can use your strengths to the greatest advantage.

Myth: The Founder Must Also Be the Only Leader.

As the owner of the business, you should reserve for yourself the power to make the final decision on important issues. However, if you want your company to grow, you need to learn to delegate tasks and responsibilities. This means you should also be willing to accept the abilities of others to take the lead when circumstances require it. For example, if a customer calls with a request to return an item, do you really need to be the only one who can approve the return? What if you are out of the office or otherwise unavailable? Do you want to risk antagonizing the customer because your employee does not feel empowered to make a decision? Naturally, you should ensure that your employees have the training and skills to make decisions, and you may want to limit their power. In the case of returns, for instance, you could give them the power to approve returns below a specific dollar amount, for certain products, or from certain customers.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Should Focus Exclusively on Their Company.

Successful entrepreneurs work hard, but they also know that they sometimes need to distance themselves from their business. They understand the value of having time to reflect, to connect with friends and family, and to engage in activities that have nothing to do with the success of the company. Many famous business leaders have stated that their times of quiet reflection frequently generated excellent ideas for new products, different manufacturing techniques, or innovative marketing strategies. Engaging in leisure activities, interacting with people outside of the business, and just relaxing can enhance creativity, help improve personal energy, and restore enthusiasm.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Are Born With the Abilities Needed to Create a Successful Business.

One of the most common myths circulating today is that entrepreneurs are born with something special that not everyone possesses. This is simply not true. Successful entrepreneurs do share certain traits, however. They want to found a successful business, and they are willing to work hard to achieve success. For the most part, they do not possess any unique talents, unusual personality traits, or innate insights. Family background, IQ, education level, socioeconomic class, gender, religion, and race cannot guarantee success as an entrepreneur. Perseverance, a strong work ethic, and patience are far more important.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Cannot Be Themselves.

For some reason, many people have come to believe that entrepreneurs must pretend to be what they are not. They must always put a positive spin on any business news, act as if they know exactly what they are doing at all times, and never apologize. In reality, even in modern times, a little honesty can go a long way. While celebrities often feel the need to conceal information, always present themselves in the best light, or distance themselves from others, entrepreneurs should not feel the same compulsions. Great leaders know that they sometimes need to apologize to an employee or a customer. They own up to their mistakes, they ask for help or advice when they need it, and they accept the fact that others sometimes make mistakes or need assistance.

Myth: Entrepreneurs Never Give Up on Their Business.

Very few companies that achieved major success were the first ventures of their founders. Sometimes, their early endeavors were only minor forays, but others have failed spectacularly. Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs decide to close a business prematurely. Fine-tuning operations, adjusting expectations, or finding new revenue streams can sometimes save a floundering enterprise. That said, no entrepreneur should be embarrassed about moving on to another endeavor. The first two automobile companies that Henry Ford founded failed, but that did not prevent him from trying again. Even Bill Gates launched an unsuccessful business before he started Microsoft.

Closing Thoughts

There is no magic formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur. However, there are many myths that can get in your way on the road to success. As you progress, you will encounter myths about marketing and advertising, providing exceptional customer service, reducing your tax liabilities, and many other topics. Always take the time to determine whether you are dealing with a myth or a proven fact.