Entrepreneurs must know the difference between toughness and arrogance: Mark Bouris

If you want to take the pulse of the Aussie spirit, have a look at how we approach business. We love it – we have 2.5 million registered businesses in this country and one of the highest rates of business start-ups in the world, running at around 15% of the business population each year.

We’re a nation of entrepreneurs – a settler economy opened up by waves of migrants happy for stability and freedom and willing to work hard for a better life.

Yet we don’t really tell ourselves this story in the way that Americans do.

In my experience the entrepreneur’s journey starts with concepts such as change, difference and improvement. Entrepreneurs look at how they can bring a different approach or product to the market. Or they see a chance to improve on what’s being offered already or they see an opportunity to change the consumer’s experience.

In many respects, the entrepreneur is the consumer’s friend. We see the world from what the buyer really wants, if only she were offered it.

But an entrepreneur is not only an “ideas person”; she must also be a business builder. They need the intellectual curiosity and a dogged dedication to hard work.

Entrepreneurs have to be up for a fight. You need that toughness because the most successful entrepreneurs are “disrupters” – people who see industries protected by high barriers of entry and decide to take them on, with a point of difference.

And these large industries – banking, airlines, phones companies etc. – will do what they can to stop newcomers competing with them.

So some of the highest-profile entrepreneurs are as famous for never giving up as they are for their business acumen. Think of Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin brand, which took on music production and retailing, airlines and banking; or John Ilhan, the Australian who built Crazy John’s phone retailing and ended up in a long fight with Telstra.

True entrepreneurs find it hard to give up. We don’t like being discouraged or intimidated.

I founded both Wizard Home Loans and Yellow Brick Road on a point of difference: a mortgage at a better price and a full-service financial services firm with advice at affordable rates.

I’m involved in a company called TZ – it replaces existing technology with something smarter and more efficient.

They all started with intellectual curiosity. But they were built by doing long days and staying focused when mistakes were made and major fights loomed.

However, those who want to be entrepreneurs should not be confused between toughness and arrogance.

Toughness allows you to keep going with a positive attitude.

But arrogance is another form of delusion.

Arrogance takes away your greatest tool as an entrepreneur: failure.

All the best entrepreneurs have stumbled and fallen in their careers. But they don’t crumble: they use their mistakes to learn, to reorganise, to make a better mousetrap, to come back bigger and better than before.

I have made many mistakes in my journey and all of them contributed to the successes.

But arrogance will not let you see your mistakes.

Lastly, fear. Everyone who tries to build a business will experience fear at some point. The stakes get high, and success or failure seems to hinge on a single decision. It can be gruelling.

The worst thing about fear is that it either stuns you into doing nothing, or it clouds your judgement, making irrational actions seem acceptable.

To avoid this, make yourself see fear objectively, as another obstacle but not an insurmountable one. Put it on your to-do list, as an item. But whatever you do, don’t let fear run the show.

There is no template for being an entrepreneur: do your homework, have a plan, get good people around you. Everyone will tell you this. But the real test of the entrepreneur is that you want to build something and nothing will stop you.

Mark Bouris is executive chairman of Yellow Brick Road, a financial services company offering home loans, financial planning, accounting and tax, and insurance.

This article first appeared on Property Observer.

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