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Quiz: Are you an entrepreneur?

It’s not so much a quiz as a tool for self-assessment and reflection (which didn’t make for a catchy title.) Cecil Plummer, President of the Western Region Minority Supplier Development Council (WRMSDC) was a recent guest on Business Unusual. He mentioned how the disruptions from COVID 19 are showing us who is self-employed and who is an entrepreneur.  He made a really interesting point. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to dive into it during the video. As I thought about our conversation, I came up with some questions we can ask ourselves to clarify what separates being an entrepreneur from being self-employed.

What is your purpose?

During our interview, Cecil described the self-employed person as someone who got into something because they love doing it. They find something they like to do and are good at so they charge for it. Sounds like living the dream right? There’s certainly nothing wrong with it and many entrepreneurs, myself included, started out with that premise. The difference between self-employed business owners and entrepreneurs is that entrepreneurs have a vision that encompasses the changes that come with a crisis.

For example, an event planner that loves the details of the events and the energy of in-person connections, celebrations, and get togethers can certainly build a good and profitable business. But when COVID hit and clients cancelled events, can that event planner rely on a larger vision ? Does the passion for connecting people extend to the different technology and processes that are necessary to do that virtually? If the answer is yes, then that event planner is self-employed and also an entrepreneur. She looks for ways to keep her clients connected and engaged with their stakeholders, even if it doesn’t mean cocktail receptions and exhibit halls.

Are you pivoting?

I know several event planners who have done just that – pivoted, “swizzled” and overall are able to make it through these trying times.  For the entrepreneur, it comes down to purpose. I talk about that a bit in an interview I did for Go Daddy.  My purpose is helping diverse entrepreneurs grow their businesses to achieve economic equity and parity. There aren’t geographic boundaries on that purpose. It doesn’t have to be virtual or in person.

It’s true that much of my business prior to COVID was preparing my clients for in person events. At those events my clients make connections with the supplier diversity representatives that advocate for them within their companies. In the absence of those in-person events, however, my client’s needs have changed. My purpose, and my will to deliver them hasn’t. If anything, my purpose has made it clear I need to help more, offer more options, and reach more people who are struggling.

Are you customer focused?

How many of us have been to a virtual event where the organizers substituted event planning with platforms?

A client and I had registered for an event which had an in-person and virtual component, a matchmaking platform, an event app, and contact management app, virtual zoom backgrounds, and zoom integrated software for delivering the content. It was a part time job to manage all these moving pieces and keep up with the constant notifications from the apps. We constantly felt like we  missed something on one of the other platforms. Together we stuck with it. My client had 3 good matchmakers, connections with other attendees, and a lovely swag box delivered to her home. It was productive but a struggle to organize.  This is especially true when many of us are emotionally, mentally, and physically zoomed out (the zoom headaches are real).

I am now coaching people on how to attend virtual events and keep making connections. My business partner at Diversity Masterminds and I already offered an online course, recognizing the needs of busy entrepreneurs. But it’s not just a question of giving people the information. How can you give business owners what they need in a way they can absorb it? We started the Business UNsual podcast, released an e-book on 10 Ways to network during COVID, and just wrapped up the filming of a self-paced course that we’re releasing later this year. We know people need our services now but we also know we need a plan to get it to them when they are pulled in lots of different directions.

Are you nimble?

When we initially scheduled the filming of our online course, one of us realized the day before the California filming that she’d been exposed to COVID. We rescheduled the filming, flights, hotel, child care and quarantine requirements. It was a hassle to do it. It also gave us time to improve our scripts and our stories.

Now the filming is finally finished and we anxiously await the final product. We are thinking about how to position our Diversity Masterminds community in front of more cash, community and connections. In our minds, we are several phases ahead of where we are right now. We know the best laid plans may all have to be scrapped, reworked and started over. But we’re ready, and we’ll do it. How can we not? We’re entrepreneurs.