Three Questions All Aspiring Entrepreneurs Should Ask Themselves
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Entrepreneurship Jul 5, 2018

Three Ques­tions All Aspir­ing Entre­pre­neurs Should Ask Themselves

Run­ning your own busi­ness isn’t for every­one. Here is how to tell if it is right for you.

An entrepreneur sketches her new business.

Yevgenia Nayberg

Based on the research of

Justin B. Craig

Leon Schjoedt

The idea of own­ing your own busi­ness sounds appeal­ing to many. But it takes more than sim­ply hav­ing a great idea or the desire to be your own boss. You also need the skills and dri­ve to make it on your own. 

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Research has shown that a key com­po­nent for entre­pre­neur­ial suc­cess is self-effi­ca­cy — the belief that you can suc­ceed. Self-effi­ca­cy can help pre­dict an entrepreneur’s lev­el of com­mit­ment and per­se­ver­ance, for exam­ple. Yet, research to date has defined self-effi­ca­cy broad­ly and has not drilled down into what, specif­i­cal­ly, self-effi­ca­cy looks like in the con­text of entrepreneurship. 

So Justin Craig, codi­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Fam­i­ly Enter­pris­es at the Kel­logg School, cre­at­ed a scale to help aspir­ing entre­pre­neurs mea­sure their lev­el of self-effi­ca­cy. Craig, along with Leon Schjoedt at the Mahasarakham Busi­ness School in Thai­land, deter­mined three ques­tions peo­ple should ask them­selves to assess whether they’re ready to start their own business. 

The goal is to be able to say yes to all of them, Craig says. 

If you’ve got two rather than three, that may be a rea­son to be cau­tious,” he says. 

Which doesn’t mean you should aban­don your dreams. But you might want to focus on your defi­cien­cy. You can say, Okay, what is it that I need to address?’” he says. 

Assess­ing Entre­pre­neur­ial Self-Effi­ca­cy

The researchers used data from two sur­veys of ear­ly-stage entre­pre­neurs to come up with their scale. Togeth­er, the sur­veys includ­ed 2,000 respon­dents who answered ques­tions about their work habits, goals, and outlook. 

Craig and Schjoedt ana­lyzed the answers to see what most entre­pre­neurs had in com­mon. They then com­pared that to a group of 300 peo­ple who took the same sur­veys but who were not entrepreneurs. 

In doing so, the researchers land­ed on three ques­tions that peo­ple can use to assess their lev­el of entre­pre­neur­ial self-efficacy: 

  • Over­all, my skills and abil­i­ties will help me start a business. 
  • My past expe­ri­ence will be very valu­able in start­ing a business. 
  • I am con­fi­dent I can put in the effort need­ed to start a business. 

Craig acknowl­edges that these may not seem earth-shat­ter­ing to many. Yet the fact that they grew out of research — not intu­ition — is important. 

Peo­ple may say, well, that makes sense,’” Craig says. But we’ve now estab­lished that these are the appro­pri­ate ques­tions to ask because we’ve val­i­dat­ed them with a pret­ty robust study.” 

He also points out that pre­vi­ous research look­ing at the ben­e­fits of self-effi­ca­cy in entre­pre­neur­ship used sur­veys that assessed self-effi­ca­cy very broad­ly. Hav­ing ques­tions spe­cif­ic to the dis­ci­pline of entre­pre­neur­ship is impor­tant. It is also in keep­ing with the idea that entre­pre­neur­ship is a unique career path that mer­its spe­cial­ized study. 

How to Use the Three Ques­tions

Craig sees sev­er­al ways pro­fes­sion­als can use these questions. 

One is to bet­ter pre­pare peo­ple for the rig­ors of entre­pre­neur­ship. Peo­ple who answer yes to only one or two ques­tions should think long and hard about whether they real­ly want to pur­sue their own business. 

It nev­er fails to amaze me when I look at some peo­ple who are doing this for the sake of doing it, or they’re fed up at work, or to scratch an itch,” Craig says, and they won­der why things aren’t work­ing out.” 

If the answer to the ques­tion of whether to move for­ward is still yes, then aspir­ing entre­pre­neurs should use the ques­tions to iden­ti­fy what more they need to do to pre­pare. Do they need deep­er expe­ri­ence in a par­tic­u­lar field, per­haps, or more edu­ca­tion in a cer­tain area to build confidence? 

Train­ing pro­grams could also use the sur­vey to see where poten­tial stu­dents should focus their energies. 

Over­all, Craig says the ques­tions are a way to remind peo­ple that run­ning their own busi­ness isn’t for everyone. 

It looks very attrac­tive,” Craig says. It looks like it’s going to be fun. But it’s much hard­er work than peo­ple realize.” 

Featured Faculty

Justin B. Craig

Director of the Center for Family Enterprises

About the Writer

Emily Stone is the senior research editor for Kellogg Insight.

About the Research

Schjoedt, L, and Justin B. Craig. 2017. Development and validation of a unidimensional domain-specific entrepreneurial self-efficacy scale. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research. 23(1): 98-113.

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