How to Become an Entrepreneur – at Any Age

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Here are some tips on how to decide whether to create your own company, and what to do once you have, regardless of how old you are | Image: iStock

Entrepreneurship may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re accustomed to the relative security of an established corporation. And setting up your own company does involve risk. But along with the risks come the potential rewards that are unique to being an entrepreneur, and now may be the time to give it a try.

Two IESE alum and successful entrepreneurs, Antonio Cantón (EMBA ’88), an investor and co-founder of Spanish telecoms Jazztel and Yoigo, and Antonio Ortega (PADE ’91), director of people, media and technology of Spain’s Bankia, spoke recently at IESE’s Madrid campus with Emeritus Prof. José Ramón Pin about their own experiences. Drawing on those experiences, we’re offering tips on becoming an entrepreneur:

  1. Take a long hard look into the future
    Whether you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur by vocation or out of necessity, setting out on your own means you’ll have to start taking decisions that others took for you in the past. And the first decision, without doubt, is to decide what your goals are. Where do you want to go? Be brave. It may be time to take charge of your own career. But at the same time, don’t take hasty decisions that you might regret later.
  2. Go outside your comfort zone
    As you weigh your options, remember that inertia is the enemy of change. You may have to change not only your job but your profession, putting to different use the many skills you already have. Approach the decision from a point of self-awareness. Do a SWOT analysis. Analyze your strengths and don’t ignore your weaknesses. You have to be ready for anything. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s all part of the process.
  3. Prepare yourself for non-stop change
    In today’s world, no one can rest on their laurels. If you do become an entrepreneur – and even if you don’t – stay up to date with trends and don’t neglect additional training. Technological change is a reality, and is transforming everything in its path. But it’s certainly not the only change going on. There are shifts in areas such as working culture and organizations, which you may not have been aware of in your previous roles. You need to develop skills and creativity, especially as an entrepreneur. But learning takes planning and setting aside the time. Seek out opportunities for professional development in the areas you feel are your weakest, whether it’s technology tools, or communication, or accounting. Remember that professional development can take many forms: short or longer-term courses, online or in-person learning, reading extensively, or watching webinars.
  4. Turn your passion into your profession
    This may sound idealistic, but it isn’t necessarily. Many entrepreneurs have done this and they all say the same: working in (and making money from) something they love is priceless. Identify what you would truly love to do. But be careful: it’s not just about being enthusiastic about something. You must cultivate your good ideas. You have to know the sector and markets you’ll be involved in, and who your competitors are, and craft a strictly professional project with partners, suppliers, and clients. Build the network of suppliers and clients carefully, and make sure you’re hiring the right people as partners and employees.
  5. Create your own brand and work it
    Who are you? What do you have to offer? What sets you apart from the pack? It’s not just about being a highly qualified professional, it’s about creating your own brand in order for your project to be recognized and receive the attention it’s due. Part of that involves defining a mission, advancing your vision and identifying the values that make you different. Construct your storytelling and bet on credibility, coherence and transparence. That is, generate confidence and earn a good reputation. Networking is also essential to gaining visibility and developing your own brand, as well as securing financing, alliances and clients. Plus, especially if you’re accustomed to a hectic corporate environment, being an entrepreneur can be lonely at times. Meet up with other entrepreneurs and see how they’re dealing with the same issues.
  6. Set new goals
    And if you’ve done all this and decided to take the entrepreneurial leap, realize that you’ll need to be constantly looking toward the future. Work and strive today, but always think about what your next idea will be. Be open to new opportunities and consider diversifying, so that your energy and drive are divided among a couple different projects and initiatives.

IESE’s executive education programs are ideal to help you get your new business off the ground – or to take on new challenges in your current career. At IESE, you’ll learn new approaches, acquire new skills, and expand your knowledge and create an invaluable network of people.


Alumni Learning Session “¿Hay vida profesional a partir de los 50?….. Para pensar a partir de los 35” (in Spanish.) Madrid, October 17, 2017.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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