‘Agility’ is defined as the quality of “being able to move nimbly, quickly and in a lively way” (The Oxford Reference Dictionary). The definition implies an ability to move and respond to the environment you find yourself in not just accept what is.
The quality of being agile and responsive is key to those who work for themselves. Being able to respond appropriately to customers and doing so speedily will ensure a much greater likelihood of winning a customer order.
Being aware of current trends and challenges within a particular field of work and responding innovatively can give an edge to any solopreneur seeking to get a head start in the market place.
Those who are already working for themselves will know that the product or service they begin offering at the outset very rarely stays the same – therefore the ability to listen to what your customers want and respond speedily by evolving your service or product accordingly is a key factor in the survival rates of new businesses.
The trend for self-employment is getting stronger in both developed and emerging economies. Individuals are recognising that being a solopreneur holds the promise of more autonomy in how work is done and with whom. Flexibility in life is much valued and the ability to work where and when you like is attractive to many. The added allure of solopreneurship is its potential for personal fulfilment over the longer term. All of this constitutes a heady cocktail that is increasingly being chosen.
How does career agility specifically apply to the solopreneur?
Of course, one key success factor of any business is the personal qualities the owner brings to the enterprise. For example, if the solopreneur applies the skills of agile leadership, by responding nimbly and innovatively with new products or customer friendly systems, this could become commercially advantageous and will quickly differentiate the company from other businesses who may be complacent in attitude.
We can all think of people who just seem to ooze the ‘gets things done’ ethos and they usually do before others wake up to the need for change. Fortune favours the bold! As you’d expect, these kinds of agile leaders are usually adept at managing their careers and expect those who work for them to do the same, so it’s no surprise that the culture of a business led by a solopreneur will reflect that leader’s values and beliefs. This will impact on every bit of the business, especially the hiring of the team.
Observable traits that crop up regularly in solopreneurs are:
- pragmatism and a persistence or tenacity when facing difficulties
- clear tendency to think differently about common problems
- an ability to spot the ‘gap’ or opportunity, innovating as required
- a relatively thick skin to help handle rejection or resistance
- a strong self belief or optimistic streak
- a love of learning
Finally, career agility is linked to a particular outlook or growth mindset that can be very powerful when applied consistently over a long period of time. Any solopreneur who has this mindset will not be deterred by setbacks, simply seeing them as part of the learning that is essential in developing the business product or service. Failure is not taken personally, learning constantly is the norm and this ‘bounce back’ ability when things do go wrong builds emotional resilience.
The solopreneur is often uniquely placed to spot opportunities simply by being on the outside and looking in. I like to describe this trait as being like the ‘meerkat’ of the marketplace. Having an innately wired talent for scanning the environment and piecing together bits of information to confirm a trend or new marketplace buzz gives huge advantages in any competitive situation.
So…the case is stacking up for adopting career agility practices and building habits to sustain yourself and your business if that’s the path you have chosen already or are perhaps thinking about. It’s not an easy path but it can be very rewarding!
I invite you to ask yourself the following questions:
- Which traits do you have already that can serve you well as a solopreneur?
- What can you do or learn more about to improve your own career agility quotient?
- Who do you know who has the ‘meerkat approach’ and what can they teach you?
Anji Marychurch is an experienced talent development consultant, executive career coach and mentor. She supports professionals and senior level managers handling career and personal change.