My finances, my projects, my life
August 18, 2022

Entrepreneurs: courage, determination and much more

What makes a good entrepreneur? We’ve tried to find out for you.

According to a study by the think tank “Idea”, the number of new businesses created has been on the rise for a number of years in Luxembourg, moving from around 2,300 each year at the start of the century to its present level of more than 3,500. Trade permits have also risen from 4,500 in 2010 to more than 6,000 today. Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly slowed down this trend, business start-ups will probably continue along this trajectory in future. Failure is also part of the game, above all for newer businesses. As a rule of thumb, four out of every five start-ups go bankrupt.

Taking responsibility

Before taking the plunge, it’s important to know what qualities an entrepreneur has to have and to know your strengths. According to a study by the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), successful entrepreneurs often have certain character traits, including self-confidence, a sense of responsibility, a limited fear of failure and an above-average tolerance for uncertainty.

They must also have some degree of persuasiveness as well as negotiation skills in order to discuss prices, win clients and agree on terms. More creative people often have difficulties in this regard. In addition, entrepreneurs may also spend a lot of time on their own. While this could actually be a plus point for more introverted people, others might experience loneliness.

Being able to set one’s own hours might seem tempting for some, but it is important to remember that self-employed people only earn money when they are working. As a result, taking holidays means losing revenue, whereas employees are entitled to paid leave. It’s often very difficult to turn down contracts, and even seasoned self-employed people are afraid of losing clients if they take time off. This can result in longer working hours.

Sooner or later, every entrepreneur will be confronted with the failure of an idea or project. Failure is part of the game, and the important thing is to learn lessons. Some decisions are difficult, and putting them into practice will require determination and tenacity.

An entrepreneur needs to have great inner strength in order to meet these challenges. As the writer Samuel Beckett put it: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Financial discipline required

Financial discipline is also an important quality for entrepreneurs. As their taxes are not deducted automatically from their monthly salary, it’s up to them to make sure any tax gets paid.

Companies and sole traderships with annual revenues above €35,000 have to register for VAT in Luxembourg. This entails an obligation to file a VAT return, and also that any VAT invoiced has to be passed on to the tax authorities. To recall, the normal rate of VAT in Luxembourg is 17%. Reduced rates apply in relation to essential goods such as heating, electricity, rent and fuel.

As the founder of a business, you will also have to make sure that you are still entitled to social security benefits, including in particular the state pension. Contributions can be paid together with income tax. Things are slightly more complicated for limited liability companies (s.àr.l. or GmbH), as you are then responsible for making sure that you meet the payment deadlines.

Insurance is essential

Giving up the security of a steady job not only entails relinquishing a regular salary but also various other benefits, including in many cases a pension scheme, health insurance and life insurance provided by the employer, as well as other additional benefits.

There is a risk that retirement provision for self-employed workers, as well as social benefits more generally, may end up being insufficient.

There is a risk that retirement provision for self-employed workers, as well as social benefits more generally, may end up being insufficient. Financial planning has to incorporate these aspects in particular. Within this context, it is good to know that Luxembourg’s supplementary pension scheme, which had previously been reserved for employees only, was opened up to self-employed workers in 2019. It is also a very good idea to take out life insurance as well as insurance against risks such as accidents, sickness or invalidity. Businesses can deduct the related insurance premiums from tax.

As far as salary is concerned, it is important to remember that it takes some time for a business to establish itself on the market. Patience is thus the operative word here too. Although being self-employed has both advantages and disadvantages, in particular on an administrative level, it almost always allows an optimum balance to be struck between work and private life. Knowing that the effort put into one’s work translates directly into income can also be extremely satisfying. Some people find this to be much more motivating than working for a large company.

Persuasiveness: an indispensable quality

Entrepreneurs have to “sell themselves” all the time: they have to present their business, whether in order to convince investors or to motivate their staff. This calls for a great deal of energy, ironclad motivation and great determination.

An entrepreneur has to be a team leader and a team member at the same time.

Team spirit is also crucial, otherwise it will be impossible to recognise opportunities and put the business on the right track. An entrepreneur has to be a team leader and a team member at the same time. As far as possible, an entrepreneur has to structure their business so that different skills complement one another. This also applies to the management team. In fact, a person who is able to guide a start-up through to a growth phase is not necessarily also capable of supporting its development once the business has matured. Whilst an entrepreneur might find it easy to put their own stamp on a business employing fewer than 100 people, their impact will without doubt be more limited in a company of 500 or 1,000 people. A good entrepreneur therefore knows when their contribution to a business has reached its limits and will be able to make an informed decision about when the time is right to pass the baton to the next generation of managers.