It’s no secret that over the last few years the title of entrepreneur has taken on a certain shine. A few decades back, people in this position were more likely to be called ‘small business owners’, but somewhere along the way entrepreneur became pretty cool. Along with serial business starters, the phrase has begun to broaden, and for some, it’s a stylist self-appointed title that comes without the responsibilities – or sometimes even abilities. Don’t get us wrong, you don’t have to be a Mark Zuckerberg to be an entrepreneur, though as with all things, we need to remember that there are levels to it. So, what does it take?
When we think about some of the most successful entrepreneurs, we often imagine one of two things. Firstly, the fanatics. The unrelenting workaholics who just don’t shut off, never take a break and focus every bit of their attention to the task at hand. Many may wish for this kind of motivation and even view it as some sort of superpower, but the truth is the fanatics are a rare breed and more often than not, it’s this type that suffers the most. When we look at success, we often see only the benefits and it can be easy to forget the price that the hyper-focused can pay for their gift and fail to see how unbalanced and burdensome this approach can be.
“We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks…But many of those entrepreneurs harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.”
The second type, the charmed. We have all on occasion met those who seem to be somehow blessed, that kind of person who finds gold at every turn and seems incapable of failure. Likewise, with the fanatics, there is often more to the charmed than meets the eye. The simple fact is that people don’t generally talk about their failures as much as their successes, when you play enough hands your destined to win at least a few and there is always a minority that gets more than their ‘fair’ share. The truth is, the path to becoming a successful entrepreneur is neither of these extremes – but is perhaps somewhere in-between.
“It does take passion. It does take resilience. And it definitely takes a healthy dose of perseverance.”
Duncan Di Biase
The ability to focus attention and energy on a task can be a big part of a battle. When we talk about the best of any area, we talk a lot about finding the thing you are passionate about, but it’s not just passion – it’s sustained passion. When setting business goals, self-awareness can be extraordinarily helpful and knowing what kind of work will keep you interested for years, and maybe even decades will make the hard choices you’ll face in the future much easier. But more than just focusing your skills and finding a passion, it’s about developing some key abilities and leading the charge.
Flexibility and Persistence.
Creativity isn’t just for artists, in fact, an entrepreneur needs to find inspiration and value creativity at every stage. As a business develops, it’s rare that the trajectory will stay the same and with each success the range of potential futures should be expanding. In order to keep these avenues open, an entrepreneur needs to be actively looking for inspiration and ideas at every turn. This doesn’t mean that every idea should be incredibly novel, but it does mean having a nose for opportunity, problem-solving and maybe a little risk-taking.
A creative mind doesn’t just look at the world and follow where others have succeeded, it instead finds problems and imagines solutions. Take, for instance, the beloved Richard Branson. Following the success of his chain of music stores, we might think the next logical step might be more retail. Not for Branson. Tired of having to travel with the problem-prone British Airways, he decided to do something to fix this and took the incredible leap of founding Virgin Atlantic. His path is an unusual one, his successes are everywhere and are hard to miss, but along the way, there have been some spectacular misfires – look no further than Virgin Brides, an ill-fated attempt at cornering the bridal wear market which beggars belief.
Great ideas don’t come too often, and when opportunity rears its head it’s important to not allow setbacks to stand in the way. In the early days of Nike, founder Phil Knight started with a $500 investment and a passion for what he was doing – even if that meant selling shoes out of the back of his car. After many refused loans and a general lack of belief, he managed to build his business into the behemoth it is today, doing so by taking risks, unrelenting persistence and by believing in his product.
Staying curious and creative is of paramount importance, an ability to move past failures, leverage successes and reinvent your path forward forces the numbers towards your advantage. It might sound like a platitude, but there are many artists and entrepreneurs alike that know; you learn more from your failures than successes.
Take John Paul DeJoria for instance. As the co-founder of hair care company John Paul Mitchell Systems and Patrón Spirits Company, it’s easy to see a stone-cold winner, but what many don’t know is that he spent many years selling encyclopaedias doors to door and even lived out of his car. Growing up in the care system and facing innumerable setbacks, he never allowed himself to be deterred and sought success more rabidly following his defeats.
Leading, not Bossing.
There’s plenty written about the quality of leadership, but as many have acknowledged, it’s a tricky characteristic to define – let alone measure. Despite this, there are certain key ways to think about leading any kind of organisation and each compliment the creative curiosity.
Leadership is the single biggest reason for success or failure and should not be confused with popularity. From military leaders to CEO giants, fortitude and vision to propel an organisation forward and inspire those at every level, the first step of which is understanding every level. When entering a field or company it requires a dedication to discovery which goes far beyond the basics and takes time, patience and a whole lot of listening.
When Zappos launched in 1999, CEO Tony Hsieh quickly joined the team. His main goals across Zappos was not just to sell lots of shoes, but to firmly establish a sense of unity and purpose within each level of the company. His seemingly strange practice of offering thousands of dollars for potential employees to walk out the doors (a practice which it still maintains) means that those who weren’t serious about their future in Zappos, fell at the first hurdle and only those who weren’t after a quick pay-day would be sticking around. His leadership begins at day one and extends to customer service training for every single employee, ensuring every manager appreciates the culture, values and goals of the company
Knowing where the weaknesses hide and what everyone’s possible solutions will not only save time and money in the long run but can potentially stop you from going down the wrong path entirely. Leading and empowering those around you can’t and shouldn’t be about finding your fix and delegating it out. That isn’t enough. If people are resistant to your right answer then you may have the appearance of a solution, but the likelihood of things changing significantly enough is minimal. Essentially, it’s better to have a 70% solution that everyone is happy to enforce, than a 100% solution that’s going to be resisted at every turn.
Finding those whom to trust and know how much to trust them, again isn’t a simple task but as an entrepreneur and a leader, allowing those around you to rise to the challenge won’t just make the machine run more smoothly, but will also allow you to step back and concentrate your efforts on where the next challenge lies.
At Raising Partners, we know the challenges that face every business, regardless of its industry, as well as appreciating the burden of responsibility that an entrepreneur comes up against. The untold truth about entrepreneurship is that it is a balance between many skills and abilities and can, at times, be a numbers game. That’s why we are here to help and empower you to make the absolute best of your business opportunities and look forward to seeing the creative leaders that will shape the future business landscape.