Entrepreneurialism is the spirit of the age. Seemingly everyone fancies themselves as the next Richard Branson – or at least like the idea of having their own wine cellar with pockets deep enough to build it.
But how do you know if you’ve got what it takes to quit your job, stick it to the man, and ultimately become ‘the man’? Running a successful start-up requires considerably more than a good idea.
We’ve examined some of the planet’s most successful entrepreneurs for patterns and attributes that have set them up for success. Tick them all, and you could be hiding your personal staff in a wine bunker come the next hurricane.
1. You’re not afraid of working with the very best
“The best people can be difficult,” says Paul Arden, the legendary creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, in his equally legendary book It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be. “They are single-minded, they have tunnel vision. That’s what makes them good. They are unwilling to compromise.”
Put simply, a good entrepreneur is able to work with those as good or better than themselves, even if they prove to be a sizeable pain in the behind.
And it’s worth recalling the much-cited words of entrepreneur and productivity expert, Tim Ferriss: “You are the average of the five people you most associate with.” So mix with some handsome billionaires.
2. You’re prepared to tell some substantial white lies
Not full out deception, rather bending and stretching the truth for a greater good (in other words, world domination).
There are small scale white lies: not correcting a would-be client or investor when they refer to your ‘exec team’ or ‘London offices’ when in reality, you’re working out of a coffee shop with a bunch of interns running off espresso fumes alone.
And then there’s Vice Media. The publishers famously built a last-minute conference room complete with fancy toilets for a big-money meeting with tech company, Intel. On the day itself, according NYMag.com, staff were urged bring in hip friends who would make the office look on-trend with a youthful-but-faked ‘busyness’.
How far it’s acceptable to stretch the truth is up for discussion, with even the Harvard Business Review sitting on the fence.
3. You’re a visionary with a quick line to prove it
Take Steve Jobs: in 2007, when showing reporters the very first iPhone, the Apple CEO was nearing the crescendo of his speech when a reporter testing the device piped up.
“It doesn’t work,” he blurted out. “I keep getting typos. The keyboard’s too small for my thumbs.”
To which, according Bloomberg Businessweek, Jobs replied with a knowing smile: “Your thumbs will learn.”
4. You’re able to power through the dip
“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time,” are the words of entrepreneur and marketing demigod, Seth Godin.
Godin coined the now-famous phrase ‘the dip’: a setback or downright emotional low that feels like the moment before abject defeat, but is actually the moment before triumph.
According to Godin, successful entrepreneurs (as well as weightlifters and car salesmen) can spot a dud and quit fast without guilt, while equally having the vision and emotional strength to commit to the dip and see it through to glory. If you can’t do it, read Godin’s book.
5. If you fall, you get up – just like Arnie
Actor, politician, businessman, and probably one of the only 71-year-olds who could crush your skull with his bare hands (if he wanted to), Arnold Schwarzenegger is an almost Yoda-like guru for entrepreneurs in the making.
Few know that the Austrian-American made a sizeable fortune in property investment, long before he was terminating anyone on the big screen, by flipping properties he purchased using money from bricklaying jobs and fitness seminars.
And the secret to his success? Getting up when he was down.
“When you fall, the winner always gets up and the loser stays down. That is what is the difference,” he says in a must-listen episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. “To me, the important thing is always that when you fail in something, you get up, you dust yourself off, and you move on and gain a great vision of which direction you want to go. Pick another goal and keep moving forward.”
6. You know what the end goal is and you hone in on it with Zuckerberg-like focus
While you wouldn’t go to the Facebook founder for business-style tips, his ability to focus on what matters most is surely one of his strongest attributes in helping build the $506.2bn business.
Entrepreneur and founder of Sumo.com, Noah Kagan, revealed from his days of working at the social network that when faced with a decision, Mark Zuckerberg would always ask: “Does this serve our end goal?”
If the answer was no, then no matter how exciting it was, the idea was instantly binned.
What that end goal was, though, is less clear. Mining our deepest, darkest data to rule over us from his Silicon Valley fortress? Probably.
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