There is a certain glamour associated with the startup space at the moment. I like to call that glamour ‘noise’. Entrepreneurs rushing from one pitching event to another in a frantic race against time to complete different rounds of funding, beautifying their presentations with more and more links to LinkedIn profiles of the team, inconsequential achievements of ‘advisors’ and more.
Through all of this, some principles will always stay the same. I want to focus on these. While there is no set formula to achieve success in any field – there are certain characteristics that differentiate the entrepreneur from the ‘wantrepreneur’. Here are my top 5.
WORK HARD AND SMART. Yes, you’ve probably heard it a million times but how many of you actually understand what working hard in a smart manner means? Is it going to an office, sitting at your laptop and doing what you’re told? Standing in queues at banks and county buildings waiting to get permits or deposit payments? If you’re filling your time doing mindless tasks in the name of ‘work’, you aren’t really working smart. Always work towards the growth of the company, not stagnate it by focusing on micro tasks. We all have 24 hours in a day, how you choose to spend yours will define your entrepreneurial journey.
RECEIVING FUNDING IS JUST THE START Too many entrepreneurs see raising capital as the light at the end of the tunnel. That they’ve achieved what they wanted because someone believed in their vision. When you raise capital, your work has only just begun. Money comes with commitments and commitments come with sacrifice. Make sure you do everything in your power to minimise the sacrifice at your end, otherwise you will be treading deep water for a very long time.
IT’S HARDER WHEN YOU’RE POOR – BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE We can talk about ‘hope’ and optimism till the cows come home, and that if you stay positive good things will happen. Truth is, that is only part of the equation. Many entrepreneurs lament about how hard it is to be heard, that they don’t have the right connections or finances to open the correct doors for their business to grow. Frankly, that’s nonsense. Yes, it’s easier when you have money and social standing – it also means that when you don’t have those two components you have to try harder. You won’t get a reply the first time you send an email. Heck you may not get a reply for months. You won’t get a reply to that tweet you sent out either. You have to stay hungry during these times. Try harder. Never accept that you’ve done all you can to get to where you need to go, because if you still have breath and haven’t achieved your goals – you need to keep going. Become innovative in your approach to companies, refine and refine again your pitch and business concept, and don’t ever let yourself stagnate and start regressing. As Mark Cuban said “It’s not about money or connections — it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone. And if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time.”
DON’T BE AFRAID OF CRITICISM As an entrepreneur you need to treat your company as an extension of yourself. That is both good and bad.
The bad aspect is that we become emotional when criticised. Trust me, as you grow – you’ll receive your fair share of criticism and more. Learn to take it positively. It doesn’t matter what people say to you, what matters is that you are able to analyse it – use the positives – improve what needs to be done, and move on. Never be so arrogant that you believe you know more about anyone on the subject of your company just because you own it. There is always something to learn from criticism; learn it and move on.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN OVERNIGHT SUCCESS So don’t waste your time thinking you can become one. No one has. Every story of success has a hundred stories of failure, and that’s perfectly normal, because all you have to do is strike it big once. People will brandish all sorts of titles to your name proclaiming your brilliance and speed of growth – never forget all the failures and rejections you came across a long the way. And never forget that it can take a very long time to achieve that big win you’re looking for.
What separates entrepreneurs from wantrepreneurs is a hunger for victory in the business world that cannot be satisfied with money. It is a desire to keep growing, to need to be the best, and to not stop irrespective of the hurdles faced.
Are you hungry enough?