The difference between a Silicon Valley icon and the employee next door isn’t funding -- most of the time it isn’t even the idea -- it’s the entrepreneurial fire within.
Yet, more often than not, the entrepreneurial flame is extinguished just as quickly as it was lit. So how do you feed the fire?
The list of advice one can get online is endless. However, there are some crucial, fundamental words of wisdom. While these cornerstones can be hard to live by, and even harder to remain steadfast to, they are what makes entrepreneurs successful.
Thinking should help drive, not hinder, action. Don't think too much. Don't plan too much. Just execute.
Entrepreneurs and startup founders tend to get lost in their own heads, especially in the initial phase of the business. Legitimate questions end up freezing founders and plaguing them with self-doubt.
“Will it work?" "What happens if I don't get funded in the middle of the project?" "What price should I set?” I say replace “What if?” with “Let’s find out.”
2. Listen to the market
While execution is extremely important, it's also important to listen to what the market sees value in and adjust accordingly. Offerings that answer a market need and/or solve an industry pain point are the most successful.
To be clear, I’m not talking about “pivoting” (do you hate that buzzword as much as I do?). I’m talking about making your product better by responding to the market.
Continuous improvement requires constant dialogue, so as you execute and try things, keep listening. Ask your clients what they need and how you can help, and keep optimizing your product.
3. Think simple -- less is more
Don’t try to become IKEA right out of the gate. Over time, you can extend your offerings and product features, but always be aware of what your core added value is to the market and do it to your absolute best.
As you gain traction in the marketplace and establish yourself with your target audience, refer back to numbers one and two. Listen to the market. Is there another need you are uniquely well poised to address? If so, execute.
4. Hire employees who are smarter than you
I know from experience that the previous three lessons are integral to entrepreneurial success, but you can’t push a mountain alone. The best leaders are those who know their weaknesses and build teams to augment their strengths.
Hire people who believe in your vision, who are willing to fight with you in all weather and circumstances -- they are there to help you push the mountain.
Someone may listen and hear something you miss or be better at activating different parts of the business than you. Find these people and make them part of your business -- more ears and more hands translate to more success.
The entrepreneurial spirit is exactly that -- spirit. It requires one stays committed to his or her idea, be willing to try things out, accept criticism and potentially fail (as I, and most other successful entrepreneurs, have). In business, as in life, growing up can be difficult.
To make your business truly successful, you need to live it -- you need to be there mentally and physically. Only then you will be able to execute, listen to the market (for real), and inspire and find people along the way who are willing fight with you, celebrate with you and even inspire you! After all, only those who stay committed and keep at it have a chance to make that entrepreneurial flame a fire.