A common narrative in the startup community is that success breeds more success, and thus entrepreneurs are more likely to hit a home run on their third or fourth try. Of course, in many cases, luck plays a huge role.
Indeed, some say that you are lucky if you build a great business once, but you are good if you do it twice. For serial entrepreneurs, having the right set of traits is imperative to successfully grow and scale multiple companies. Here are a few things winning business owners -- who do not rely on luck alone -- have in common.
According to Clemson University associate professor of management Wayne Stewart, being a risk-taker is one of the key elements that is shared by most serial entrepreneurs. No one embodies risk-taking more than Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.
Branson’s empire has spanned disparate fields, from mobile phones to air travel, healthcare, cosmetics, and clean energy. His climb to success was highly unlikely, as most of his ventures were extremely risky and required Branson to be a pioneer in diverse industries. Instead of relying on luck, he credits his success to the risks he took. In his book The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership, Branson wrote, “Luck is a misunderstood concept. We can all create our own ‘luck’ by taking the necessary risks to open the door to change, progression and success.”
Related: Richard Branson on Taking Risks
2. Unfazed by setbacks.
Last January, while a crowd of eager investors and the rest of the world was watching, SpaceX’s highly-anticipated Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Earth’s surface and then crashed attempting to land after its stabilizing fins lost power. Despite the disappointing showing, founder Elon Musk cheerily wrote, “Full RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) event. Ship is fine minor repairs. Exciting day!”
Musk, also a co-founder of PayPal, the CEO of Tesla Motors, and chairman of SolarCity, has never been discouraged by setbacks. Prior to the failure of Falcon 9, Musk had been tirelessly building and developing SpaceX’s capabilities and had attempted over a dozen other large-scale rocket launches. Since that fateful day in January, Musk is still hard at work on the ambitious goal of space travel, showing that being impervious to setbacks is a trait that is necessary to achieve success as a serial entrepreneur.
In an interview with The New York Times, Wealth-X founder David Leppan discussed what made a serial entrepreneur successful. He said, “Passion is the secret ingredient. There are a lot of people with ideas, but you have to have the drive.”
Just being an “ideas person” isn’t enough to guarantee success; being zealous and passionate about your work is crucial.
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Pixar and NeXT, epitomized passion. In his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Jobs urged graduates, “You've got to find what you love… Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.”
Jobs admits in this address that he found his passion for technology early on in his life when he founded Apple. Because he continued to let his passion for innovation and technology thrive, he was able to bounce back from getting fired from Apple early in the company’s history and later went on to start Pixar Animation Studios, one of the most successful film studios today, and NeXT Software, which was vital for the development of the Mac OS X and Jobs’s return to Apple. Without Jobs’ unbridled dedication, we would not have the ever-popular iPhones, iPads or MacBooks we enjoy today, and the development of technology would surely not have been as swift.
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures as well as an investor on the television series Shark Tank, swears that being innovative when approaching problems and creating businesses is the key to being successful.
In an article for Entrepreneur, Cuban wrote, “[Successful people] take their knowledge of the business or situation they are visiting, whether it’s buying a deck of playing cards, eating at a restaurant or trying to solve a problem and think about how to reinvent it. They don't ask people what they would want. They envision a complete reapplication.”
Cuban demonstrates his ability to be innovative not only in sports and business but also every week on Shark Tank. He and a panel of industry titans hear pitches from contestants hoping to gain invaluable mentorship and investments for their companies. Picking the most promising candidates to invest in, Cuban recognizes the potential for certain businesses to fill important gaps in the world today and create solutions to everyday problems. His ability to identify innovative companies and groom them in new ways is part of how he has become an honored and revered business mogul.
Related: Mark Cuban's 12 Rules for Startups