What Determines the Winners and Losers in Entrepreneurship?
For as long as humans have formed groups, there have been business opportunities and entrepreneurs taking advantage of them, which have rather tremendously evolved from early barter and trade into highly organized companies and other worldly technologies.
As the millennia have passed and we've evolved, competition has increased. This is particularly true in recent times where someone with limited experience or training in advanced technologies (programming) can build both highly successful and valuable tech businesses. As in any competitive environment, there are winners and there are losers -- no shock there -- but what is it that about the two opposing outcomes that separates them?
The people involved and their deeply rooted belief in themselves.
You’ll often hear from some of the most successful early stage investors that although the business idea is important, the person or people developing and executing on the idea are going to dictate the success or failure of the enterprise. In other words: An OK idea with exceptional talent is a much better bet than an exceptional idea with OK talent. Much of early stage investing must be based entirely on this principle, being that most businesses go through some type of lifecycle and must change their direction to remain afloat -- which means that those at the helm of the ship better be good.
Where does your "belief" come from?
People such as Steve Jobs and Elon Musk were/are very clearly wired a certain way from birth, which gave them a set of tools that work well in business -- whereas the rest of us must earn some version of these tools over time. But taking a play from the books of Jobs and Musk -- whom both exemplify determination like no other -- we know that your likelihood of success diminishes tremendously if you don’t truly believe that you have the ability to solve any problem, adjust to any obstacle and persevere through any challenge.
The confidence that it takes to build such a belief in ourselves is both learned and earned through experience and comes down to just getting out there and doing it -- whatever that “it” is for you. Your resulting failures, which are incredible learning experiences, save a place in your brain that will help you to make more educated decisions in the future. The faster you get to failure, the faster you’ll learn and get to success.
Humility is crucial.
There is a difference in a deeply rooted belief in one’s self and just self-confidence, with one of the more major differences coming down to the presence of humility -- often mistakenly absent or clouded with confidence. Confidence without humility becomes arrogance pretty quickly, leading to close-minded decision-making and missed opportunities for improvement -- both in yourself and your company. So stay humble, realize you’re not the smartest person in the room and soak up the information that results from learning experiences as much as humanly possible.
I do want to be clear: The concept of having a deeply rooted belief in one’s self does not mean that you don’t doubt or question your decisions, in fact, it’s the opposite. You should be constantly questioning your decisions, knowing that there’s always room for improvement in everything you do -- which is where humility comes into play. The benefit of this mentality is that you will know, deep down inside, that if you remain open minded and trust in your owned developed abilities, you’ll get to the destination or goal that you’re seeking, one way or another.
Adam Callinan is a founder at BottleKeeper, the fast-paced and sarcasm-infused solution to the warm beer and broken bottle epidemics that have plagued the world for centuries. Callinan is also a founding partner at Beachwood Ventures, a Los Angeles-based early-stage and non-traditional venture-capital firm at the intersection of technology and entertainment. As an entrepreneur, Callinan has spent over a decade building small businesses in and around technology, medical devices and consumer products, which most recently includes an exit in 2013. Callinan lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife Katie.