Are you aspiring to be an entrepreneur? Well, congratulations and welcome on board a very long, arduous, and grueling yet exciting journey.
Before you question my credibility to write this blog, let me upfront answer that question. I am an aspiring entrepreneur and a marketer, and I work with and for many entrepreneurs. I inherited a family business with no background or academic knowledge on how to run a food chain. And in this journey of nearly seven years, after a lot of struggle and ridiculous mistakes, I finally see some silver lining. I work for a technology startup, so I do understand that landscape as well. But that is not the fun part.
The fun part of the journey is that, along the way, I have also been keeping a journal of my experience working with some brilliant minds, savvy marketers, talented founders, hungry investors. And if there is anything I would like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, it would be this.
Before embarking on entrepreneurship, do check if you qualify. If not, work at it and your success is a given. Okay, now here goes the 5 point checklist:
Are you —
INTERESTING, AUDACIOUS, CLEAR, RESOURCEFUL & REFLECTING?
Well, that is it for you!!
Check 1: Are you interesting?
No, seriously. Are you an engaging personality? I am not talking about fancy conversations and being the center of attention at a party.
Have you gone through life experiences that no one else has gone through? Has life blessed you with unique suffering & experiences that are yours and yours alone? And is your business born out of those unique experiences, pain points, and the fact that you understand you need to solve similar people’s same problems at scale?
And can you tell that story interestingly?
Take the case of Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble’s blockbuster CEO. Her blockbuster success as the youngest entrepreneur is a classic example. Whitney was thrown out of Tinder despite being a co-founder. She started an exactly similar business with a beautiful business model (I think it all came from her previous experience). And she steered it all the way to IPO in the shortest time since launch. The scale is unbelievable.
Now, that is a story that makes jaws drop. A lot of Bumble’s growth is associated with its founder’s story and purpose and not just the product.
Entrepreneurs need to have exciting stories to tell and unique ideas to attract talent, funding, and growth. Take any Instagram page that you follow and like — they give you unique content that appeals to you, which you did not know before.
If you are not leading an exciting life or running an exciting business, there is no uniqueness to your story. And that is a huge disadvantage where you will need to compete on the grounds of effort, price, or commodity. And how to lead an exciting life? Take risks. Big, bold, audacious risks. Challenge the status Quo. Move fast and break things.
Quoting from the book “Backable” — “The opposite of success is not failure. It is boredom”.
Check 2: Can you handle hate and be cold to criticism?
Now, I am not talking about hate from strangers. Of course, at the slightest sign of success and popularity, there will be hate. Women in particular will face contempt. You will face the hatred of co-workers, competitors, the press, social media. This is something you will easily handle.
The worst form of hate will come from some of your best friends and family members. Siblings that cannot digest your success will not hesitate to put you down in public. Spouses will suddenly estrange and act cold. They will withdraw the support they were showing earlier. Your children would call you selfish, self-centered, and ruthless. Or your business partners will desert you at a time that you needed them the most. Or take advantage of your trust and fool you on money matters.
The rug will be pulled right from under your feet many times, over and over.
The collective hate from your dearest ones when you become a little extra famous, successful, and prosperous could bring you down crying — all for trying. The entrepreneurial journey involves hate, jealousy, and loss.
But it does help when you dare to hold on to your pursuit for a very long time and believe that you are right. Show to the world that you are ready to do it alone if it comes down to it. Single and Cold.
Do you have the guts and go all in, whatever it takes?
Check 3: Do you seek utmost clarity as a means to achieve results?
When I started learning tennis, until the day I understood “form” and why it was imperative to hold your body in a certain angle to hit the sweet spot on the bat to hit powerful strokes, I never got it right.
Once I understood that, everything else fell in place. It was not the speed, strength, agility, or anything. It was how to hold my body to meet the ball that got everything else in place.
I have understood that understanding what matters the most is a technique all successful entrepreneurs follow. Boil down the juice to a central element around which everything else grows.
For instance, conquering followers in social media is not just about posting content for followers. It is about rigging the system to show the post up in front of followers and have them react to you. If you do not know how to get people to react, you cannot be an excellent social media influencer. The skill is to understand and get people to respond — likes/comments/shares/forwards. Many businesses focus on just putting content like machinery and still have significantly less success in social media. Human psychology is at play here.
I have seen that when I work closely with some entrepreneurs, they will pick on one important thread/sentence and dig deeper and deeper into it. I have found it to be annoying. But later, upon reflection, it would be so revealing that they hacked the central plot of the idea and connected it to an existing mental model that they know.
The idea is to form a knowledge tree and link it back to everything at the root level that we know.
Check 4: Do you try and create leverage for yourself?
Leverage is what differentiates success and failure. Influence is like a rocketship for your business. Business success is always about who gets first, remember? And leverage is what gives the company that momentum, scale, and spread. Without leverage, businesses will start well and die in few years after burning all the cash and energy.
Successful entrepreneurs understand leverage. Leverage happens when you begin to be the pull of the market. The force is what attracts investors, influencers, and key people in that space to your business. They, in return, bring leverage.
What is leverage in real terms? A few examples — Connections with kingmakers, capital from investors, a great leadership team that no one else can easily emulate, unique access to talent or raw material or manufacturing, the ability to write code, decades of knowledge gained in a specific topic giving a compound effect, an innovative business model meant to scale at 10X the rate than others. It can be anything but it is what makes you the best in what you set out to do.
Have you spent years building this leverage for yourself? Leverage is not something that happens over night. It is not built with an end goal in mind. It is something that you have built over the years which attracts the right kind of luck.
Entrepreneurs are not superheroes. They are good at asking and building continuous leverage for themselves. They are excellent dot connectors.
Check 5: Do you reflect on your life, regularly?
Reflect. Review. Measure. Assess. Whatever you call it. Do you spend consistent and continuous-time reflecting on what is working and what is not working?
Without pausing on what we do now and and truly reflecting on the progress or the lack of it, we cannot be successful. There is no such thing as luck. What is not measured does not yield.
I know of a simple method to keep track without being overly obsessive about it. Which is?
I keep a vision board or a planning board or whatever you would like to call it. This board is hanging right in front of my desk. And I keep my topmost priorities written down on sticky notes or actual pictures hanging.
And I review, every weekend, these top priorities, the results and change course to move in the right direction. This reflection every week has helped me to come with great alternatives instead of sticking to what is not working.
No fancy excel, tracking tools etc. Just a friendly reminder time and again about priorities and results. This helps, big time.
At those times when I was not reflecting, I was moving very fast on a double-blinded path to nowhere.
There could be many more criteria that could make a successful entrepreneur. But these are bare minimum to even stay afloat.
Thoughts? Anything I missed out ? What is your list? Please comment. It would be great to hear.