The Most Important Attribute For Entrepreneurs

Private equiteers screen hundreds of businesses every year. Albeit from a purely outside in perspective, over time we get a sense of what kind of attributes make a successful entrepreneur. Here’s my take on it.

The #1 ingredient to success in building a business has little to do with ideas, execution, education, connections, or locale. It’s something much cheaper, much easier, and requiring much less skill. In that sense, success in business is much like keeping fit and healthy.

Back in the ol’ days, it took a lot of effort to get enough food to maintain health. You had to chase animals, kill them, skin them, cook them, etc. Now, you just dial Dominos and can over-eat to your heart’s discontent. So, rather than chase animals to keep healthy (which is very hard work), we just have to stop putting nasty food into our mouths (relatively easy). Sounds crazy in the context of Sub-Saharan Africans dying from starvation. But I digress. Success in business is very similar; it’s more psychological than physical or skillful.

So here it is, the #1 ingredient to success in business, especially in the context of the growth stage where the entrepreneur has an out-sized impact on the business, is Hustle… which generally means being resourceful and uninhibited in going after what your business needs most. Not what you’re willing to do most, but what the business needs most (big difference). I know what you’re thinking, “I already do that.” Well, I bet you don’t. But don’t worry, neither do I. And since admission is the first step to recovery, we’re making good progress. Consider the following to demonstrate this concept:

  • Make a list of the things your business would most benefit from
  • Forget convention, forget inhibitions, even forget morals, laws and ethics (for a moment)
  • Items may include, contact Steve Jobs, get PR via popular TV shows, paint your company’s name onto the side of Air Force One, call the CEOs of all your competitors, call your top 100 customers, run naked through the streets handing out PR material, etc.
  • Items shouldn’t include, update CRM, do SEO, lodge my tax return, post on blog every day, make a couple of sales calls, etc., they MUST be things that will add MASSIVE value to your business
  • Don’t ponder the items, just write them down before you find reasons not to add them; forget reasons, just think “value”
  • Now, look at the list, consider each item and watch yourself rationalise not following through

If you have your hustle on, you’ll do most of the items. If you don’t have your hustle on, you’ll make excuses. “Oh, Steve Jobs won’t answer my email. That TV show won’t have me on. I’ll do that task tomorrow. I’ll be arrested and charged with treason. Etc.” If you had your hustle on, you’d think, “there is no tomorrow, there’s only right now!”

Of course you shouldn’t do anything too illegal, but err on the side of taking chances (certain jails are way too horrific to teach you any worthwhile lessons). And before you get all holy-than-thou, remember it can be illegal (in some places) to put up posters, market to the public, or run around naked. But I very much doubt people will go too crazy; the real risk is in being too mediocre.

I guarantee if every day you made that list and did everything on it (that didn’t lead to a Colombian jail), you’d be many times more successful. Just like keeping fit and healthy, success in business doesn’t depend on skill, it depends on excuses (or lack thereof). What do you think? Am I talking nonsense?


Entrepreneurship, Ideas

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