Qualities of an Entrepreneur – Part 5 of 5

This post concludes the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s BizWiz student venture group‘s discussion about:

  1. “If you could hang out with any entrepreneur or leader, who would that be?”
  2. “Why did you choose that person – what quality do they have that you admire and would want to learn from him or her?”

I think this is probably the most importantly quality of all:

Entrepreneur Quality Number 5 – The Ability to Make the Impossible Possible

After we had talked about “outside the box” thinking, and being innovative, someone (sorry I don’t recall who), said they admired Thomas Edison for his ability to “make the impossible possible”.

The minute that I heard that phrase, I knew I liked it a lot better than “outside the box thinking”.  First of all, it has the magic word “make” in the phrase.  Entrepreneurs make things.  They don’t just think things (i.e. “think outside the box”).  Making stuff is a key attribute of every successful startup that I’ve seen.  They all start making their product from day one – they don’t “think” for a long time, go get some funding based solely on some idea, and then eventually maybe someday make something.  They make first – or concurrently.

I also love the idea of turning the impossible into the possible.  Isn’t that what we do when we find some unmet market need – or some unique differentiator – or some product or service that is completely novel?  Sure, once you’ve done it and people see that it is possible, all of the armchair quarterbacks will talk about how obvious it is – but before they saw what you did, it was impossible for all intents and purposes.  Even the armchair quarterbacks will have to agree that before you made your innovation, it was absolutely impossible for customers to achieve the value that your innovation now makes possible.

Entrepreneurs show the world that it is possible to provide value that was previously thought impossible, often in ways that were also thought impossible.  Is that cool or what!

Well, here ends this short series.  It’s probably time for you to quit reading anyway – and go make something!

Qualities of an Entrepreneur – Part 4 of 5

This post continues the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s BizWiz student venture group‘s discussion about:

  1. “If you could hang out with any entrepreneur or leader, who would that be?”
  2. “Why did you choose that person – what quality do they have that you admire and would want to learn from him or her?”

Entrepreneur Quality Number 4 – Ability to Rebound

When you get knocked down, do you get up again?  Are they never going to keep you down?

If so, you may have the makings of an entrepreneur.  Yeah, we did say in earlier posts that decisiveness and holding strong opinions were admired qualities.  But, you have to be willing to change.

Markets constantly change.  Customers constantly change.  A strong opinion that was spot on two years ago in any technology field would probably look silly and naive today.  The facts upon which that opinion was formed will have changed dramatically.

Today’s buzzword seems to be “pivot”.  The best entrepreneurs look for ways to test their business models (i.e. their opinions of how the world works viz. a viz. their business), and then pivot in response to the results.  In the blogroll for this blog you’ll find a link to Steve Blank’s blog – the best (imho) advice about business models, testing, and pivoting.

One more thing.  Sometimes stuff just happens.  All of your assumptions may be right, your business model may be spot on – but some accident or event outside your control can happen (ask any shrimp fisherman on the Louisiana coast).

How you respond and rebound from adversity – and how you notice and respond to changes in your market – can make the difference between a resilient strong. growing venture, and one that gives up, fades away, and dies.

Qualities of an Entrepreneur – Part 3 of 5

This post continues the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s BizWiz student venture group‘s discussion about:

  1. “If you could hang out with any entrepreneur or leader, who would that be?”
  2. “Why did you choose that person – what quality do they have that you admire and would want to learn from him or her?”

Entrepreneur Quality Number 3 – Be a Charismatic Marketer and an Inspiring Leader

Take a guess who received the most mentions as a “charismatic marketer”.  Did you say the master of the black turtleneck, Steve Jobs?  Regardless of whether you love or hate Apple, you have to admit that the guy is a darn good front man.  His presentation style has been talked about and written about a lot, including this presentation on SlideShare.

But, don’t you think that it goes a LONG WAY past mere presentation style?  The guy is the number one advocate for his venture and its products.  He never wavers.  He is uber confident.  He is SO into his products that it rubs off on you a bit.

One more thing.   If you listen to the press talk about Jobs, you will quickly find that he inspires people.  An alien stopping off at our planet would wonder just exactly what an Apple Fanboy is and what they are all doing hanging out outside those glass-front buildings overnight.  But, the mere fact that Apple has fans who line up outside stores overnight, sometimes even when they aren’t sure exactly what product will be announced, is a sure fire sign that they have been inspired.

And, although we hear less about it, he also inspires the people who work with him in his venture to create products that wow people.  Products that don’t compromise, but hold onto a vision of excellence that started with a guy in a black turtleneck at the top of the venture.

Wouldn’t you like a crowd of fans lining up to buy your stuff and hanging on your every word?  And a group of employees that shares your vision for excellence?  I can’t think of an entrepreneur who wouldn’t.

Qualities of an Entrepreneur – Part 2 of 5

This post continues the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s BizWiz student venture group‘s discussion about:

  1. “If you could hang out with any entrepreneur or leader, who would that be?”
  2. “Why did you choose that person – what quality do they have that you admire and would want to learn from him or her?”

The second quality, or rather combination of qualities, of the top 5 provoked the most discussion.

Entrepreneur Quality Number 2 – Be Decisive, Be Evil – and Win!

The quality of decisiveness was cited first.  It was cited that some strong leaders tend to make good decisions, and it would be nice to know how they think.  As we discussed this, it became apparent that but it is not just the “rightness” of their decisions that is an important quality, but rather the pure decisiveness itself.  The fact is that they just plain make decisions – for right or wrong, they are decisive, not hesitant or wishy-washy – and that quality alone is valuable.

As you might guess, the discussion ranged around the “Be Evil – and Win”.  That particular reference stems from a scene in Pirates of Silicon Valley where Bill Gates persuades (or tricks via some sweet social engineering) Steve Jobs into giving him some pre-release Macs. That scene had stuck with Ray of Guild Press.

Although he articulated it with the words “be evil”, Ray didn’t really mean to suggest that you actually be evil (as in intentionally hurting people).  His concept is a bit more subtle.  Be evil and win == always be aware that you need to move your business forward and go after it unapologetically.  Let me repeat that – unapologetically.  You are in business for yourself – keep your self interest first.  No one else is going to do it for you!  It is OK to be selfish about your venture.  Bill’s job was to further Microsoft’s agenda – not Apple’s, so that is exactly what he did.

The “and win” is a nice reminder that you are not alone.  Others will be out there unapologetically acting in their venture’s self interest.  If you don’t take care of yours, you could lose – and that could mean folding a venture.

Qualities of an Entrepreneur – Part 1 of 5

At the Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s last BizWiz student entrepreneurship meeting, we had a discussion around two questions.

  1. “If you could hang out with any entrepreneur or leader, who would that be?”
  2. “Why did you choose that person – what quality do they have that you admire and would want to learn from him or her?”

The entrepreneurs cited were pretty diverse (but tended to be skewed toward gamers and technologists – go figure).  Gates and Jobs were the only entrepreneurs cited multiple times.  The others included Kevin Rose, the founders of Blizzard, Robert Bowling, Adam Savage, Napoleon Hill, Sam Walton, Leo Laporte, Thomas Edison, Dana White, Esther Dyson, and Michael Arrington.

We ended up with a list of five essential qualities that we felt an entrepreneur should possess.  I’ll cover each of those one at a time this week.

Entrepreneur Quality Number 1 – Form and Hold Strong Opinions

We had already gone around the table, and everyone had already given an opinion when Justin of Guild Press suggested he wanted to add another.  He suggested Michael Arrington (TechCrunch).  The reason he gave at first was that although Michael or his opinions aren’t always particularly liked, Michael had indeed created a hugely successful readership.

As we discussed the “why” in  more detail, it became apparent that it wasn’t just the following or readership that was as important as it was Michael’s ability to form and stick to an opinion, regardless of what others around him thought (or in his case, wrote, said, commented, broadcast, or otherwise published about him and/or his opinion).

We decided it deserved to be in the top 5 because without the ability for form a strong opinion, you may never get a venture started to begin with, and without the ability to hold onto that opinion in the face of detractors, you may not keep your venture going in the face of adversity.