10 things that great entrepreneurs do
1. Choose one thing and be strong in it.
Startups are small. Resources are limited. You almost always compete with bigger guys that exist much longer than you. Great entrepreneurs know to be competitive and to win, they have to do something truly unique, or very, very good. They, as a rule, direct their energy to that one thing, and an attempt to please everyone and everything at the same time is the key to failure.
2. Examine your customers far and wide
The first question I ask each startup to answer is: “Who is your client?”. Of course, I want to know who their customers are, but I also check them if they know their customers. First-class founders study their customer base inside and out, conduct customer surveys at every opportunity, how and how the product helps in their lives. But sometimes I get a strange answer: “Everything.” Knowledgeable people understand that they cannot reach “everyone” because they do not have a bottomless marketing budget. It is most correct to think about which types of people will be the best customers, for which you need to spend a lot of time deciding how to get to them cheaply and effectively.
3. Get advice from everyone, but know which one to apply.
I talked to a UX designer at IDEO last year, who began advising a startup, but was afraid that I would lead them in the wrong direction. I replied that they were very lucky with her, and that it was their duty to understand the differences between good and bad advice. Start-up entrepreneurs get advice all the time, but the great ones know which ones to use and which ones don’t, even if a person is very powerful. I heard that good investors give horrible advice to the founders. Great founders can see the difference. They require different opinions, but they know that there are differences between bad advice and bad contact, and they do not risk a relationship with good contact, being rude or openly dismissive.
4. Ask for help
Great entrepreneurs seek help from anyone who can be helpful. I even know one company founder who asked a minority shareholder to give up his share in exchange for nothing … and the investor agreed. Great founders know that in order to get something, you need to ask for it, therefore, they ask. And asking is always free!
5. Take notes and watch.
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I am constantly surprised by one thing – when I meet with young businessmen and founders of companies, and they come to a meeting with nothing, i.e. they do not have a notebook in their hands where they could write important information. It makes me constantly wonder if they want to remember our meeting at all (otherwise, why did they ask for it?) I am very accurate in my advice, as a rule, these are recommendations of 5-10 bloggers, websites, articles, case studies and startups that are hard to remember. Great people not only take notes, but will definitely follow if there is something I forgot to do.
6. Talk about your business with energy and enthusiasm.
First-class entrepreneurs are able to sell their idea to investors, customers, partners and the jury of the competition, because they know how to express their thoughts so that the average person can understand well and quickly remember, but the details can make an impression inside the market. Great entrepreneurs know how to describe things to others quite well. Once I worked with a startup that did it so well that we were called by friends whose colleagues asked us to find out how to purchase the product.
7. Sell yourself, not just a startup
Beginner businessmen know that they are faced with a difficult dilemma, how to convince people that they are worth the investment of time and money. Thus, they sell not only the product, but also themselves. They may be funny, interesting, smart, hardworking or experienced, but they know how to make people want to help them. Consulting firms famously hire people who pass the “airport test” (when an interview with a candidate takes place at the airport while waiting for departure). Outstanding founders are aware of this. It is much easier to meet with a potential investor if they think it will be fun and interesting, regardless of the startup.
Everyone knows that networking is important for the founder of a startup, but truly great ones know how to establish useful connections so as not to waste time. Some of the most valuable contacts may never come to typical startup events — like lawyers whose clients are venture capitalists, industry conference organizers, or people who have good contacts with investors.