Creativity incessantly sparks in the minds of entrepreneurs — it is part of their nature. But, to be successful, entrepreneurs must be able to set aside new ideas and focus on growing a business.
But what other skill-sets must entrepreneurs have in order to thrive? To find out, we spoke with Michael Schneider, CEO of Mobile Roadie; Tara Roth, president of the Goldhirsh Foundation; and Bryan Wolff, CFO of DogVacay.
Entrepreneurs are told no — a lot. But regardless of how much rejection an entrepreneur faces, he or she must not let it deter them from their goals; persistence is key. “With investments, you may go through 100 nos, but you need only one yes,” said Mobile Roadie CEO Michael Schneider (pictured right), who adds that the same could be said of the hiring process. Stick-to-itiveness is vital to the success of an entrepreneurial idea.
Clear Your Mind
Along with being persistent, Schneider said entrepreneurs must develop an ability to turn their minds off and not constantly worry about what could go wrong. When he has been asked to share with someone the biggest challenges of entrepreneurship, he has said, “being able to sleep well at night. Turning your brain off and not worrying about the millions of things that could go wrong — the next day, the next quarter, the next year — is a skill,” Schneider said.
Every entrepreneur will face uncertainty. Those who are successful are able to cope with uncertainty at a high level for a long period of time. “Being able to be uncomfortable for a while [is a skill],” Schneider said. “Not necessarily knowing where your next paycheck is going to come from, not knowing how you’re going to make payroll, not knowing who is going to invest in your company – most humans can’t deal with that level of uncertainty.” Entrepreneurs need to be able to execute even when dealing with dire circumstances.
Follow a Routine
This is a skill that enables entrepreneurs to perfect other skills, and ultimately, leads to success. Every entrepreneur needs to carve out some time in each day that is devoted to something cathartic, something separate from the chaotic frenzy of phone calls, emails and meetings. “The first three hours of my day, nobody messes with,” said Schneider, who wakes up early each day, works out and eats a fulfilling breakfast. He was nearly bankrupt in 2009, and he swears this is true as much now as it was then: his morning routine is the only thing that keeps him sane. Make the time; routinely do whatever is necessary to stay grounded.
With that said, entrepreneurs must possess a fervent passion for their product, service or program. Tara Roth (pictured left), President of the Goldhirsh Foundation, said this quote by 19th-century Indian mystic Sri Ramakrishna is always top of mind: “Do not seek enlightenment unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks the pond.” Substitute enlightenment with creation or entrepreneurship, and the quote states an unwritten rule for entrepreneurs: be passionate and project it to investors, vendors and employees.
Entrepreneurs must have knowledge behind their passion; what is it that makes you care about your product? Is it sheer innovation that drives you? Are you primarily motivated by its potential as a commercial success? Roth said those are questions entrepreneurs need to answer, and once they identify the underlying motivation, they need to be true to what they want. Authenticity resonates with potential partners and prompts them to take you and your product seriously.
Entrepreneurs are typically bursting with creativity, but to be successful, they must channel that energy into one idea for an appropriate amount of time. “Entrepreneurs by virtue of finding some innovative approach to something are visionary and usually very dynamic,” Roth said. “They might not be the right person to fully scale or extend a brand, product or service because they want to go create.” Successful entrepreneurs put that creativity on hold and commit to the task in front of them. Stable, dedicated leadership comforts parties that might take a risk on the product.
In addition to being committed, entrepreneurs must be charismatic. “Excellent entrepreneurs are always selling and attracting others,” DogVacay CFO Bryan Wolff (pictured right) wrote in an email. Entrepreneurs constantly need to inspire employees, impress investors and convince customers that a given product is valuable to them. Any entrepreneur comes to learn that much of doing business boils down to likability. A little charm goes a long way.
The best entrepreneurs know their limits, strengths and weaknesses. Or, as Wolff put it, “The least self-aware CEOs are always the ones that get fired.” Be aware of your capabilities, and hire accordingly.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get out of the way and let your team get to work,” Wolff wrote. Being self-aware gives entrepreneurs the ability to be humble, a skill that keeps everything focused and in perspective. Entrepreneurs cannot meddle in the work of other team members; they must trust the team they assembled to do quality work.
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