I have covered the subject of fundraising extensively in this blog and also in my book The Art of Startup Fundraising, since fundraising is one of the critical pieces to building a hyper growth business. However, it is not the only factor that drives the success of an entrepreneur.
Given my current role, I see hundreds of entrepreneurs executing on their dream every week. There are certain qualities that come into play that I have noticed as repeated patterns on the wildly successful entrepreneurs that I‘ve had the honor to work with at Onevest, which is one of the largest ecosystems for entrepreneurs and investors. The qualities are as follows:
1) Having honesty and integrity
You need to be honest with yourself and everyone that you deal with. That includes your employees, your investors, and your customers. As Warrant Buffet states takes a lifetime to build your reputation and 5 minutes to destroy it.
Be your word. Do what you say when you say you are going to do it and have a high standard when it comes to integrity. Work hard on fulfilling your promises and in the event there is a small chance of breaking your word be in communication and clean it up with whomever you need to do so.
Integrity starts with knowing one’s own true-self through constant self-examination. It is very difficult to move forward in any meaningful way if we have no sense of who we are, what we think is important and what we ultimately desire.
Remember that the culture and the way your employees live and breathe is ultimately a reflection of yourself. If you don‘t hold yourself accountable on this front don‘t expect your people to follow.
2) Great recruiters
The best entrepreneurs are those that are able to hire top talent. People that are better than you or that have certain skills that you are lacking. We are not perfect as human beens so there will be clear weaknesses that you will have as a professional.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see is always related to ego. Founders that are scared from bringing onboard someone else that is smarter than them and that they see as a potential threat to them in the business. I find that egos takes people nowhere and for that reason the ego needs to be checked at the door and left behind at the door step.
There is nothing like building trust here. Entrepreneurs that nail it on this front are those that are good with building strong networks and support systems around them. By doing this they are able to tap into their network for referrals for people that already come introduced by someone they already trust which has a social proof attached to it.
Networks and recruiting can also be applied to fundraising when trying to obtain an introduction to an investor that would be the perfect fit for your company. Especially when you are looking for an investor to lead your round of funding. I teach this in detail during the Fundraising Certification, which is a 3 week comprehensive course where entrepreneurs learn everything related to fundraising.
3) Mastery at listening
Communicating is key. Everything is a conversation in life. For that reason there is nothing like being able to listen to those that surround you. You will need to be patient and learn as much as you can from your customers. Some of the questions you will need to have answered will include:
- What made your customer choose you over competitors?
- What are your competitors doing better than you?
- What would your customer miss if he or she could not use your service/product any longer?
- What is the one big thing you are missing?
- How likely are your customers to recommend your business to a friend?
As Jeff Bezos from Amazon states, the best way to accelerate the growth of your business is by being able to understand customer behavior. In order to get there you will need to have hundreds of conversations. The best learning will definitely come from angry customers.
Moreover, you also need to do a good job at listening to your employees. You may know how you want to get from point A to point Z but this needs to be clearly laid out to your people. This will be a process that will take multiple conversations and that as a result will generate team alignment which will impact the trust that your employees have in you, the business, and the future that they see for themselves with your venture.
I‘d like to highlight that the best entrepreneurs are not those that are visionaries. The best are those that know how to sale. In order to kill it with sales you need to be able to master listening so that you can address concerns. If you are able to improve your sales you will also bring great talent as well as strategic investors. The recipe for ultimate success on this front is to combine listening and storytelling.
4) Very high confidence
There will be very tough times that you will have to face when you are building your business from the ground up. The disappointment will come in all kinds of flavors such as market surprises, people breaching your trust, threats from competitors, etc. For that reason you need to have confidence in yourself and knowing what you need in order to get there.
Take as an example Elon Musk. He is the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and Solar Energy. In addition to that he also founded Paypal which he sold to eBay for over a billion dollars. One story that got stack with me is when I heard his mother speaking at how Musk would wake up in the morning with his pillow full of tears from crying. This happened when 3 of his businesses where about to file for bankruptcy all at the same time. However, he never gave up and kept pushing. The result is history. He is now worth over $10B and has changed the world with electric cars and sending rockets to Mars.
The above example from Musk is very important. The reason for this is because even if you are not noticing it your team takes a lot of cues from you. If you push to the limits they will do the same. If you give up then… they will also give up.
It really comes a long way for example in fundraising when you see entrepreneurs with a high degree of confidence. It really doesn‘t matter how steep the learning curve may be or how challenging the industry is. If you have such confidence you will have investors jump onboard to share the journey with you. Actually If you are thinking about fundraising you can access the free pitch deck template below which has been used by thousands of entrepreneurs to raise millions.
ACCESS FREE PITCH DECK TEMPLATE
ACCESS FREE PITCH DECK TEMPLATE
5) Strong commitment
There is nothing like being able to lead by example as the founder of the company. Do the tasks that no one wants to take on like cleaning the bathroom, eat last, take the most uncomfortable seat at the table during meals, etc. Even though these things may seam stupid they do come a long way in order to encourage others to follow you.
By proving your commitment to them and to the brand you will be in a great position to earn the respect from your colleagues as well as their loyalty. This will ultimately impact your culture which will be the main driver behind the success of your company.
6) Positive attitude and optimistic
You will always be responsible for the energy that you bring to the table. It is key that you learn how to motivate your people and how you have optimism in each one of your projects. No one wants to be part of a project where the picture does not look bright.
Entrepreneurs are already an optimistic breed. As Laura Entis points out, research confirms entrepreneurs are afflicted with the ‘optimism bias,’ a tendency to view the glass as half full backed by the belief that negative events are what happens to other people. This is particularly true, one study found. The more times you step up to bat, of course, the greater the likelihood that you’ll hit a home run. But most of us aren’t wired that way. We strike out, so we decide that maybe baseball isn’t for us after all. It’s a reasonable, rational response: we learn from our dismal performance, and are no longer as optimistic about our baseball abilities.
Some strategies you can use to improve optimism include:
- Painting a positive future
- Sleeping well and taking naps
- Drinking a lot of water
- Follow a healthy diet
- Avoid people that bring you down unless the have constructive feedback
- Give time to yourself
7 ) Creativity
Creativity is a key component. You will need to come up with new strategies and ideas to implement to your business either when things are not working or to improve things that already have a good performance. This creativity will come a long way when closing financing rounds, strategic partnerships, or big customers.
One of the most important things here is to be able to learn how to think outside of the box. Sometimes when you are building your own business is hard to do this. Some techniques you can use to help you in doing such thing include:
- Change locations
- Brainstorm with advisors
- Dream about how you would like to see your business in the future
- Setup goals and parameters
When leading a team through uncharted waters, there is no roadmap on what to do. Everything is uncertain, and the higher the risk, the higher the pressure. Like Steve Jobs has stated several times you will need to follow your gut feeling.
There will be many choices that you will need to make during the journey of building your own venture. All these choices could make or break your company and for that reason it is crucial that you are able to take a step back and analyze which of them might be the best one to make.
As Silvia Pavlova puts it, entrepreneurs love risks but they always calculate them. Entrepreneurs love action, but always know where the first step is going to be and where the end of the road is. Entrepreneurs follow their dreams but also they have a clear idea how to turn it into reality. Intuition plays a key role in entrepreneurship and it is important to trust the power of your inner voice.
9) Inspiring and charismatic
I would encourage you to use the move, touch, and inspire mentality. Look for ways in which you can mentor and coach your employees to be the best at what they do and to take their strengths and capabilities to the next level. Employees want to be not only part of a successful company but also part of a project in which they can develop themselves. They need to see personal growth at stake by being involved with your company.
The best way to inspire people is to acknowledge them for projects or tasks they have done well. Perhaps you could allocate a time during team meetings where you allow employees to acknowledge one another in public. There is nothing like being acknowledged as it will give a sense of caring by you and other people in the company.
Charisma comes with authenticity. Be yourself and don‘t try to be someone else. People will notice really fast if you are a fake.
Stay humble and make sure that everyone else follows suit. It will have a negative impact on the culture if employees see a barrier between them and management where they are not comfortable reaching out to the top executives to share some feedback or perhaps some concerns.
As an example, Apple developed a very interesting corporate structure. Even tho they are one of the biggest companies they still operate as a startup with how their reporting works. This is very different from other large corporations where you have a nonsense hierarchy full of friction when it comes down to communication.
Always be approachable and allocate some time every week to listen and communicate with your employees. Remember their names, ask them about their kids, husband or wife, their vacation plans, etc. All that will make a big difference as employees will feel that you appreciate them.