If you're like me... you wonder what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the ones who never make it out of the gate. In my years of working with entrepreneurs, I've learned that these people aren't inherently brilliant, special or different; they just have an intimate understanding of the following six things:
1. Vision and Visibility Are Not the Same Things
While vision is a grand idea that will change the world (or at least your startup's little corner of it), visibility is what you can see/do/act upon that will get you to your next milestone. By understanding the difference between the two, you can become a more effective entrepreneur starting now.
2. Products That Are a Mile Wide and an Inch Deep Fail
Attempting to be all things to all customers is impossible. This is a surefire way to burn out, fall short and fail. Like the Geico commercial, "Everybody knows that...". The difference is that Super Entrepreneurs make the hard decision of saying no to many things so they can be great at 1 thing.
3. Being First to Market Is Overrated
While most founders assume they need to do something new to be successful, this is not the case. Remember: pioneers take arrows; settlers take land. Being first to blaze trails is exciting, but it also means you're the one solving the hard problems. In addition to learning who the customer is, you'll also need to learn what their needs are and figure out how to solve them. Instead, great companies stand on the shoulders of giants. Remember: Facebook wasn't the first social network, and Google wasn't the first search engine.
4. The Martian Is the Greatest Documentary on Entrepreneurship of All Time
If you've seen The Martian, you've learned some important things about starting up. In this movie, Matt Damon is stranded on Mars. He's got limited food, no way home and no way to communicate with Earth. To make sense of his situation, he defines all of the things that can (and probably will) kill him. He names the #1 problem on the list, and then he fixes it. By systemically identifying and solving his problems, Matt Damon finds a way to survive, communicate with Earth and secure a ride home.
While nobody is advocating getting stranded on Mars for a crash-course in startup life, building a new product or company can be overwhelming, and the experiences aren't altogether dissimilar. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world know that there will always be another problem lurking in the wings, and the only thing they can do to move forward is to focus on the top problem first. Solve it, and the next problem gets a promotion.
This keeps the process organized and you focused.
5. Differentiating with Purpose Is Essential
While most entrepreneurs understand the importance of differentiation, differentiation alone is rarely enough to win. You must be 10 times better, faster or cheaper to ever get noticed or to change people's behavior. With this in mind, don't be seduced by the siren song of mass differentiation. Substance always wins over sizzle, and staying true to your purpose and vision is critical.
6. Aim Small So You Miss Small
The best way to go big is to avoid losing big. The best entrepreneurs shoot for a succession of small wins, fast cycle times and small course corrections. Wasting 50 percent of your money building web and mobile apps your customers don't care about puts you in the hole, and great entrepreneurs don't risk going into the red because of a mistake. The climb out of the hole is all but impossible. By setting small goals, smart founders move forward intentionally and avoid massive pitfalls along the way.
The Day You Became a Better Entrepreneur
While it's easy to view successful founders as gods, they're just privy to six important knowledge points that help them innovate more effectively. The great news is that now you are, too.
If you are starting a new product journey and would like to chat about your approach, you can schedule some time on my calendar here.