“Success leaves clues,” says Tony Robbins.
Perhaps that’s what Robert Jordan, author of How They Did It: Billion Dollar Insights, was thinking when he compiled interviews from 45 leading founders who created $41 billion from scratch.
Mr. Jordan also likely understood that many entrepreneurs thrive when they are allowed “under the hood” of someone else’s success. It’s helpful to hear what worked and didn’t, especially if the story is from the same space as your business.
Being an entrepreneur and having coached many others, I appreciated the quotes I’ve shared below the most because these are the challenges I see time and again in my clients.
- You need enough capital and a little more. “Everything isn’t going to go well in the first couple of years, and you need to get to cash-flow positive. You don’t want to be going back for a second round when everything isn’t going well.” (J William DeVille, Health Personnel Options)
- You need to see the glass half full rather than half empty. “You have to have the perspective and the personality that, when these bumps, mountains, or doglegs happen, you don’t focus on everything that’s wrong. You continue to be optimistic and to move forward to solve the problems.” (Bonnie Baskin, ViroMed Laboratories, AppTec)
- Surround yourself with great folks, and it gets a lot easier. “You’re very hesitant to fire your first employees, but a lot of times, the company outgrows their abilities or takes on a different direction. I tell everyone that the only constant around here is change.” (David Becker, Virtual Financial Services)
- You can be a leader without being the best at everything. “Like in basketball – you don’t need to be the best outside shooter or the big guy. You can play a role. Working with others, giving people credit. Give and take. Knowing how to make hard decisions.” (Jeff Aronin, Ovation Pharmaceuticals)
- Execution is everything. “Even if you start a business with the wrong idea or too many competitors, you can out-execute all the other ideas in the right market. What I mean by execution is the ability to do what you’re setting out to do and then being able to zig when the market zags.” (Dick Costolo, FeedBurner)
- You learn more from bad times than from good. “You learn more from complaints than from compliments. I always discount compliments I get from customers because I think a lot of times they’re just being nice. The complaints – those are real.” (Jim Dolan, The Dolan Company)
- At some point, you need to let go of control. “Many founders think they need to be in control even when the company has evolved beyond them. You need to know your limitations and, if necessary, find people who are more adept at running the company and taking it to the next level.” (Tony Faras, MGI Pharma)
- You are who you hire. “If the person who hired you is smart and nice, the people that person hires will be smart and nice. If the person who does the hiring is smart and a jerk, you’re going to end up with a log of smart jerks.” (Ron Galowich, First Health)
- A business needs momentum. “You try to think ahead and be sure that whatever surprises come up, you are prepared to move ahead aggressively and positively. The last thing an entrepreneur wants when starting a business is to lose momentum.” (Bill Bantz, Pathogenesis)
- Ship early and iterate. “Get some kind of product out early so that you start getting feedback from customers. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because you’re doomed if that launch fails. With feedback, you can hone your products.” (Roland Green, NimbleGen)
Go Deeper Into the Most Relevant Details
If you found the quotes above helpful, consider reading more of their stories found within the book. Because the book is thick with stories from 45 entrepreneurs, you likely won’t be able to use it all. Instead of trying to take it all in, work with the information that resonates the most with where you are now and where you see your business going.
Get Specialized Personalized Support
If, after reading through this book, you are looking for personalized direction, consider making the investment to work with an adviser or strategic planner. Ideally, the person you work with has real-world experience in an industry similar to yours.
Be Kind to Yourself
If you do read the full book, you’ll learn that many of these entrepreneurs failed many times before winning big. Remember, you’re seeing their stories after they made it, not while they were digging and trying. Be patient and persistent. Follow the clues others have left. And above all, remember to be kind to yourself; being an entrepreneur is a roller coaster, and you’ll only survive the motion sickness if you take care of yourself along the way.