I’ve been in and around business now for 15 years, both starting and investing in businesses – 33 companies and counting – and what I’ve noticed is that there are recurring characteristics that all great entrepreneurs have.
3 Key Things They Have
1. Products They Use
Now this may sound trivial and you might be like, “What are you talking about, use your own product?!” Trust me when I say this, when I meet an entrepreneur and things aren’t going well, the first question I ask them is, “Are YOU still using your product?” Most companies are started because the entrepreneur had a problem and wanted to solve it. If you started off building a product for your own problem and you’ve evolved, and find yourself no longer using your product, that’s a BIG RED FLAG! I see this happen all the time. When entrepreneurs pivot away from their passion for the product – they end up not being a user and they don’t get the feedback anymore.
For example, if you started a healthy chain of restaurants and all of a sudden you catch yourself eating crap like McDonalds or Burger King or any other fatty crap – then you have no context as to who your customer is! If you are creating this super healthy, organic restaurant, then re-connect with that, because all great entrepreneurs are ridiculously passionate and maniacal about their own product.
2. Ridiculous Passion For Their Company
Now a lot of people talk about passion and how you have to be passionate about your idea. For me, when I was growing up, my dad always said, “If you could only find something that wasn’t going to get you into trouble and that you are passionate about, you could do wonders in the world!” And he was right. When I discovered technology and writing code, my life changed.
The best answer I’ve ever heard about why it’s important to have passion when building your business, was from Steve Jobs. When he was explaining this, he said that the one thing that every entrepreneur needed was passion. When everything else gets super hard, when the rest of the world is pushing back on you and it just feels like it’s impossible to move forward – it’s BECAUSE you are passionate about your company – that you’re going to push through and that’s the reason why your company eventually will go on to be successful. Without passion, any sane person would have given up.
I love the way he framed that because passion is such a requirement to build an amazing company, and it’s what I’ve seen in all GREAT entrepreneurs.
3. Hard Problems To Solve
I don’t mean to scare you if you are not one of these people who are trying to change the world, or are trying to solve some crazy medical challenge or technological challenge. I’m talking about GREAT entrepreneurs, not mediocre, not good, not just ok… I’m talking about world class, game changing, change the world and leave a dent in the Universe kind of entrepreneurs… the problems that they are solving are really freaking hard!
Think about the problems Elon Musk is solving with SpaceX which launches rocket ships into space with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets; and Tesla, the first profitable all-electric car company and one of the first new car companies to launch in the United States in over 50 years; and SolarCity, which is trying to build a new way of energizing the planet and the world we live in. These are all ridiculously hard problems to solve and why I think pound for pound, Elon Musk is probably one of the best entrepreneurs of the century.
It’s true for all of the great entrepreneurs out there, from; Steve Jobs, Ryan Holmes (Hootsuite), Aaron Levie (Box) and Brian & Joe (Airbnb). As a consumer, when you use their products, you go, “Wow! The product experience is so great and it’s so easy.” Trust me, you do not understand the amount of hours that get put into every single decision to create this amazing product experience.
What If I Don’t Have These?
You may not even have the aspiration to become a great entrepreneur – maybe you just want to create enough revenue or income to pay your bills and create some kind of freedom in your life – that’s totally cool!
But if you do have aspirations to become a great entrepreneur, remember these three things that all GREAT entrepreneurs have in common: passion about their company, they use their own product, and they are solving ridiculously hard problems. If that’s not you, that’s ok! You don’t have to start with all three and you don’t have to have them all. You can actually edit your way into making it a 3 for 3. But again, I’m saying that this is for GREAT entrepreneurs
Hopefully you’ve found this useful and I want to challenge you to really “stack up” your business success and go for growth!
Did I miss any? What do you think it takes to become a GREAT entrepreneur? Leave a comment below with your answers.