Working with hundreds of folks each year who have an idea that they want to build into a business, I’ve seen every kind of approach to entrepreneurship, and every type of mindset. Some view it only as a way to make fabulous money, some are passionate about their cause, others have finely-crafted 5-year plans, and others yet adhere to a “Build It and They Will Come” philosophy and don’t worry about plans. I’ve come to believe that, regardless of your approach, there is one essential ingredient entrepreneurs need to avoid failure, and that is a fierce ongoing commitment to stretching yourself – and your enterprise — to the highest heights you can achieve in service of your customer, and the world.
To test out that idea, I caught up Elton Rivas for his take. A serial entrepreneur, triathlete, speaker, and passionate entrepreneurial supporter, Elton is the co-founder of KYN, a new type of accelerator for startups. Well versed in the challenges of launching a company, Elton is the founder/co-founder/advisor of businesses ranging from construction to footwear to tech startups. Elton has a background in corporate marketing, but left that world behind with a goal to reinvigorate the local business climate. To that end, he has launched CoWork Jax, downtown Jacksonville’s first co-working space, and co-founded OneSpark, a five-day event for creators where they can connect with the people and resources they need to make their great ideas reality. One Spark is the World’s Crowdfunding Festival.
I asked Elton his thoughts on the one key trait entrepreneurs need to avoid downfall. Here’s his take:
“On a weekly basis a lot of people ask me for the silver bullet. They ask, ‘What’s the one thing that entrepreneurs need to do to avoid downfall?’ My answer – in a word, commitment. Entrepreneurs are notorious for wanting to solve a problem, create something new and then move on to the next thing. In reality, a passionate entrepreneur must search within the confines of their being to ensure that they are committed. Committed to their company. Committed to generating a great work environment for their employees. Committed to their customers. Committed to delivering a better experience than their competition. Committed to objectively evaluating performance and reacting to both ups and downs. Without fierce commitment to action, failure is much more likely.”
Elton shares his take on the 5 steps entrepreneurs can take to avoid downfall.
The largest company in the world began by doing. Here’s the problem though — entrepreneurs tend to be perfectionistic in their approach to the world. They want to solve problems but their personalities create a roadblock. Entrepreneurs tend to not begin real, valuable work until they have analyzed all aspects of whatever challenge they may be facing. Entrepreneurs should commit this equation to memory: Idea + Profitable Execution = Business
Love Data Like A Freak.
The danger with data lies in the following ill-represented uses of it: over analyzing it, analyzing the wrong sets of data, not being disciplined with regards to feedback loops, and not holding teams accountable to metrics. Entrepreneurs can get away with shortcuts in a lot of areas of their business when first starting out. But, they can’t get away with them for long. Eventually a company will run into challenges scaling if its problems are swept under the rug to be dealt with down the road.
Data won’t let an entrepreneur do that. Data will be there through thick and thin. Data doesn’t care if today is a good or bad day. Data will smack an entrepreneur in the face and tell them that they are losing. Good friend data will also tell entrepreneurs the marketing channels that are working, it will tell who the best customers are. It will reveal how much runway there is left and when it is affordable to hire that new employee that is desperately needed to scale.
As long as entrepreneurs don’t develop any hard feelings toward data and learn to love it for what it is, they’ll be just fine. Remember, data is a foundational decision making toolset to be used to achieve goals faster. Love it like a freak and goals will be achieved much faster.
Dashboards, Use Them.
This may seem like a bit of a repeat of the second point but it is not. Feedback loops are critical in any entrepreneur’s business, that’s a given. What many people miss is that the feedback loops add up to a big picture overview of how the company is performing.
An entrepreneur’s number one job is to create something of value. This cannot be accomplished without practicing the listen, learn, act, repeat process in every minute detail of the business. The real value of a feedback loop is when entrepreneurs use it to zoom out and understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. Entrepreneurs who don’t have a tool that allows them to evaluate performance should get one. CYFE, Geckoboard and Ducksboard are great options. Entrepreneurs should find one that works for their company, have each department head create one for their team and be relentless about the pursuit of clean, accurate data to go into these dashboards. Keep them simple and if there is information on the dashboard that doesn’t help with daily decision-making get rid of it.
Build Every Day.
Tech company, hard goods provider or service business, it doesn’t matter– build something new that has a positive impact on the company every single day. Momentum is something that is devastatingly hard to restart. There’s a reason that endurance athletes hardly ever miss a day of their training cycle and if they do, they immediately focus on the next workout as being the most critical workout of their life. Momentum matters. Building something for the company, for the employees, for the customers every single day will help keep both momentum going and ensure that the team is pulling toward common goals.
The way that many companies do this is to ensure they have specific goals for the week based on a multi-month roadmap supporting a longer-term (anywhere from 1 to 5 year) vision. Better yet, tell the team why there is such a focus on having every employee build something new each day. It breeds an innovative environment where employees feel engaged and are engaged in the future of the business. After all, that’s what being an entrepreneur is all about.
Be Patient. Be Urgent. Be Human.
The cyclical nature of business forces entrepreneurs to learn a valuable skillset, knowing when to push and when to coast. Setting a cadence for the company begins with the entrepreneur, the leader, the founder. As the leader goes, the company goes.
It is absolutely critical to know when to be patient (with the team, with the market, with yourself) and when to create an all-encompassing sense of urgency. For example, we were recently working with a venture-backed startup company that worked extremely well under pressure. Funny thing was that as soon as they had a little bit of free time, they completely lost focus and productivity, and ultimately net income went down the tubes.
Working with this company’s founder over a few months, we agreed to set a work schedule that focused on two month cycles. The company pushed full speed for two months and then simply serviced their new customers for the following month while allowing employees to take some extra time off to just let their minds wander. Productivity went through the roof, the bottom line increased and company culture grew. Listen. Learn. Act. Repeat.
When all else fails, be humble, show humility, love your employees and get back to work. With 100% commitment to action, your chances of it all working out will be significantly higher.
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Elton’s advice rings very true. Committing ourselves to being the best we can be in service to our customers, and focusing our actions on making our enterprise the best it can be, is the essential process required for success. I’d add too that you must follow strategies that YOU believe are right, not get bogged down with what the “gurus” tell you must occur. I’ve found that when I do what I believe is right for my business, regardless of whether it follows all the “rules,” I thrive and my business thrives.
Are you 100% committed to bringing our business to the level of great success, and doing what’s required for that outcome?
This article was written by Kathy Caprino from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.