Entrepreneurs are all different. They all have a different entrepreneur mindset that contributes to their success. Their entrepreneur mindset might have to do with their personality or even the field in which they havechosen to work.
When figuring out your own approach to the challenges of entrepreneurship, it can help to learn from the experiences of others.
We’ve selected the experiences and entrepreneur mindset of 10 well-known entrepreneurs from a variety of different fields. It is our hope that you will find something in each of their stories that will help you in your own entrepreneurial adventures.
The Entrepreneur Mindset of 10 Successful Entrepreneurs
1. Reach Out to Customers First
[Image: Stevens Institute]
Though it may seem to many like product development should come first, master bootstrapper Greg Gianforte insists that’s the wrong approach. After moving to Montana with his wife and children after selling a previous company, Gianforte grew restless and decided to start again.
He focused on the tech sector where his experience was strongest. But instead of starting with a prototype for a product or service and then seeking funding, he started by getting on the phone with potential customers. That led to conversations about what kind of product they would buy.
After a month of phone calls, Gianforte spent about 60 days coding the product his customers said they wanted. He claims his company, RightNow Technologies, was cash positive from the beginning.
The business makes cloud-based software for large consumer businesses and was sold to Oracle in 2011.
2. Find a New Market for an Existing Product
Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, did not invent Rock ‘n Roll, but his small Memphis label will forever be linked to its beginnings.
Phillips established his recording studio and eventually his record label as a way to capture the interaction of country and blues music he was already familiar with as a DJ. There was a wealth of talent he believed most of the country was unfamiliar with and had never heard. He created a relaxed studio environment with unique acoustics to capture and immortalize that talent.
Phillips would eventually discover stars like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash and he became an icon and a wealthy entrepreneur as a result.
3. Use Networking to Build Your Business
Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of networking, but few are as specific about how and why networking is important as Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstock.com.
In an interview on the MyTreat Blog, Nazar says he owes his success — particularly the founding and growth of his current company — to his networking efforts. He says he used networking to raise $4 million in startup funds. He says he also used it to locate a co-founder and build the majority of his organization.
Nazar gives some important advice to other entrepeneurs when using networking in business. First, measure the return on investment you are getting from your networking efforts.
Second, make sure you give something of value first when making connections instead of beginning by asking for something.
4. Give Without Expecting a Return
This may seem like a contradiction to our last point. But author, former hedge fund manager and tech entrepreneur James Altucher stands by the belief that great opportunities come your way when you offer something without looking for payback.
Altucher says he regularly sends out ideas to people with whom he would like to do business or those he admires and would like to meet and asks for nothing in return. Often he does not receive so much as a response, he says, but sometimes the results are magical.
In one instance, Altucher sent investment expert Jim Cramer, co-founder of TheStreet.com, a list of suggested article topics. As a result, Altucher received an invitation to become a contributing writer.
TheStreet.com would later invest in one of his websites, Stockpickr.com – then buy it from him.
5. Keep Control of Your Vision
Jack Ma, also known as Ma Yun, is the founder and guiding hand behind Alibaba, a giant Hong Kong-based wholesale eCommerce site. Despite its popularity and financial success, Alibaba’s road to acceptance outside China has not been easy.
Complaints about counterfeit or fake items sold on the site as name brands abound. And, of course, the problem is exacerbated as Alibaba attempts to position itself as a site other businesses use as a source of wholesale merchandise.
As Alibaba considers going public with an IPO, another challenge looms. Ma wants to keep tight control of his company and of the team of executives he already has in place. This can be hard to do once investors enter the picture. Many want to have a say in how the company is run after investing their hard earned money.
But Ma believes in his vision for his company and in the culture he has created to get the job done.
6. Understand the Power of Brand
When the first series of Star Wars movies was released in the late 70’s and early 80’s, most people saw only a pop culture phenomenon. The string of successful films created a whole new market for science fiction and fantasy.
But creator and filmmaker George Lucas saw so much more. To him, the first trilogy of films and the three additional movies that followed became a powerful brand. That brand became a spring board to lucrative licensing deals for everything from toys, to video games, to memorabilia and live attractions.
In 2012, Lucas sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise that went with it to Disney for $4.05 billion.
In the meantime, Lucas clearly hasn’t lost his interest in powerful and profitable brands. He recently invested $10 million in the successful Starbucks cafe chain.
7. Focus Your Energy on What’s Good for Your Business
From best selling albums to a nightclub, a clothing line, a sports franchise and more, rapper Jay Z is known not just for his music but also for his business acumen.
His success is based in part on his focus. It includes a refusal to spend his time on anything that does not expand his entrepreneurial ventures. Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg says this focus caused Jay Z to decline involvement in a book Greenburg was writing about him.
Instead, Jay Z decided to put out his own book and profit directly from his own story and image.
While some might consider this outlook shortsighted, the question remains. How often have we allowed someone else to drag our focus and energy away from our businesses – and what has it cost us?
8. Always Maintain Quality Control
From the age of fourteen when he began his apprenticeship in his family bakery until his death in 2002, Lionel Puoilâne was obsessed. And that obsession was with the quality of bread that bore his family’s name.
Puoilâne became world famous for artisan crafted bread baked in wood fired ovens.
As international demand for his bread grew, he still refused to mass produce his product. Instead, he insisted that each loaf still be hand crafted by a baker personally trained in his techniques.
Even as he experimented with more modern techniques and expanded his bakery operations, Puoilâne’s interest in maintaining quality control in his business never wavered.
His daughter, Apollonia, continues that tradition to this day.
9. Set Your Product Apart
The desire to create a product that stands alone is nothing new. Way back in 1783, the Primrose brothers (George and William) promised to produce crystal as fine as any in Europe – and the Waterford brand was born.
The brothers’ secret technique of combining glass and minerals to produce crystal that actually “sings” when tapped with the finger became renowned. The crystal is also known for the deep and ornate carvings created by skilled artisans that give it a distinctive appearance.
So beloved and valued was the Waterford brand that even when the factory closed in the 1850’s due to economic hard times, the unrivaled quality of Waterford Crystal was never forgotten.
Almost a century later, the Waterford Crystal tradition was revived, returning the crystal and the town in Ireland for which it was named, to their former glory.
10. Take Ownership
Oprah Winfrey had experienced plenty of success as a broadcaster and even in the entertainment industry before ever launching the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.
After some initial radio and TV jobs, she would host a successful chat show in Baltimore and later a show in Chicago that beat Phil Donahue in local ratings.
She would even star in a movie, “The Color Purple” with Whoopi Goldberg, directed by Steven Spielberg. But it wasn’t until after taking ownership of her syndicated talk show from ABC that Winfrey’s entrepreneurial skills began coming into focus. Her production company would eventually produce other TV and film projects.
Winfrey’s entrepreneur mindset eventually led her to launch a magazine and even her own TV network.
What a great post. That is a super inspiration for startups and those running a new business 🙂
These tips give us serious insight into the makings of a good businessman. Every type of advice always comes with a kernel of unforgettable power and this piece captured that power and used it very well. Clear, concise and extremely helpful many entrepreneurs should read this article before starting out.
Shawn what a great post with examples.
Especially love the way you kicked it off with saying get out and talk first to the customers. To many new Small businesses will spend 90% of the time building the Product or setting up to open the business and 10% planning on how to market. Should so get out talk first to the public, see next how you’ll grow and then get started.
You’re right. So many business owners are so consumed with their business that they think that they are the best without even consulting their customers. They don’t know that this is the key to their success.
You are correct, Customers should be every businesses priority
That was an awesome post with relevant examples. Entrepreneurs are all different and they all have a different entrepreneur mindset that contributes to their mega success.
Excellent article! I would agree that quality control is key. If you product and/or service fails to “wow” your customer on a consistent basis, then you will eventually find yourself out of business.
Your company’s reputation is defined and maintained by your daily customer interactions. If you allow the quality of your products and/or services to slip, you profit margins will follow suit shortly.
If you find that you are struggling to perfect your processes, product or service, then you should consider hiring an expert to give you a hand (it could be a consultant, another entrepreneur or a friend). Just do whatever it takes to put your best foot forward during each and every interaction with your customers, and never stop striving for perfection. Your business and wallet will thank you for it!
Thanks all. It was a joy to do. Some real heroes of mine among the names here as well as some new faces I’ve only recently had the opportunity to write about.
Very inspiring. Great post. Giving without expecting in return for me is the most inspiring mindset. It’s not only the investment of money I think is important but the investment of your time and willingness to share what you have (talent, skills) that matters. Then finding a new market for an existing product and successfully penetrate this market for me is the most challenging mindset. With so many products and services out there, it’s interesting to learn how entrepreneurs find their market successfully and set their products apart.
Shawn: Do you know Jack Ma’s vision of Alibaba?
The most inspiring mindset I admire is that the entrepreneur is using his / her mind to the fullest potential.
I recommend you that you read Edwin A. Locke’s book, The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators, for more heroes.
I gotta check that out, Martin 🙂
Very true. My taking is that you should not compromise on your Values / Principles.
Great article Sean some excellent tips for any business minded person.
Shawn, great job on this post. Mindset is different than skill set. They work in tandem, but it’s that attitude and aptitude thing. Gotta have both.
Thanks. I’ve always felt it’s important to know what you’re good at…and more importantly maybe, what you’re not good at. I’m not talking about what your friends or family or even your colleagues say you’re good at. But being able to objectively assess your weaknesses and strengths can help you develop a mindset that fits your skills, passion and resources as opposed to chasing ideas that might be better left to someone else.
Thanks for such a great article. Seeing inspirational entrepreneurs talk about branding, vision, and other key factors helps to solidify the mindset principles. Awesome!
Great 10 points of a start up should know.
For me focusing upon what is good for my business and also keeping high quality control are fun factors for success ~
This is a thought provoking article. Over the years I have come to believe that there are different levels of Entrepreneurial l mindsets. I grew up in the network marketing industry so my mindsets are different than someone who attended Harvard Business school. Some entrepreneurs have what I call a “Low Level Red Neck Be Free” mentality and others have what I refer to as “Billionaire or Bust”.
I totally love this article. The first one about reaching out to customers first really stood out for me. Now I need to practice that one. Thank you so much for the article.
I’m an aspiring entrepreneur. All 10 qualities are highly invaluable to me. But for specifics purpos, the quality that involves Kepping Control of One’s Vision is quite striking to me. I rank this quality high!
I’d say #6 stuck out most to me. Recently, I’ve discovered exactly how powerful a strong brand can be. In the case of George Lucas, he managed to create a brand that became a culture in and of itself.
As a huge Star Wars nerd, i can attest to the fact that the type of brand that George Lucas created can command great influence and amass a hugely loyal audience. While everyone can’t create a gigantic brand like Star Wars, as entrepreneurs, we need to focus on carefully crafting the type of brand that will expand our own influence and gain a bigger audience that is willing to buy into our vision and products.
Great post, Shawn!
I confess to being a huge Star Wars fan myself and I have to agree. What makes Lucas’s brand so appealing goes way beyond the quality of his movies. It has to do with the ideas and outlook of his brand and the change it created in the world. These are qualities that can be hard to quantify but are easily recognizable. And the are qualities every brand should strive for.
I have to agree on the giving part. It is really in giving that you get loyal customers. It always doesn’t hurt to go another mile.
Also, Reaching out has its benefits. But not everyone do it. Because they think that it is hard. But business relationships are like friendships. Sometimes, you need to initiate the relationship.
Frank van den Tillaart
The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Was the journey planned or did you see the journey in hindsight? Can we predict the future, can we plan when to take the first step? Or is thinking about it, the first step? We cannot truly predict the future. Let us do what is right now, now. No need to wait and procrastinate. Then again, procrastination in itself is a useful tool to find your path. Everything is an illusion, or isn’t it?
This is a thought provoking article.
I’d say #6 stuck out most to me. I’ve come to discover exactly how powerful a strong brand can be.
Success begins with the right mindset. But it takes time and experience to be able to get to the right mindset. It is not something that you can force.
Great insights. Thank you. One I found inspiring at this moment: “Take ownership of our business” –
Oprah – …it wasn’t until after taking ownership of her syndicated talk show from ABC that Winfrey’s entrepreneurial skills began coming into focus. Her production company would eventually produce other TV and film projects.
I’m now taking ownership of my Entrepreneurial skills – Making things happen! My mindset is ready moving forward.
Thank you for your article.
# 7 hit home for me
Staying focused on your businesses and writing your own story rather than someone else doing it for you … as I’m developing my mindset for entrpeurnership , I welcome all stories and find nuggets to help strengthen my focus and abilities ….
Thank you for this article
Thanks for this amazing piece. The good thing about the different kinds of mindset these entrepreneurs possess is that they can be copied.
My reading habit was awakened after I read about how much Dr Strive Masiyiwa reads everyday. I think it’s also a great trait we all must possess.
The ever-never-giving up kind of spirit is a common thing amongst successful entrepreneurs. I’m working hard to live up to that. At this time, it’s not easy but we can’t give up.
Thanks for sharing. I appreciate your points.
Nice post for a start-up business. It is a really very inspirational article for those who are trying to set up their business and working hard on it.
Refreshing reminder we, as business owners, don’t have to start great to become great, and the steps to get there are pretty simple. Stay committed and own your brand – no matter what!