There are endless ways to understand and interact with the phenomena of entrepreneurship. Often, a CEO or Founder is the lesser known name behind the brand. Sometimes, the job of a CEO is bogged down by the necessary but time consuming details of owning and operating a living, breathing company. But always behind the day-to-day confusion is one inarguable fact: all of it began with a vision that was too good not to bring into being.
The best founders are visionary founders; the ones with a different and improved conception of the future are the ones that become household names. As investors, we look at those founders to bring something better into the world. As consumers, we love the idea of finding products and services that solve our problems—small, large, and those we didn’t yet know we had. As a society at large, some of our greatest strokes of human progress, like the ability to ventilate air, expand our medical care, and fly to Mars in the case that we exhaust all other options, are all strides for which we owe our thanks to the great minds of entrepreneurs.
So what makes a mind great? There’s no saying why an idea comes when it comes. But there are observable habits, characteristics, and practices demonstrated by people that bring those ideas to life.
The Best Entrepreneurs Have a Think-Do Connection
Progress is progress regardless of pace. But there’s a negative effect that begins to set in if, too often, an intention born in the mind isn’t carried out in a dependable way. Every time the brain produces an idea, and the rest of the mind fails to fulfill that idea, a kind of promise is broken. The think-do connection isn’t built overnight, but it also doesn’t stay still. That means entrepreneurs need to prove to themselves over and over again that when they set out to do something, they do it.
This habit is best built with small behaviors that are well under control, and there’s no need to build it alone. Ample research shows that goals that are shared with someone, especially someone of a higher perceived status, are far more often achieved than aims that are kept to oneself. Great entrepreneurs understand that they’re no exception. Sharing a goal or aim, of any size, with a trusted and high-profile network is a great way to build that personal trust and get used to doing whatever needs to be done.
The Best Entrepreneurs Have a Self-Awareness Practice
People who have incredible strengths often have weaknesses of near or equal magnitude. And while no one wants to take a constant stock of the things they’re not able to do well, the best entrepreneurs have a forward-thinking self awareness that keeps those areas of lesser capacity visible. To expect not to have any shortcomings would be to expect a form of unattainable perfection. Instead, leaning into humility, asking for feedback, and practicing radical transparency around those areas will help to foster better, more authentic relationships within the founding team.
The best teams are built to have complementary strengths; most founders surround themselves with people who are gifted in the areas they themselves find challenging. The combination of self-assessments and peer-to-peer feedback can help By keeping a strong sense of self-awareness, entrepreneurs will have an easier time filling those gaps and establishing open conversation as they do. And when it comes to building a company, there’s no room for holes in the foundation—entrepreneurs can’t waste any time pretending they’re the first real jack-of-all-trades.
There isn’t anyone who’s found success that will report on a straight and stress-free path from start to end. But often, the ones who find their way to the top succeeded in establishing more positive relationships with the turns in the road. Bad quarters are a part of the entrepreneurship game. And watershed events like COVID-19 teach us time and again not to underestimate how quickly things can change.
The Best Entrepreneurs Find a Way to Love Each Part
Like an athlete preparing for a hard workout, great entrepreneurs find a way to love even the worst parts of the job. The best of the best know not to deny their own experiences, but instead to keep the end goal in mind. That way, every set back, small or large, is understood as a toll that needs to be paid to get to that final destination. Modeling that kind of long-term vision goes a long way for team morale, and soon, every part of the founding team is ready to deliver that reminder when needed.
The best thing an entrepreneur can be is open to the next big idea. By establishing trust in their ability to turn thoughts into actions, ensuring they’re engaged in self and peer assessments, and finding a positive relationship to the more grueling parts of the job, entrepreneurs—established or aspiring—can coach themselves into keeping an open mind and bringing the next game-changing, post-COVID breakthrough to market.