As experienced entrepreneurs, we understand what it takes to achieve some level of success. With that said, we have yet to find a universal recipe for success. But we have made a few realizations based on our own personal observations.
Some of these observations came from our early-stage business incubator. Others emerged from our coworking space for entrepreneurs. A few came from working with entrepreneurs in helping them build profitable companies. And some even came from looking at piles of data, reports and studies that have tried to list the ingredients for a successful startup. There are many different sources of inspiration in designing the Think Big Accelerator, but we have come to a conclusion that only a few things seem to be a common denominator of startup success.
- It’s all about process
You have to understand the process of building a profitable company. Success does not simply happen overnight. The startup processis not rigid enough to have absolute boundaries, but it does have a few key elements: having a plan, finding the right people, understanding your next milestone, establishing your long-term goal and having the resources to execute it while the opportunity still exists.
- Understand what needs to be done...and when
Just-in-time delivery of resources means exactly that–JUST IN TIME. Do not form a company while an idea is still in the idea-risk stage. On the other hand, do not neglect to form a company when the idea needs to be protected and owned. Have a plan that includes milestones and goals.
- Attract the right people
This is a tricky one–especially in the Midwest. The world is becoming increasingly flat and connected through the use of technology. But today, the need for real relationships is more important than ever before. Companies and technology are not what gets things done, people do. Utilize technology to maximize people and their talents on behalf of a team, not neutralize individual contribution and obfuscate results.
- Remember that talented people come in all forms
Your team could be made up of 55-year old tech gurus or a 23-year old experts. Be prepared to look beyond labels to find the right team members and conditions to win.
- Keep in mind that successful people come with baggage
This “baggage” may mean spouses. Kids. Companies that they still own (but hopefully don’t still operate day to day – at least not during the accelerator program). Boards they sit on. Everyone has this so-called “baggage”. You have to allow people to maintain some semblance of a work-life balance during an accelerator program, or you may fail to attract some of the most successful candidates. Create a program that works for successful people.
- Recognize the need to move faster than ever before
In this hyper-connected world, opportunities do not exist forever. To achieve maximum results, you have to be prepared to seize the initiative when it presents itself.
- Teams win
Creating your minimum viable product (MVP) will require many different people, at different times, for different amounts of work. If you need highly-talented people but do not have access or can afford to hire them full time, find a team that can insert themselves as needed.
- Don’t confuse effort for impact
Results are almost everything. The time-based economy has skewed our sense of perspective, sometimes penalizing people who are able to achieve results in half the time compared to others. Results matter, as long as you achieve them in an ethical fashion that you are willing to be proud of.
- People achieve a lot when they’re focused
Remove distractions, be fully engaged while working, but be able to manage your other responsibilities. Being able to run a sprint is only possible when you understand where the finish line is. Being able to run a marathon can look like a series of sprints, with rest periods in between. You need to be able to do both.
- Everyone has something to offer
Be part of the solution and the entrepreneurial ecosystem. You will learn more from others by listening, but be willing to offer occasional help too. Pay it forward, but be prepared for much in return.
- Have fun
Take it seriously, but not too seriously. Building a startup company is hard. You need to have fun while working ridiculous hours–and occasionally put down your work and have fun too.