In my time as an associate at Rebel Venture Fund, I’ve had the privilege of meeting a lot of entrepreneurs. They’ve all been amazing, ambitious and driven individuals who truly want to make the world a better place through their products and services. Even many of the other angel investors we work with on deals got their start in entrepreneurship.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned something significant from each one of these people about business, community and life. As a member of RVF, I’ve been lucky enough to learn more lessons than I could ever possible share in this space, but here are five of the most important things I’ve taken away about being an entrepreneur.
Have a Vision
The most important quality any entrepreneur can have is vision. The ability to see in your mind your target customers and how your business solves their problem is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to use your imagination to see beyond the technical specifications of your product. Imagine how customers will use your product or service, how it will look and feel to them and how they’ll be happier because they purchased it from you.
Also, vision doesn’t just apply to your product and customers. It’s important to have a picture in your mind about how your company will run under your leadership. This is especially critical if you’re looking for investment. You will be asked by investors more than once, “How do you plan to spend the money?” Having a vision for your company’s future will help you provide solid answers to that question.
Commitment and Dedication
As an entrepreneur, you are going to hear the word “No” a lot! You may have the best idea ever for your business, a ridiculous amount of pre-orders and a social media following of millions but I guarantee you there will be at least one investor who will not want to invest in your company.
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart and you may need to dig deep to find the strength and energy to keep on going to meeting after meeting when you’ve been told “No” repeatedly. Commitment and dedication to your idea and your business are key to keeping it all going when things aren’t going your way. Some days are going to be so tough that you’ll think about closing shop and moving on to something else. Every entrepreneur feels that way at times, but the most successful committed to getting up the next day and trying again.
Attention to Detail
Paying attention to the details is critical as a founder. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Especially when it comes to keeping track of your funding. Too many great ideas have been derailed because the company was just hemorrhaging money and no one was keeping track of where it was going. Every great entrepreneur I’ve met has a good handle on how much money is coming in, how much is going out and what it’s being used for.
Every dollar being spent should be aligned with the company’s strategic vision and serve a purpose towards growth. We’ve all heard about the start-ups that blew their money on swag, free meals and fun activities. These are all great things that help with marketing and boost employee morale but can get out of control quickly if no one is watching. Pay attention to where money is going and how much runway you have left. This also applies to your product, operations and logistics. As a founder, you shouldn’t be doing your team’s work for them, but you should be aware of the details in their areas of responsibility that affect the business as a whole.
Listen and Learn
Sometimes when we have a great idea that is going to change the world we can get fixated on the original outcome we were looking for. It’s important for entrepreneurs to believe in themselves, but it’s just as important to be sensing what is going on with our business, our industry and the market.
Great entrepreneurs listen to what their customers are telling them about their product and use that feedback to improve. Stay abreast of what your competition is doing; don’t assume they are sitting still while you build your business. If you have investors and advisors, take the time to hear what they are saying and evaluate it carefully as you move forward. None of us have a monopoly on knowledge or wisdom, so opening our minds to different perspectives helps us to see alternatives and possibilities we might not have thought of on our own.
While it’s important to sense what’s going on around us, we also need to put what we learn through a rigorous decision making process. It can be easy to ignore information if it doesn’t support our view or perspective. When planning for the future of your business think about the contingencies you may need to exercise if events don’t turn out the way you plan.
As entrepreneurs, we often have lofty goals and we focus on the positive outcomes instead of how hard the path to achieve them might be. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard given to entrepreneurs is not to plan for everything to go right, but to plan for if everything goes wrong. Take the time to think through how you would adjust if you don’t hit your sales projections and be prepared to pivot if you find the market not responding to your product the way you expected.
Great entrepreneurs are as unique and diverse as our society is. There’s no model of a perfect founder and having a certain set of qualities is no guarantee of success. These five qualities are just my observations of what shows up consistently in the most successful entrepreneurs I’ve met. What’s great about all five of these traits is that they aren’t something you have to be born with. You can develop and grow these five qualities just like any other skill if you believe they are important to your success. Recognizing that you don’t have it all figured out and that there is always more to learn is a good indication that you’re ready to be an entrepreneur.
About the Author
Jason LeDuc is an MBA student at University of Nevada Las Vegas and a Senior Associate at Rebel Venture Fund. Jason served proudly for two decades as an officer in the United States Air Force and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in August 2015. In his most recent assignment as an instructor at the Air War College Distance Learning Program he served as an academic instructor to 7000+ students from all services to provide them the education needed to accept strategic leadership positions as senior officers.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RVF or UNLV. In addition, thoughts and opinions are subject to change and this article is intended to provide an opinion of the author at the time of writing this article. All data and information is for informational purposes only.