Monday, June 01, 2009

Top 10 Keys to Entrepreneurial Success

I frequently am asked by entrepreneurs what I believe are the most critical ingredients for success.  I recently wrote about past success (experience) being a predictor for success.  But, how does that help the first-time entrepreneur?  Here is my "Top 10" list that applies equally to first-time and long-time entrepreneurs and early stage companies:

Here are some other basic ingredients: 

(1) obviously, a strong idea.

(2) the right place at the right time (read the book "Outliers" in this regard).

(3) a talented and committed team.

(4) passion, dedication, and tenacity ("never say die") -- I am very old school this way, because I have seen this work time and time again; never underestimate the power of passion and tenacity.

(5) focus, focus, focus!  (don't try to do too much -- otherwise you will fail; pick one thing and be the best).

(6) adopt a partnership strategy and partner wisely (to accelerate growth by leveraging the strength of your partners).

(7) be extremely disciplined and conservative in your spending (the era of spending your way to profitability is, correctly, long past).

(8) be fearless and don't be afraid to fail -- but, if you do, "fail quickly", learn from that failure, and correct your course (an essential part of being an entrepreneur is the freedom to experiment and move nimbly, more quickly -- embrace that freedom, so long as it is consistent with #5 above).

(9) be transparent with your team; share information; communicate frequently; be a cheerleader and pump them up; have fun!  (the life of an entrepreneur -- yes, it is frequently stressful and is not for the faint of heart; but, think of the freedom and the impact you and each of your team members have on a daily basis?).  You are frequently the underdog -- but being the underdog is a lot more fun; and underdogs can -- and do -- frequently win.

(10) measure EVERYTHING!  Detailed metrics and analytics are absolute necessities, they are not luxuries; if you can't measure it, you can't fix it.  You should know everything about your users, and you should be able to measure sales and other success metrics on a live basis.  

I learned these basic lessons over several years and after leading several companies -- and after having made several mistakes -- and after experiencing what has worked time and time again.