Unlocking the Secrets to Startup Success: Essential Lessons for Founders

Success has many different, and equally valid, definitions. But what success certainly isn’t is a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. Each entrepreneur, every founder, has their own pathway, and journey toward success, and, for many, it’s not about “success” at all.

We’re all driven by different things — different life experiences, different challenges, and circumstances. However, what is true for all of us is that we all endure some version of life experiences, challenges, and circumstances. Success is overcoming, withstanding, or enduring those things that occur on our path.

As I’ve reflected on my atypical entrepreneurship journey, I’ve discovered there are 5 things that every founder needs on their pathway to success.

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1. Plan (for the sake of operational efficiency)

What’s your why? Author Simon Sinek wrote a whole book on just this one question. It’s an important but not easily answered question. When asked, founders often answer passionately but not always substantively. Common, surface-level answers can look like “I want to make money” or “I want to have the best business in this field,” but here’s the thing: purpose consistently presents an opportunity to forge connections with/to someone/something else. One of the best ways to discover purpose is to practice reflection. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “how did I get here?” Because purpose is knowing the reason(s) why you’re in pursuit of such an endeavor.

2. Plan (for the sake of operational efficiency)

Planning showcases critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity and innovation. The purpose (and power) of planning isn’t to prevent things from happening. It is to be best prepared for the inevitable. That means, as savvy as your strategy may be, you can’t plan, predict, nor prepare for everything. However, you’ll be best prepared for the curveballs you will encounter as a result of your due diligence, your strategic thinking, and your long and short-term planning. You’ll also be rewarded, and surprised at just how much more you’ll learn as a result of mitigating needless lessons. Planning is step one in becoming operationally efficient — which is perhaps the most critical attribute in building a successful enterprise.

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3. Community

Entrepreneurship is not a lonesome journey. Even when you’ve got all the ideas, expertise, and business acumen to launch yourself into your field, you’re going to have to cultivate good relationships with other people, especially other founders. Parts of the entrepreneurs’ journey will undoubtedly require intimate introspection, but the very nature of entrepreneurship is steeped in connecting people to ideas to invention to innovation and to enterprise. It is quintessentially people-business. And founders need to be in community with other founders who can share valuable knowledge and experiences.

4. Progress before Perfection

(disclaimer: this stage requires energy + tenacity + perseverance)

First, it’ll never be perfect (whatever “it” is) — and the longer you wait to be ok with it, the more energy you will waste that could drive other opportunities. Second, that double shot of espresso won’t be enough. You’ve got to have metaphysical energy that wakes you up and gets you going + goals that drive you. And those goals won’t always be work-related. For example, I’m driven by taking my family to places they’ve never been, be it making time to go hiking with my daughter in Yellowstone, or saving for a family trip to South Africa. I know that, for me to fully enjoy the fellowship of my family in some remote location, I’ll need to have worked through all of my tasks and objectives, provided sufficient leadership to my team to be away. So, I use my energy to build enterprises that can operate outside of me, and I’ve learned to become ok with a certain standard of excellence that leaves room for iteration. That allows me to drive success toward that quality time spent making memories with my family. You’ll use your energy in your own way. But what’s certain is that you’ll need a reliable source of energy + goals that drive you and the tenacity and perseverance to run through the tape. Altogether, the only thing perfect is progress itself.

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5. Capital

Capital comes in many forms, and it’s not always money. There’s intellectual capital, financial capital, social & human capital. It’s important to know what type of capital you’ll need. For most entrepreneurs, you’ll need some mix of each. Folks typically come to the table already possessing some form(s) of capital, but the most successful entrepreneurs are clear-eyed about where they’re lacking. Knowing the type of capital you need will best position you to source it.

Of course, even if you’ve got all 5 of these things, there are a few unsung prerequisites too. They entail certain fundamental things entrepreneurs will need, like good time management, solid communication skills, and a fair amount of leadership ability.

There are also fewer talked about pre-reqs like knowing your own story, personal authenticity, and a good habit of writing down your goals. I’ve learned that better than reading someone else’s memoir, is taking the time to learn your own.

One of the best exercises I’ve ever done was in a Life Entrepreneurship course as part of the New Leaders Council Fellowship. The exercise struck at the core of one of my deficiencies — knowing (and telling) my story. The instructions were to write down what a day of my life looked like 5 or 10 years from the time of writing it. It was scary. But I gave it a shot and was made better for it. It caused me to reflect on my life up to that point and imagine the next, best iteration of myself. In short, I needed to confront my past to know my present and imagine my future. And all of that, together, was/is my story.

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Having a grip on my story helps us to show up with personal authenticity. And showing up authentically is step one in building relationships. Trust is a critical component in those relationships, and people trust what they can believe, and most people believe what’s real or authentic. Remember, more than intimately knowing you, people need to trust that you know yourself.

Whether you journal or not, it’s a good habit to set and write down goals. Being goal-oriented provides the energy, drive, and motivation much of any success requires. Goals keep you focused. Goals keep you going.

Now, for all of these do’s and don’ts, none of it matters without a real, personal commitment to something greater than yourself. And when you find those things that you live for, embrace your inner-entrepreneur and remember these 5 things. You’ll be better for it.

Need help getting your strategy down? Our Engagement Studio can help with that. Is your audience just not quite connecting with your brand? Call up our Storytelling Studio. Want to make sure your venture is doing right by people and the planet? The Equity Innovation Studio is on it. Connect with Think Rubix today to find your one-stop shop to help you find success — however you define it.