Entrepreneurs want the ability to turn nothing into something. Well known entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel, who invested in the early stage of Facebook and was amongst the team that grew and sold PayPal, summed this up well through the title of his book, Zero to One. We start with little more than an idea and accept the challenge of taking it on a journey across a chasm, resulting in that idea coming to life. However, with the majority of startups and business owners failing in their quest, it is clear that most entrepreneurs' understanding of what it takes to go through this process has flaws. This article explores some common misconceptions about what it takes to successfully turn an idea into a valuable company, and examines how your Being – more specifically, who and how you are being – plays a critical role in the process.
My team and I at Engenesis Ventures regularly speak with entrepreneurs who want to raise capital or work with us in our capacity as venture builders. Let me share with you a few considerations from an insider’s perspective in terms of what goes through our minds when we are looking at a startup or innovative business:
- What resources has the founding team injected into their business and what have they produced in return? Are they in a position where they have substantial results after having injected large amounts of time, effort and/or capital? Or have they disproportionately achieved significant results with a relatively minor investment of time, effort and/or capital?
- Is there any indication of a lack of resourcefulness? For example, are they spending their own time in a wasteful way while expecting to raise funds to have others work in a similarly unresourceful manner?
- When bringing customers on board, have they tried one or two obvious methods? Or have they stretched themselves, thought outside the box and considered multiple avenues?
- Have they demonstrated a willingness to meet challenges head-on? Or are they only interested in finding the ‘easy’ pathways?
A startup team recently explained all the sophisticated marketing methods and techniques they were using to grow their business. They said, “We’re building a multi-step marketing funnel that will drive traffic through social media ads.” However, when asked whether they had already been speaking with the people in their personal network to attempt to sell their services, they deflected away from answering the question, claiming, “We need more capital to run our advertising”. Can you see what’s missing here?
These days, it seems to be commonplace for entrepreneurs to expect that external resources will solve their key problems when building their business. I can relate to this on a personal level. I, too, had few resources in my early years in business. I started my business from the bedroom of my apartment with nothing more than a laptop. Initially, I was hesitant to make phone calls or market my products and services as it was uncomfortable and confronting. I had many moments where I thought more external resources would make life easier. It took courage to face the troubled, or shadow, side of myself. I came to learn about what it takes to overcome the barriers to growth and deepen my understanding of how the business world operates. Interestingly, in rising to such challenges and learnings, expansion happened.
You gradually grow as an entrepreneur by challenging yourself to transform how you see the world (your perceptions) and then formulating new actions and pursuing new opportunities accordingly. In my case, I was grateful to have the support of a business coach to both challenge and guide me on my entrepreneurial journey. Importantly, my coach supported me in developing myself first and then my business. The strategy proved effective, leading to my business receiving an award for being the ‘Fastest Growing Company in the Asia Pacific’ four years later.
For the reasons highlighted above, we always stress the importance of the people side of a founding team here at Engenesis Ventures. In particular, who and how each founder is being. In the example of the startup team sharing their sophisticated marketing methods but not being willing to do the challenging work, courage was missing. Courage – the willingness to step forward and take action despite the presence of fear – is a quality that does not require a certain IQ or level of capital or resources. It is a Way of Being you need to cultivate within yourself as an entrepreneur. Suppose you attempt to acquire customers without a healthy relationship with courage. You will need many solutions to compensate for this gap, and it will still result in a significant loss of resourcefulness. The return on investment of time, energy and capital will all be impacted as a result.
At Engenesis Ventures, we have invested significant time, money and research into understanding the impact our Being has on all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional. It is the one domain that, if left unattended, is like a watering can with a hole in it – lacking in workability. Unless entrepreneurial leaders take who and how they are being seriously and develop themselves to adequately lead their business or organisation, no amount of ‘fancy techniques’, ‘quick fixes’, or injected capital and resources will be worthwhile.
The Being Framework™ was the outcome of our work, and we’re privileged to have it support entrepreneurs, business owners and individuals all over the world who are committed to thriving each day. Courage is one of 31 primal qualities – known as Aspects of Being – that our studies have shown can be leveraged to elevate performance and effectiveness to new levels.
Next time you sit and plan the growth of your business, I invite you to take a moment to put aside the external factors you think are required to grow your venture. Instead, speculate what it may be like for you to confront your troubled or shadow side and discover new ways to see and, therefore, grow your business. This one breakthrough will show you how the magic of the entrepreneur can manifest and turn nothing into something.