6 Personal Philosophies that Shaped Successful Entrepreneurs
Ever since the majority of the world’s population realized the treacherous nature of modern-day employment and the myth of the liberating side hustle, there has been an increase in the inclination towards entrepreneurship as a potential route out of the insecure life of the majority working class.
It is actually arguable that one is likely to have a more secure future with entrepreneurial skills as compared to high academic achievement, if the current value of traditional education in a changing global economy is anything to go by.
People have realized this, and more and more people are focusing on entrepreneurship as their ticket out of the rat race.
A 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report found that the millennial generation is discovering entrepreneurship considerably earlier than their parents, starting their first business at about 27 as compared to 35 for the boomers.
The report also found that millennials are starting more businesses than their parents – they have started nearly as twice as many businesses as the boomers.
This has effectively earned them the unofficial label of the entrepreneur generation based on an evolving mind-set that their career success will stem from nimbleness, independence and entrepreneurialism as a survey released by the Bentley University on the mind of the millennial suggests.
Only a paltry 13% of the respondents indicated that their ideal career goal would involve climbing the corporate ladder to become a chief executive or president.
Nearly two thirds (67%) of those surveyed reported that their career goals include starting their own businesses.
The study authors observed a growing trend in suspicion of traditional pathways to success and an aspirational preference for own forays into income generation.
But despite this optimism and sustained enthusiasm on the importance of entrepreneurship in thriving in the increasingly difficult lives of today’s evolving world, it is for the most part an uphill task.
It takes a lot of patience and hard work, and it is rife with risks and uncertainties.
Due to the high risks and uncertainties involved, a significant number of new business fail every year. In fact, the bleak and hard truth is that nine out of ten start-ups will fail before their third year.
This is according to the 2012 Startup Genome Report – a comprehensive project co-authored by Berkeley and Stanford faculty members analysing 3,200 start-ups.
The contributing factors could range from lack of funding to bad business decisions such as premature scaling or even an economic crisis.
Nevertheless, there is a ten percent of new businesses that survive the third-year curse to thrive and cruise to profitability becoming global brands.
These are led by visionary entrepreneurs who, as EY Global Chairman and CEO, Mark Weinberger says do not get distracted by short-term pressures but rather stick to and follow through a long-term strategic vision.
Fledging entrepreneurs can learn a lot by evaluating the guiding principles that have led established entrepreneurs to lock on strategic goals to achieve monumental success.
While a well-thought-out product development process, market knowledge and an accurate customer persona are undeniably important in breaking even, navigating the intricacies of launching a new business requires an even higher, even abstract psychological orientation.
Since entrepreneurial ventures are by and large a creation of individuals, one of the most enduring characteristics that all successful entrepreneurs have is a strong personal philosophy.
A personal philosophy is simply the most basic thoughts, beliefs, concepts and attitudes of an individual about everything.
It is one of the most essential instruments of an individual’s existence, a personal motto that could be expressed in about two sentences as a sort-of window into your soul.
For such a deliberate identity-affirmation, it is quite surprising that many of us don’t have one.
Those who do have been characterised to be, among other things, believing in being natural, organic and authentic in achieving persisting success and happiness which they have over time grown to be confident they deserve.
Venturing into business for the first time is probably best suited for these kind of people.
Those who can adhere to their self-defined beliefs as building blocks for their businesses where the bigger picture is well defined.
Below we examine some personal philosophies of uniquely successful entrepreneurs of our time and how you can apply them to your business endeavours.
TREAT YOUR LIFE LIKE AN ADVENTURE – SIR RICHARD BRANSON
In a 2017 keynote at the Veritas Vision conference, Branson narrates how his entry into the airline business came by accident after a flight he was booked in to the Caribbean was cancelled at the last minute.
Not intending to keep his ‘beautiful lady waiting in BVI’ Branson says he hired a plane and borrowed a blackboard and as a joke wrote ‘Virgin Airlines, $39 one way to BVI.’
He was surprised when all the passengers who had been inconvenienced by the cancellation bought his idea and filled up the plane.
After favorable feedback from his first ever airline customers, Branson would soon call Boeing and secure an unused 747 for rent, birthing Virgin Atlantic Airlines.
Since starting off with a mail-order record business in 1970, Branson has built eight billion-dollar companies in eight different sectors, written several books, has a non-profit foundation and always finds time to play tennis and kite regularly.
“I have always lived my life by thriving on opportunity and adventure. Some of the best ideas come out of the blue, and you have to keep an open mind to see their virtue.”
Branson believes that if the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate goal, then leading an adventurous life is an utmost priority.
The interesting part is that while the adventure might sound like the destination, it is actually the journey much like one of those long road trips in your childhood where often the most memorable part was the stopovers and the scenery more than the final stop.
Branson lives live precisely like this, enjoying the journey even when it’s perfectly okay to look forward to the destination.
As early as the late 1970s, Branson had already achieved considerable business success with Virgin Records but was still hungry for new experiences and reaching greater heights which spurred him to become the billionaire we know today with interests in land, sea, air and space travel.
Branson teaches us that treating your business voyage as an adventure and exercising patience while at it, can have generate rewards for your business and contribute significantly to your happiness goals.
Michael Corrigan, the cofounder of cult-favorite travel pillow company Trltl Pillow, whose business approach is highly influenced by Branson, says cultivating an adventure mindset is critical.
To truly embrace the journeying experience you have to bear in mind that it is impossible to anticipate eventualities, but rather you should be ready to take whatever happens and run with it, as you would on an adventure.
When you have an adventure mindset, you are more likely to spot new opportunities to try different things which could have a huge impact on your business.
MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS – MARK ZUCKERBERG
This was Facebook’s original motto inspired by Zuckerberg’s college dorm-room days when he conceptualized the idea of the world’s biggest social network.
This outlook to product development evolved by Facebook’s 10t anniversary in 2014 to what observers described as a more ‘mature’ move fast with stable infrastructure.
But it is Zuckerberg’s early personal philosophy that was translated into Facebook’s business philosophy that can be credited for the startup’s meteoric rise.
It was at the same time that Google was a fast-growing web company and Apple was flexing its muscles, although neither of them could rival Facebook’s strong growth.
This philosophy enabled Facebook to be nimble, take huge risks and think outside the box.
Zuckerberg’s worldview contains two dimensions. The first one is speed.
He saw that this as a key component of how products should be developed, a heightened sense of urgency that if lacking among the workforce would likely deter the speedy attainment of any substantial achievements.
He realized that as businesses grow, there is an inevitable development of bureaucratic bottlenecks that hamper rapid progress.
His solution to this was elevating the speed with which his teams work and accelerate decision making.
John Kotter, a professor at the Harvard Business School and the author of A Sense of Urgency found that corporate urgency was a core component of several successful businesses in the world.
He describes urgency as a combination of thoughts and feelings that are gut-level determination that ‘there are great opportunities out there, we will do something now and we are doing it to win’.
He observes that the primary reason that makes urgency important is the increasing rate of change in global business and the need to stay on top.
The second dimension of Zuck’s philosophy is breaking things, which stands for experimentation. As you experiment, it is inevitable that you will break a few things here and there.
However, experimentation is what made it possible for Facebook to challenge the status quo and establish itself as one of the leading tech companies.
Zuckerberg was not afraid to go against what was already deemed and accepted as best practice.
The second dimension of Zuck’s philosophy is in line with Austrian Economist Joseph Schumpeter’s theory of creative disruption which relates to the deliberate destruction of longstanding processes to allow for innovation into improved methods.
At Facebook, the idea was to never get comfortable with existing achievements but to keep with break-neck pace of Internet innovation.
While there is ongoing debate whether the “move fast and break things” philosophy is dead, in the sphere of startups it has a lot of potential to accelerate the success of a new business venture.
Australian advertising entrepreneur Simon Reynolds offers two approaches to practicing this agile principle.
First, set short, unreasonable deadlines – You will need to put time pressure on both yourself and your team if you are going to achieve something meaningful at an unusually fast rate. The opposite, normal, reasonable deadlines has the likely effect of keeping you on the tail of your competition. This pressure will almost always bring out the best of the talent in you and your team.
Second, always ask how would the NEXT great company in my field do this? – The philosophy of moving fast and breaking things requires lots of experimentation with new processes. It calls for imagining the next disruption in the market that you are operating in, rather than just aiming for the top position. It is here that you stand a shot at being a game-changer and building a highway to longer-term market leadership.
RELENTLESS HARD WORK – DR MANU CHANDARIA
Chandaria is a Kenyan industrialist who served as the chairman of the Comcraft Group, a multi-billion dollar industrial conglomerate with a presence in over 50 countries, until his retirement in 2018.
He was instrumental in the titanic growth of this family business from a small shop in Nairobi during an arguably turbulent Kenyan business environment, battling legislative nightmares and navigating the many challenges of doing business in Africa.
Dr. Chandaria attributes his huge success to his philosophy of hard work. In one interview, he describes his philosophy as:
“My philosophy is zero multiplied by zero is always zero. You stay home, you don’t do anything, it is always zero the next morning.
You work a little bit and it becomes one, but one multiplied by one is also one again. Until you reach two, four, eight… then the multiplication and addition starts.”
Until his retirement at the age of 90, Chandaria averaged 16 working hours a day, which he has consistently maintained since the early days of the company.
He says he barely played any games popular with his wealthy peers and watched the World cup for the first time in 2018, but rather found the work environment innately fulfilling.
While Chandaria’s philosophy might not sound as attractive or catchy as the first two and may be a little extreme, it is absolutely important that an entrepreneur understands that to achieve the mammoth business success levels such as Chandaria’s, he has to put in more work than the ordinary Joe.
As Chandaria puts it, if you want to achieve success, simply have a clear vision of where the venture is headed, create a robust network of partners, mentors and advisers whose wealth of knowledge you can tap into, and then put in the work required to get you there.
FAILURE EVENTUALLY BEGETS SUCCESS – MICHAEL DELL
The founder and CEO of Dell Technologies, one of the largest technology infrastructure companies in the world started off in a college dorm-room to become the 25th most richest person in the world today.
Dell says that he initially did business with fear of failure, but he later tuned his fear of failure into a motivation and went on to revolutionize the personal computer purchase process and manufacturing.
While failure is rarely tolerated in business, Dell refused to let it get in the way of the immense possibilities awaiting him on the other side of taking risks and as the company grew he ensured his employees had the liberty, especially in Research and Development, to come up with new ideas, without being held back by the fear of failure.
Another component of failure that Dell shunned was naysayers.
When starting off Dell knew that seeking many opinions from those seemingly more knowledgeable in the PC business would probably have the setback of him second-guessing his ideas and delaying experimentation. He says:
“The good thing for me is that I was not going out and seeking a lot of advice from people. If I did, they would have tried to dissuade me or told me it wouldn’t work. Entrepreneurs have to be a little bit crazy.”
Dell has carried on with this philosophy to date with more than 140,000 employees, recognizing that for an organization of its size there might be several moving parts that hinder a fast-moving, nimble culture.
He compares the fear of failure with the opportunity cost of failing to take a risk because the outcomes might not be so well defined. Dell believes that desperately avoiding risk is actually the risky part itself.
When it comes to implementing Dell’s philosophy, you need to realize that business is not about getting rich quickly – don’t start a business just because it looks like an easy way to make money, but rather do what you have a passion for and be guided by a longer-term vision that can weather early uncertainties.
This will make it much easier for you to keep going in the face of fear. In addition, you should seek to disrupt. If you are looking for a real breakthrough, this will probably not be achieved by replication.
You need to turn the fear of failure into the fuel for your daring product.
Finally, you should yearn for continuous learning. In most cases, fear is usually caused by desire for perfection.
Instead of letting your fear of not achieving perfection stop you, it should motivate you to get on a path of continuous learning and iteration that will eventually help your business to take off.
WITH A SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY COMES A SENSE OF PURPOSE – KIRAN MAZUMDAR-SHAW
This Indian billionaire entrepreneur is a pioneer of the biotechnology industry in India and the founder of Biocon, the country’s leading Biotechnology Company based in Bangalore.
Despite graduating as a Master Brewer from an Australian university in the late 70s, she faced a lot of hostility and gender bias back home in the brewing industry spurring her into entrepreneurship.
At the age of 25, with no business experience and as a woman, she struggled to raise funding and get suppliers in the risk-ridden business which eventually strengthened her resolve to bridging the gender gap in science innovation and a commitment to affordable healthcare.
Her early experiences and experience bootstrapping culminated into a personal and business philosophy of living a purposeful life through cultivating a sense of responsibility.
To her, living with a sense of responsibility is what gives purpose to her life.
Her innovation-led biopharmaceutical company now has a footprint in over 120 countries ploughing back up to fifteen percent of the revenue in Research and Development.
She attributes her success on her mission to deliver affordable medicines to the world’s population and make a difference in global health access.
She felt it was her responsibility to make a difference.
Like Kiran, you should take your business mission as a personal responsibility.
When you know that what you are working on has an impact on the lives of people, this will give you a sense of purpose, and provide you with the motivation to chase your dreams.
CONSTANTLY THINKING ABOUT HOW YOU COULD BE DOING THINGS BETTER – ELON MUSK
Arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Elon Musk has been able to revolutionize two separate industries that have not experienced any disruptive innovation for decades – space and auto.
Musk’s imagination in the founding of Tesla and SpaceX is probably the most expansive in human history, flying far beyond where few have dared to go.
Musk’s temperament is one that causes him to seek knowledge in technology and business rather than a monolithic obsession with profit and recognition.
In one of the few times the billionaire entrepreneur has voiced his personal philosophy, Musk said on a casual interview with Mashable that he found it very important to have a feedback loop where one constantly thinks about the things they are doing and how they could do them better.
To him, this is the greatest piece of advice. Evidently, Musk is on a league of his own in his conviction that postponing profit is excusable if it the path to making his vision a reality.
He dwarfs most other CEOs stuck in their zombie-like pursuit of profit and amassing wealth which he demonstrates inhibits bigger dreams and masks an appreciation for what is truly of value to humanity.
Just like Musk, you should aspire to have a feedback loop that is driven by the need for self-evaluation and self-improvement.
Despite your greatest achievements, never settle. Instead, you should constantly think of ways of doing even better.
AN INDIVIDUAL’S CHOICES AND THOUGHTS ARE CENTRAL – OPRAH WINFREY
Oprah is ranked #6 on the Forbes list of richest self-made women in America 2019 with a net worth of over $3 Billion, having transitioned her hit talk show into a media and business empire.
She is one of the most well-liked female entrepreneurs of all time dubbed the ‘Queen of All Media,” based on her career as an actress, talk-show host, TV Producer and author of several books.
She was the wealthiest African-American of the 20th Century, with the Oprah Winfrey Show being the highest rated show from 1986 to 2011.
In an exhaustive expedition to map out Oprah’s personal philosophy, Marc Bodnick, in article published on Forbes.com opines that it is multifaceted and best presented in these three key elements: (1) take control of your own life, (2) An individual’s choices and thoughts are central and (3) Living your dreams. As she says:
“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.”
Oprah believes that the choice to excel starts with an alignment of one’s thoughts and words with the intention to ask more of yourself.
She had a rough childhood, moving from home to home from her maternal grandmother to stints between her father and mother.
But her dream of being ‘paid to talk’ was fashioned at an early age as she discovered her talents amid a tumultuous childhood, hence her conviction that biggest adventure can only be living the life of one’s dreams.
The main point from Oprah’s philosophy is that the life you live is up to you.
It’s not up to your background or your circumstances.
Your life is shaped by your choices and thoughts. If you are not satisfied with where you are, you need to change your thoughts and choices.
We have established that over and beyond excellent market research, developing an amazing product and timely launching, the most successful entrepreneurs are led by encompassing personal philosophies that greatly influence everything from workplace culture to investment decisions.
In the grander scheme of things, these philosophies are most probably what makes some enterprises such as Elon Musk’s stand out from the rest in achievement and the impact on the world that we live in.
With the above examples in mind, and the accompanying tips on how to get started on emulating any of these approaches to life and business, you should be able to get started on figuring out your very own personal philosophy.
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