What do great startupers do differently?
Recently I was lucky enough to participate in CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, the Disney World for tech aficionados and innovators. It was an amazing experience where I brushed up my knowledge of today’s major innovations in consumer technologies like IoT, smart homes, healthcare, and drones; where the progress of artificial intelligence blew my mind (especially emotional AI); and where I had my first non-human crush (its name is Buddy and it is the cutest companion robot I have ever met).
Professionally, it was an achievement because I was attending as a management consultant for the audio-disrupting startup Funky Sound Studio, helping them launch their Smart Luxury Audio Brand, Debussy. Like in many startups, the founders had been thinking about their innovative idea for so long that they needed fresh eyes to help them figure out the best path forward. My job was to propose the best road map—both strategically and operationally—to transform their beautiful idea into a profitable reality.
Working with a budding startup, meeting many founders and early-stage employees, and finishing by exhibiting with la crème de la crème of startups have been informative experiences. I feel like I have a better understanding of what helps startups succeed, and want to share some of the main habits I think are crucial for people looking to start businesses.
The difference between average performers and the true greats isn’t talent or skill. It is their ability to question whether the status quo is working—starting with themselves.
Before taking actions, be mindful. This is the foundation. Without it, nothing else works. Make awareness of your environment be your guiding principle. Understand what drives your perceptions, feelings, and actions so you can recognize and change habits and patterns that do not serve you well. By doing this, you will be able to shift your mentality and that of those around you. It will also help you avoid making the same mistakes over and over. Finally, awareness will guide you towards more understanding and knowledge, where the visionaries, innovators, and change-makers are.
In order to succeed, investing in yourself is the most rewarding project you will ever work on.
Align Yourself With Your Customers
Even if it sounds obvious, every startupper has an innovative idea. What makes a huge difference, is to have a caring one—an idea that will help the world to become a better place. It may sound cheesy, but it’s absolutely necessary.
People buy a product to solve a problem whether it is an external, internal, or a philosophical one. So ask yourself: What problem are you solving? How do you help your customers to feel happier or make their lives better? These questions are tricky, but help to define why your startup exists (beyond making profit). You will be able to empathize with your customers, connect with your market, and create a clear vision that your team, your investors, and your stakeholders will feel passionate about following.
Remember, the best tech innovations are never about features, but always how well technology serves people's human needs.
Train Like A Warrior
After knowing what you will offer to the world, it is time to accept a painful truth: This is going to be hard. Becoming a startupper is entering into a journey full of ups and downs, where you will either fight or give up. It is a vicious battle with adversity (internally and externally), a test for the will. It should be hard because all great things are difficult. Are you ready and willing to stay strong when the going will get tough?
Instead of just going on the defensive as it comes, it is better to train yourself as a modern-day warrior. Having the right energy is vital: the fire, the courage, the willpower, the perseverance that will help you to fight the odds, keep your dream alive, build collaborations, open locked doors, and push the limits for your project. Constructive, fueling, healing, growth-oriented, this energy will inspire you the good days, and push you on the hard ones to find opportunities where others might find only despair.
Be sure to maintain this level energy high, by practicing self-awareness, cultivating mentorships, finding expanders, and learning from gatekeepers how to protect yourself and your project.
When we think of startups, we think of organizations without a long-term business plan, handling decisions as they come, bringing as many people to the table to collaborate on the path forward. But the pitfalls of this model is that they may lose themselves in a cacophony of choice.
Instead, successful startups are innovative and prepared. They know where they want to go, and create a clear roadmap to rely on. Sure, they keep an eye on the pulse and iterate based on new information or data, but with every step, they have the vision to guide them. With this smart mix of focus and flexibility, they can prioritize the boldest moves, apply the best growth hacks, appoint the best people for their project, and more.
In order to succeed, great startuppers plan ahead to be focused on achieving the greater strategic vision.
To become outstanding, entrepreneurs are fully aware who they are and what they want to become. Consistent, dedicated, disciplined, and driven, they create technology to serve people's human needs. Excelling when the heat is turned up, they emerge from adversity more confident in themselves and their purpose and more committed to their work. That’s how they blow past every limit you thought was unbreakable. You can be one of them, too—just start to train. Elite performers are not born but made.