When I see someone outstanding in their field – whether it be in sports, music, art, business or anything else – I always get the sense that there is much more to them than meets the eye. Although to the outside world these people appear to have ‘succeeded’, for them there is always more to do. It’s a mix of both never being satisfied and a constant need to keep doing it “bigger and better”.
For these highly driven people – and from here on out I am focusing on the driven entrepreneur – there is simply no off switch. The mind of the entrepreneur is always moving and planning the next success or achievement. For evidence of this, look no further than the Kauffman report titled, The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur, a study based on a survey of over 500 business owners, which found that the average number of businesses launched by each of the entrepreneurs in the study was 2.3.
Ultimately, the mind of you entrepreneurs is very rarely only in the present. You are constantly contemplating a million-and-one possibilities and making a plan A, B and C for each as that built-in “always needing to do more mechanism” in your brain drives you to achieve excellence and beyond. Let’s now take a look at some of the main thoughts that keep the entrepreneur’s mind occupied on any given day.
A survey of over 500 business owners found that the average number of businesses launched by each was 2.3.
1. What’s next? What sets the best entrepreneurs apart is that they continue to ask this question regardless of any past achievement or completed task. This is not just the next business idea or those sort of grand scale goals, but also the everyday things which can range from the small to the big. There is never a shortage of to-dos for the entrepreneur, and this is all tied into the mindset that is, quite simply, about satisfying the need to constantly keep building.
2. How can we improve on that? This is one of the key ways that the true entrepreneur sees the world through different eyes. While many average company owners may stand before that which they have built and say, “Great, it works, we are done here for a while”, an entrepreneur thinks, “Great, it works, but I want it to be better.” Just like in point 1 above which sees the entrepreneur always looking for the next thing to do, there is simply no destination when it comes to the quality of a successful entrepreneur’s output; rather, it is a continuous journey to be the best – with new features, new designs, new processes, a better service offering, and so on. According to Professor Saras D. Sarasvathy at the University of Virginia, this is because entrepreneurs apply what’s called “effectual reasoning” to imagine new ways of doing things – while others just accept the status quo.
3. Is my team busy enough? This is one nagging and rather persistent thought that plagues the entrepreneur from the moment they take on their first hire. There’s not a startup in the land that can afford to have a workforce sitting around twiddling their thumbs, and the entrepreneur is therefore obsessed with ensuring the team has enough to do. As for what constitutes “busy”, well that depends on financial goals. As a general rule of thumb, however, if staff are working at 80% capacity or higher, the captain of the ship is generally happy. Anything less is just all wrong, and restructuring is required ASAP.
4. Are my customers satisfied? We are living in an age of consumer power – and the successful entrepreneur knows it all too well. Customer satisfaction is hugely important, not only to ensure loyalty and repeat customers, but also to protect the reputation of a growing business. In a recent survey by American research company Radius Global, a cross-section of consumers ranked word of mouth as the number one influencer in purchasing decisions for everything from clothes and electronics to travel and financial products. The smart entrepreneur knows that without happy customers spreading the word, company growth just won’t happen.
5. Do I have to take time off? If you’ve ever tried to convince an entrepreneur to take time off, you’ll know it’s not an easy feat. The fact is that entrepreneurs want to do little other than build their businesses, and this can be a particular bone of contention when holiday season rolls around and the family start discussing the idea of a summer vacation. Even just the odd day off here or there takes careful consideration – evidenced by a recent survey by Sage, which found that 30% of entrepreneurs do not take any holidays at all. Put simply, in the mind of the entrepreneur, time is the greatest asset – and if you look at it that way, days off are simply bad for business.
A recent survey found that 30% of entrepreneurs do not take any holidays at all.
6. Are my financials in order? An entrepreneur is not an entrepreneur if they don’t have money on their mind. This has nothing to do with greed or being “a slave to the numbers”. Rather, it’s simply a matter of common sense: unhealthy financials create just about the worst possible environment for everyone concerned with the business, from the owner to the employees to the shareholders to the poor family members of all involved. Most business owners are well aware of stats like those from CB Insights which show that 29% of failed startups fell short because they ran out of cash; or a similar survey by Wolters Kluwer, which found that nearly a third of small businesses that failed did so because they didn’t spend enough time managing the books. Yes, the entrepreneur never underestimates the need to have the financial house in order – and therefore, profit and loss, cash flow, and balance sheets are top of mind much of the time.
7. Will this ever get easier? We end with perhaps the most recurring thought of all in the mind of the entrepreneur: will this ever get easier? I am going to spoil the party right away and tell you that the answer is no, not really. I mean you might make a ton of money and then you don’t really have to care anymore about that, but money is not necessarily the dominating goal for most entrepreneurs. True entrepreneurs simply love creating. And with that comes the constant desire to do better and build bigger, which in turn sort of eliminates any hope that things will one day get easier. That’s right, for the true entrepreneur it cannot get easier, because the same thing that made it hard in the first place will make it hard throughout the entire journey, and that thing is you and your ambition.
Neil Petch; Chairman at Virtugroup
With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.