I have worked with some of Silicon Valley's best entrepreneurs and unfortunately some dismal ones too. Because we are all part of the Software Revolution, the Valley attracts the world's most ambitious and gives everyone a chance to build something great. So what determines if you will build what matters or simply die trying?
I have learned that a few simple signs reveal if an entrepreneur has what it takes. And the signs are fairly simply to see if you know what you are looking for.
So, do you know what foreshadows each entrepreneur's future? It's not where they went to school or how much money they have raised. And it's definitely not who they know. It's all about the habits they develop.
Yes, if you observe an entrepreneur long enough, their habits can tell you everything you need to know. Tell me about your business-building habits and I can often predict your future.
Aha! is the second company I started with Dr. Chris Waters, and we have had an incredible journey so far. Every day brings new challenges, and there is never a day when there is not some small success to celebrate. I hope to encourage others along this path of entrepreneurship and guide them toward how to build solid, successful businesses.
I certainly do not claim to have all the answers, but experience has been an excellent teacher on the subject of building software companies. Over the years, I have learned -- and put into practice -- several good habits that have helped me build strong businesses that have created lots of value of customers and the teams that have worked on them.
The good news is that these habits are free for anyone to develop. Clearly, I am not the first to adopt them.
Be a goal-setter
Everyone knows that setting goals is important. However, many people just give lip service to the idea and fail to live a goal-driven life. Successful entrepreneurs do not get where they are by accident. They know how easily they can get distracted by the daily minutiae of running a business. That is why they set a strategy and look to their goals first to plan their daily agenda. They even look forward to bigger challenges because they know how to tackle hard problems -- by setting small achievable goals and continually moving forward.
In fact, Aha! is built around this idea that vision, strategy and goals are fundamental to building a strong business. We help companies create roadmaps so they have a clear path to reach their goals. That is how our own business has been able to move forward so quickly. Trust me -- becoming a goal-setter works.
Bounce back quickly
Successful entrepreneurs are not immune from life's troubles. I know this to be true. There have been times when my life has become a little too real for my liking, and my first impulse was to hide away for a while. That is a natural response to stress.
But successful entrepreneurs know they cannot check out for too long. There are people counting on you and decisions that must be made. If you have a tendency to get down and stay there, you must remember that you have started something that is now bigger than yourself. So even when you do not feel like it, you have to be resilient and bounce back.
Live with purpose
I have written before about the myth of work-life balance. Successful entrepreneurs know that there is no such thing, no nice, tidy separation between work and the rest of life. However, they also understand that while work is vital to life, developing relationships is important too. They are also aware that owning a business puts extra strain on the people they love. They take time to invest in those relationships that matter so much.
My work at Aha! allows me to live this purposeful kind of life. Because I lead a distributed team across the U.S., I work from my home. This allows me to be more present in the lives of my family because I do not want to miss a thing! I can do my work yet be close to the people who are most important to me. Do not focus on your business at the expense of your family and close relationships.
One of the greatest aspects of owning a business is that you learn something new every day, sometimes even without realizing it. And you will never stop learning.
If you make these habits part of your life, you will not only position yourself to be successful, but you will also be happier while getting there.