I’m often asked about the keys to success of an early-stage, entrepreneurial company. Many people think it’s the idea. I hate to burst your bubble, but a great idea is only about 5% of the success factor. Others think it’s getting lucky. There’s a bit of luck involved in every success story, but I don’t believe for a second that you can just sit back and wait for lightning to strike. The number one key trait of an entrepreneur is humble confidence – the ability to maintain thick-headed stubbornness and perseverance while simultaneously remaining insanely flexible.
Entrepreneurs must persevere through all sorts of challenges, despite the naysayers, and in very risky situations. Some consider leaving a well-paying job to take on debt, bet the farm, and roll the dice on an untested idea insane. The entrepreneur calls it his passion and pushes forward with the highest confidence. Others would consider plowing forward with a nervous smile despite being 27 hours from payroll and not having the cash in hand irresponsible. The entrepreneur stomachs the gut-wrenching moment, trusting that the gamble will pay off. When the “experts” claim that it simply won’t work, the successful entrepreneur’s passion spawns an intense determination. The challenge of willing the business to succeed literally keeps the entrepreneur going. Nothing will get in their way. Intense confidence leads to perseverance that simply doesn’t allow one to give up.
If it is impossible for an entrepreneur to succeed without this insane confidence, it is guaranteed they will fail without unflinching agility. The entrepreneur must navigate his or her fragile company through hazardous conditions. Plowing straight forward is not an option, as the company will fall off the cliff. Rather, the entrepreneur must keep eyes and ears open, continually learning from both success and failure and learning to filter the naysayers while acting upon intelligent feedback from actual customers. The entrepreneur surrounds himself with information and applies that which is worthwhile, tweaking, or even overhauling, the business model to ensure success.
Stubborn perseverance and unwavering agility may seem diametrically opposed, but for an entrepreneur, it is the combination that is vital for success. I like to call this dichotomy “Humble Confidence.”
Who have you seen demonstrate this humble confidence? What types of stories have you heard about entrepreneurs who practice humble confidence?