Entrepreneurs are all different. They all have a different entrepreneur mindset that contributes to their success. Their entrepreneur mindset might have to do with their personality or even the field in which they have chosen to work.
When figuring out your own approach to the challenges of entrepreneurship, it can help to learn from the experiences of others.
We’ve selected the experiences and entrepreneur mindset of 10 well-known entrepreneurs from a variety of different fields. It is our hope that you will find something in each of their stories that will help you in your own entrepreneurial adventures.
1. Reach Out to Customers First
[Image: Stevens Institute]
Though it may seem to many like product development should come first, master bootstrapper Greg Gianforte insists that’s the wrong approach. After moving to Montana with his wife and children after selling a previous company, Gianforte grew restless and decided to start again.
He focused on the tech sector where his experience was strongest. But instead of starting with a prototype for a product or service and then seeking funding, he started by getting on the phone with potential customers. That led to conversations about what kind of product they would buy.
After a month of phone calls, Gianforte spent about 60 days coding the product his customers said they wanted. He claims his company, RightNow Technologies, was cash positive from the beginning.
The business makes cloud-based software for large consumer businesses and was sold to Oracle in 2011.
2. Find a New Market for an Existing Product
Phillips established his recording studio and eventually his record label as a way to capture the interaction of country and blues music he was already familiar with as a DJ. There was a wealth of talent he believed most of the country was unfamiliar with and had never heard. He created a relaxed studio environment with unique acoustics to capture and immortalize that talent.
3. Use Networking to Build Your Business
Many entrepreneurs talk about the importance of networking, but few are as specific about how and why networking is important as Jason Nazar, co-founder and CEO of Docstock.com.
In an interview on the MyTreat Blog, Nazar says he owes his success — particularly the founding and growth of his current company — to his networking efforts. He says he used networking to raise $4 million in startup funds. He says he also used it to locate a co-founder and build the majority of his organization.
Nazar gives some important advice to other entrepeneurs when using networking in business. First, measure the return on investment you are getting from your networking efforts.
Second, make sure you give something of value first when making connections instead of beginning by asking for something.
4. Give Without Expecting a Return
This may seem like a contradiction to our last point. But author, former hedge fund manager and tech entrepreneur James Altucher stands by the belief that great opportunities come your way when you offer something without looking for payback.
Altucher says he regularly sends out ideas to people with whom he would like to do business or those he admires and would like to meet and asks for nothing in return. Often he does not receive so much as a response, he says, but sometimes the results are magical.
In one instance, Altucher sent investment expert Jim Cramer, co-founder of TheStreet.com, a list of suggested article topics. As a result, Altucher received an invitation to become a contributing writer.
TheStreet.com would later invest in one of his websites, Stockpickr.com – then buy it from him.
5. Keep Control of Your Vision
Jack Ma, also known as Ma Yun, is the founder and guiding hand behind Alibaba, a giant Hong Kong-based wholesale eCommerce site. Despite its popularity and financial success, Alibaba’s road to acceptance outside China has not been easy.
Complaints about counterfeit or fake items sold on the site as name brands abound. And, of course, the problem is exacerbated as Alibaba attempts to position itself as a site other businesses use as a source of wholesale merchandise.
As Alibaba considers going public with an IPO, another challenge looms. Ma wants tokeep tight control of his company and of the team of executives he already has in place. This can be hard to do once investors enter the picture. Many want to have a say in how the company is run after investing their hard earned money.
But Ma believes in his vision for his company and in the culture he has created to get the job done.
6. Understand the Power of Brand
When the first series of Star Wars movies was released in the late 70′s and early 80′s, most people saw only a pop culture phenomenon. The string of successful films created a whole new market for science fiction and fantasy.
But creator and filmmaker George Lucas saw so much more. To him, the first trilogy of films and the three additional movies that followed became a powerful brand. That brand became a spring board to lucrative licensing deals for everything from toys, to video games, to memorabilia and live attractions.
In 2012, Lucas sold Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise that went with it to Disney for $4.05 billion.
In the meantime, Lucas clearly hasn’t lost his interest in powerful and profitable brands. He recently invested $10 million in the successful Starbucks cafe chain.
7. Focus Your Energy on What’s Good for Your Business
From best selling albums to a nightclub, a clothing line, a sports franchise and more, rapper Jay Z is known not just for his music but also for his business acumen.
His success is based in part on his focus. It includes a refusal to spend his time on anything that does not expand his entrepreneurial ventures. Forbes staff writer Zack O’Malley Greenburg says this focus caused Jay Z to decline involvement in a book Greenburg was writing about him.
Instead, Jay Z decided to put out his own book and profit directly from his own story and image.
While some might consider this outlook shortsighted, the question remains. How often have we allowed someone else to drag our focus and energy away from our businesses – and what has it cost us?
8. Always Maintain Quality Control
From the age of fourteen when he began his apprenticeship in his family bakery until his death in 2002, Lionel Puoilâne was obsessed. And that obsession was with the quality of bread that bore his family’s name.
Puoilâne became world famous for artisan crafted bread baked in wood fired ovens.
As international demand for his bread grew, he still refused to mass produce his product. Instead, he insisted that each loaf still be hand crafted by a baker personally trained in his techniques.
Even as he experimented with more modern techniques and expanded his bakery operations, Puoilâne’s interest in maintaining quality control in his business never wavered.
His daughter, Apollonia, continues that tradition to this day.
9. Set Your Product Apart
The desire to create a product that stands alone is nothing new. Way back in 1783, the Primrose brothers (George and William) promised to produce crystal as fine as any in Europe – and the Waterford brand was born.
The brothers’ secret technique of combining glass and minerals to produce crystal that actually “sings” when tapped with the finger became renowned. The crystal is also known for the deep and ornate carvings created by skilled artisans that give it a distinctive appearance.
So beloved and valued was the Waterford brand that even when the factory closed in the 1850′s due to economic hard times, the unrivaled quality of Waterford Crystal was never forgotten.
Almost a century later, the Waterford Crystal tradition was revived, returning the crystal and the town in Ireland for which it was named, to their former glory.
10. Take Ownership
Oprah Winfrey had experienced plenty of success as a broadcaster and even in the entertainment industry before ever launching the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986.
After some initial radio and TV jobs, she would host a successful chat show in Baltimore and later a show in Chicago that beat Phil Donahue in local ratings.
She would even star in a movie, “The Color Purple” with Whoopi Goldberg, directed by Steven Spielberg. But it wasn’t until after taking ownership of her syndicated talk show from ABC that Winfrey’s entrepreneurial skills began coming into focus. Her production company would eventually produce other TV and film projects.
Winfrey’s entrepreneur mindset eventually led her to launch a magazine and even her own TV network.