Being a successful startup founder requires you to have a distinct set of beliefs to be able to create your dream and turn it into a reality.
Many founders are not aware that your beliefs are not just important for your personal life but also for your startup. Beliefs are the foundation in which your entire business is built upon, and it spreads through your team as your startup grows. It’s for this exact reason you need to get the right from the start, trying to fix them once your business has scaled, is quite difficult.
Below are the seven essential beliefs all startup founders should have.
1. Believe your vision is going to change the world
If you look back through history, all successful entrepreneurs believed at some point that their business would change the world. In order to be truly successful with your startup you must believe this, otherwise you’re more than likely destined to be ordinary like the other 90% of business that fail in the first five years.
If you’re not going out there each and every day to solve a problem that needs solving, in the hope that you will change people’s lives for the better, then why aren’t you? You should be trying to do this, but maybe your startup is not built around your passion, and you built it for the money. I have been there and done that, it doesn’t work.
“Changing the world is the first step, believing you can is the next step and then aligning this with your passion is the last step. If you do those three things, the money will come”
2. Believe anything is possible
There is a high likelihood that whatever your startup is doing exists in some form already. For you to be successful, you need to believe that anything is possible and that even if your idea is 0.1% better, it’s that difference that will attract loyal customers to your business. You don’t have to be 1000 times better; often you don’t even need to be twice as good.
Have a crack; know that any founder can do anything they put their mind too and come from a place of certainty, knowing that your hard work and research will pay off if you believe it will.
3. Believe your team is amazing
Every pitch I have ever seen take place in front of a venture capital firm has involved a large amount of focus on the team. As a founder, your biggest challenge will be people and getting them to work together and have a vision that you all believe in. Worship your team when they do something right, give constructive feedback when they do something that can be improved. Understand that the best teams in the world have a leader that believes they are amazing and a team that agrees with them.
4. Believe in the power of rejection
If I was to say there is one belief that you absolutely must have as an entrepreneur and a founder of a startup, it’s to be able to believe in the power of rejection. You are going to pitch for a lot of deals over the course of your business that you are not going to win. Each time you will be rejected and told that you weren’t good enough, your price wasn’t low enough, you couldn’t deliver fast enough or you haven’t got enough experience. If you believe that each of these reasons makes your startup stronger and gives you a chance to succeed in the future, you will be very successful. The more you can deal with rejection, the more chance you will discover opportunities that other startups in your niche haven’t seen.
I can remember being rejected by a large company out of Europe during our startup phase, and they told me that because we weren’t listed on the stock exchange, we didn’t have the experience needed to deliver on what they wanted. I kept in touch with them, ignored the rejection, and became good friends with them. Two years later I convinced them that the company they had chosen, who were listed on the stock exchange, couldn’t deliver what we could. I showed them some examples of mystery shopping we had done and the research we had found about their target market. The tailored solution and persistence eventually won us the contract, and the negotiation was 100% in our favour. Bottom line, don’t accept rejection and play the long game for larger revenue opportunities.
As your startup starts to experience success, naysayers are going to pop out from everywhere. The more success you have, the more they will pop up. You must believe that the rejection they bring is useful and that some people will always find a way to say negative things about your startup.
5. Believe in thinking differently
The tag line for Apple’s most famous marketing campaign is also a belief that will ensure your startups success. Your ability to think differently and solve a specific problem differently to your competitors will be your startups make or break. Anyone can copy your idea, will they have the passion and the different thinking skills required to beat you? Probably not.
Thinking different once won’t help you win, you have to think consistently different for the benefit of your customer. A word of warning though, don’t be one of those new age cool cats that thinks different just for the sake of it and not because the business problem requires it.
When I was working in a very competitive industry with our startup, a lot of my prospects would get up to ten quotes from the market before coming to me. I would often find that each of the ten quotes were very similar, which is why it usually came down to the price. I went out of my way to find something that was nothing like what anyone else had presented, even making my proposal email quirky. I would usually win a lot of the time because people often just wanted to hear something that was different to the other ten people or at least presented differently. Sometimes it was just my personality that was different, but sometimes that alone, can be enough.
6. Believe in selling dreams
A game-changing belief that I learnt in my early startup days was when a sales person said to me “Tim you just sell dreams, it’s up to your customer to follow the plan you have set out for them and make it a reality.” Don’t misunderstand this one, I am not saying you just sell a dream and then who the hell cares what happens. You must sell the dream truthfully and respectfully to your prospective client always.
When I understood this belief, I realised that all the stress I was putting on myself for my clients to get 100% of the benefit I promised them was near impossible. Unless I am with them 24 hours a day, I can never be sure that they will use the product the way it was intended to. If you lay out the plan, give them all the tools and then your customer says it doesn’t work, help them to make some tweaks. If they still can’t get the results that you promised them and they are doing everything exactly as you told it to them, give their money back. If they are only following part of the plan, then there is only so much you can do so stop stressing yourself.
7. Believe in your naivety
One of the best things I ever did in my startup career was to believe in my naivety. I would often enter a new marketplace being completely naïve to its nuances. This by default would mean that I would approach and believe things that my competitors would not. People would constantly tell me that my ideas wouldn’t work or that customers would want something. I would usually prove them wrong (although not always, I am not god) because I just didn’t know any better, and I think that was my number one success factor.
It’s very easy to have people’s opinions cloud your idea or convince you that something won’t work. When you learnt to walk as a baby, you didn’t know that you couldn’t do it, so you just kept trying until you did. Take this same approach to startups, and you will experience success, I promise you.
What beliefs do you think are essential? Do you agree with the beliefs I have outlined above?