You Have to Love the Process

What is that special something that “winning” entrepreneurs possess?

The standard answer seems to be part luck, part guts, part brains and part the people they surround themselves with. Or, in mbaspeak…”right time. Right place. Right product.”

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the recipe is far different, seemingly simple, but, extremely difficult to execute.

I’ve been fortunate enough to spend my career working for and with entrepreneurs. Some who “get it done” and some who don’t.

The ones who do follow a pattern. A recipe that allows them to orchestrate success in the same way as a conductor does a symphony. They love the process and engage as it unfolds.

So, rather than a formula it’s a series of steps, notes on a page that blend together.

The winning entrepreneur:

(1) Checks their ego at the door
(2) Doesn’t become emotionally attached to their original idea to the extent that it outweighs sound business judgment
(3) Seeks out and listens to opinions from experts and their target market
(4) Engages in intellectual debate when challenged
(5) ACTS quickly when a suggested change of course makes sense

And, most importantly

(6) Embraces the process

Sounds simple. But, it’s not. By nature, serial entrepreneurs are egoists. They not only love their ideas, but many are in love with themselves and therefore emotionally tie themselves to their creations. Whether it be a product, a website, or a commercial, to WIN – the entrepreneur must actively engage and WANT others to better what they’ve done. Many CEOs engage in steps 3 and 4, but have never mastered 1 and 2 and therefore cannot execute on step 5. They know it all; the project is their “baby”. Who could create something better?

I’ve lived a real life example with a winning CEO. My CEO at Education Connection had been massively successful. He had started and sold several businesses – for millions of dollars. He was known in the for profit online education space as well as internet marketing industries as “the golden boy” or the “man with the midas touch”. He was incapable of creating something that was not a success. Having the opportunity to work for him and now having worked for several other CEOs, the difference is clear; he loves the process. He had said to me hundreds of times while building our business, “enjoy the journey – be present – don’t always rush to the end goal” and only now – a couple years later – do I understand what that means and why it led to his success. It’s the process outlined above.

  1. January 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Alright, so what happens if there’s a new breed of entrepreneurs out there?

    Social Enterprise is fascinating to me – people who believe in a cause rather than a competition – and create a business out of it to address the needs of a problem (e.g. environmental, social justice, homelessness etc) and spend their time working on that. Genius.

    Have any experience of Social Entrepreneurism?

  2. January 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm


    Great post – and I couldn’t agree more with #6. You hire others to help bring the vision to life and to take it to the next level. You hire expertise that builds a stronger organization. That requires trust, as well as great collaboration and communication.

    And to build a great business, you need processes in order to scale the business. Sure, that can make some feel as though they ‘can’t get things done like before’ but when done properly you can grow the business while growing profitable revenue. Without processes, you run the risk of having every opportunity stretch the limited resources of the organization – and that takes its toll on margins as well as retention and referrals.

    I once sat next to a serial entrepreneur at a conference and the discussion turned to taking the great idea and turning it into a growing business – his immediate response was “…but when you do that, you could limit the business and then miss opportunities.”

    The overwhelming response from the group was “…you can’t be everything to everyone so focus on the best opportunities then make sure you execute better than anyone else so that the customer enjoys a consistently unique, valuable experience.”

    Play to your strengths. Downplay your weaknesses. Successfully executing a great customer experience requires discipline, processes and commitment.

    Looking forward to more comments – this is a great topic.

  3. January 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I’m not sure; does education count as a cause? That said, I think what is listed above goes to any business / type of entrepreneurship. I’m not sure I’ve seen a vast difference in entrepreneurship traits between “business” and “mission driven” with the exception that most entrepreneurs (not social) are strong capitalists and the social entrepreneurs are not; but that does not change the way they hold themselves and interact in a business setting.

  4. January 23, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Indeed Jamie.. I don’t think I was being all that verbose this morning.

    I guess, to elaborate, I was thinking about the problem with steps 1 & 2, and the people cropping up who have no ego when it comes to the idea, how powerful collaboration can be when it comes to a project, and perhaps essentially a new way of working in the entrepreneurial space.

    I don’t think I was really saying anything different to you, just suggesting there’s also another breed of new entrepreneur out there.

    Thanks for your insight into the above topic anyway, despite having had an upbringing with an entrpreneurial father, it’s been a little while since I’ve been in the space so it’s good to have a ‘top view’ of what we’re looking for when we’re working with people.

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