Four types, four traits

The following blog is made up of the best bits of editorial, articles and blogs that I’ve come across in my 38 years of working life, 30 of which I spent as my own boss at a very successful Creative Agency.

I thank all those that have inspired me to make (and write!) my own observations on these subjects. I now want to switch my focus to helping the next generation find the success that I did, and hopefully avoid a few of the pitfalls I didn’t!

Reckon you’ve stumbled across the next ‘big thing’? Believe there’s definitely a market for what you’re selling? Think you’ll be better or that you have a unique selling point?

This could all be blind optimism. Your friends and family will no doubt offer words of support and encouragement, but this is not usable market research - and can never be used as the basis for a successful business.

I’ve worked with hundreds of start-ups and I can pretty much tell if they have a chance within five minutes of talking to them. Essentially, there are four types of start-up:

1. A great entrepreneur with a good idea
2. A great entrepreneur with an OK idea
3. A bad entrepreneur with a great idea
4. A bad entrepreneur with a bad idea

Only the first two have a real chance of success.
Number 1 will usually have a knowledge of the market that they’re going into, as well as a deep understanding of the problem that they’re trying to solve. Finally, they will likely have an intuition as to the value they offer to their clients.
Number 2 can still be successful. This is because I’ve never met a good entrepreneur that has only one idea. Good entrepreneurs are characterised by their open mind, their can-do attitude and their resilience to setbacks. Sometimes, all they need is a mentor to tease a new idea out.

Spotting bad entrepreneurs is fairly easy. They’re often blinded by their insistence that they are right, yet have nothing to back their opinions or ideas up. They’re often arrogant, suffer from that blind optimism and will show little resilience to setbacks. Even if they have a great idea, they’re often doomed to failure unless they hand over development of the business to others.

In summary, to be a successful start-up you need to have the following four traits:

1. Confidence in both your abilities and your idea (but never arrogance or blind optimism).

2. Resilience to carry you through the inevitable setbacks you’ll encounter.

3. Attitude: be open-minded at all times. Never, ever stop learning.

4. Persistence: do not stop at the first, second or third hurdle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

However, having these four traits alone will not be enough.

It might give you the sling shot and adrenaline to get going but to stay in business and to grow, you’ll need to get a team together. This will require leadership skills often not found in great entrepreneurs.

This is where your good attitude needs to come into play. You need to be open-minded and appreciate that you don’t know everything and will never know everything - you need to be continuously learning.

I’m a founding member of a brilliant organisation, For Entrepreneurs Only, which is based in Hull, East Yorkshire. This is the only organisation that I know of where the members pay to join and then donate their time to helping others become more successful. It’s helped literally thousands of people to start up, develop and then refine their business with the one aim of helping the economy of East Yorkshire to thrive.

I wish you the very best of luck - which is something we all need in business too!


BusinessJonathan Leafe