The Successful Founder's Checklist
What sets successful founders apart?
I believe it’s not about how great your idea is, how much money you managed to raise or even how experienced you are. Rather, it’s about how you deal with the inevitable struggles of running a business and whether you can pivot and adapt to changing business conditions.
From my experience of working with entrepreneurs (as well as leaders of very big companies), successful leaders tend to have five characteristics in common:
Grit & determination. The ability to show determination in the face of hardship and adversity can be the difference between the success or failure of your start-up.
Risk taking. Being a founder, you need to be comfortable with ambiguity and not knowing what tomorrow will bring. You will have to take calculated risks. If running a business was easy, everyone would do it.
Problem solving. Whether you’re cash rich or not, there will be moments you have to get creative and figure out solutions that will set your business apart.
Seeking support. Some things you have to figure out on your own, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help. The ability to network, ask questions, share challenges and connect with people can be a make or break skill.
Self-motivation. As a founder, no one will get you out of bed in the morning and tell you what to do. If you don’t make things happen, eventually your business will simply cease to exist, so you’d better be able to motivate yourself!
Before you launch a business, it’s important to ask yourself whether you already have these traits, or if you’re genuinely willing to work on developing them.
The worksheet below can help you self-assess how well developed each of these characteristics are.
After working through the questions, you may find you have strengths across the board, or you may find some weaknesses. Those weaknesses aren’t necessarily a sign you should quit. After all, you may be able to find a partner with a complementing skill set.
What’s most important is how each situation made you feel. Did you feel stressed or anxious? Or did you feel exhilarated to face the challenge?
For some, the pressures and stresses of start-up life are invigorating, while for others, they can be crippling. Think about fight-or-flight: do you tend to be a dear caught in headlights?
Whatever the answer, remember this: it’s ok!
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If it’s not for you, don’t beat yourself up. Play to your strengths and do something you feel good about!
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Successful Founder’s Worksheet
For each question, answer how you would respond in each scenario, provide an example of a situation in which you’ve exhibited the given trait, or struggled to exhibit that trait. In the next column, rate how you felt about that situation, before, during and/or after. Did it fill you with anxiety and trepidation? Was it rewarding and motivating? Finally, rate whether you consider the trait to be a strength, a weakness or neutral.
After completing the worksheet, review how you’ve scored yourself. What do you think? Are you ready? If you’re still not quite sure, read this article: “Is it time to start your own business?”