My MBA in Entrepreneurship didn’t refer much to the importance of determination. Yet I believe that being determined is a key quality for entrepreneurs. Since I’ve been immersed in the real world of startups I found this idea to be very true.
Rachel Elnaugh calls it the “pit” which you have climb out and Seth Godin named it the “dip” that you must see beyond. Paul Graham says its “The most important quality in a startup founder. Not intelligence– determination.” (point 5). But what does it mean to be determined?
The Terminator movie
The Terminator machine has absolute determination to achieve its single objective. Entrepreneurs derive their determination from:
- Focus – There is alot of talk in business schools about vision and strategy. A vision brings something to aim for. Laurence Peter said “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.” With so much to do in a startup it can be overwhelming. Time can easily to burnt on doing things that don’t really matter. Determination brings the focus needed to work on the things that do matter.
- Belief – Because startups have limited resources they have to believe in their vision. The founders have to be determined to energise enough new resources to reach their goal. Mahatma Gandhi, “If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” If founders don’t believe in what they are doing no one else will and others aren’t going to help.
- Committed - There’s is no getting away from it. Startups are hard work . The entrepreneur has to fully commit and be determined to make the startup work. Peter Drucker said “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” The entrepreneur has to sacrifice other parts of their life’s to make it work.
- Consistency – Most business is based upon trust. Potential customers need to know that a supplier will deliver on their promises and they will be around in the future. The trouble is trust takes time to build up. If the entrepreneur chops and changes too much this trust will not buildup. Patience and persistence on a single course is necessary. Build momentum through each successive achievement towards the startups overarching goal.
- Think skinned – Entrepreneurs are well known for their determination and tenacity. They have to be thick skinned to survive the startup emotional roller coaster. Everyone will give advice and “hundreds of people will tell you your idea is rubbish” says Richard Reed the co-founder of Innocent Drinks. They may even think the entrepreneur is insane. The entrepreneur has to be determined to press ahead if they believe in an idea.
- Flexible - There is no point in flogging a dead startup idea! Once a new venture is started it can be difficult to see the difference between a set back or an idea that will never fly. Seth Godin believes that successful entrepreneurs know the difference between a dead-end and natural dips. A startup vision and plan needs to be broad enough to accept change.
- Lucky – Entrepreneurs need to be lucky people. However, as Ernest Hemingway said, “You make your own luck”. If the entrepreneur is determined and locates themselves often enough in the right place where things can happen, they eventually will.
James Dyson is a classic case of determination. In 1983 his new idea was rejected by all the major house hold vacuum cleaner manufactures. He had the focus, belief and commitment to manufacturer the new idea himself in 1993. During 2005 Dyson took a massive a 20.7% US marketshare compared to Hoover’s 15.6%.
Determination keeps us going when we loose all hope. Its when everyone and everything seems to be going against us. Determination is the spirit of innovation, entrepreneurship and being human. As Thomas A. Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”