Mental characteristics founders need

Generally people identify courage, appetite for risk, charisma, vision etc as essential traits for entrepreneurial success. Matt Clifford, co-founder of Entrepreneurs First has written a very good article about the mindset founders need to succeed. Building a business is hard work and certainly a roller coaster. These three behaviours struck a cord with me-

  • Growth mindset: viewing oneself and their capabilities as fluid rather than set in stone is vital. Thinking this way means one is able to identify and act upon improvements required in oneself to face a variety of challenges. Attracting investment, motivating staff, recruiting well, understanding customers etc are all examples of things founders will have to do well, but cannot be expected to be great at on day one.
  • Personal exceptionalism: Michael Dearing of Stanford explains this is a deep belief that your work is “snowflake special”! While that might appear somewhat pompous, it’s not arrogance and certainly does not mean that you don’t take feedback. To me, it’s the opposite of “who am I to do xyz”, which is the form of fear that restricts people from taking any action towards their dreams. Having conviction that you and your work is special is an essential impetus needed to overcome this fear.
  • Honey badger-ness: no difficult, worthwhile task can be achieved without perseverance. Particularly things that require change. The world in general is resistant to change. Whether you’re selling enterprise software or a shoe shopping app, you will have to overcome this inertia to get people to use your product. Founders will need to try and try again to win. Having said that, honey badger-ness is not the same as plain badgering. Don’t annoy people with the same product or the same pitch over and over again. If they don’t respond, it’s time for introspection – revise the product, change your key message or pivot, and try again.

Read Matt’s thoughts and original article on the subject here.


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