The Harder They Work, The Luckier They Get

team joining hands

The best entrepreneurs and executives are those that are able – through both great training and great talent – to move efficiently and profitably from ideas to execution, and then from execution back to ideas and then back to re-focused execution.

The entrepreneurs to avoid are those overly focused only on ideas or only on execution.

Those focused too heavily on ideas don’t quickly and rigorously enough subject their ideas to the rumble and tumble of the marketplace. These are the great “idea men” who never get around to actually executing upon a plan.

Those entrepreneurs overly focused on execution are often too slow to react to fast-changing technological, marketplace or competitive conditions and thus miss adjacent, easy-to-see opportunities.

No, the best entrepreneurs and executives are both creative and task-focused, but not too little nor too much of either.

They make plans and they work them, but are not slaves to them.

They understand that great businesses are inspired by ideas, but their success is counted in cash.

They are, in essence, “idealistic capitalists,” believing that the best ideas, the best products, and the best services are also those that make the most money.

Entrepreneurs running businesses like these are few and far between for sure. But more often than not, they demonstrate five tell-tale signs, including:

5. They are Risk-Takers. The proper goal of an entrepreneur is not to run a small business in the common sense of the term. With the fear of sounding harsh, the best of them are minimally concerned with protecting their own “middle-class” lifestyles.

Rather, they understand that achieving greatly requires daring greatly, and that the worst outcome is not necessarily a flame-out failure, but rather a muddling along driven by too conservative managerial decision-making.

4. They are GREAT Teammates. Great entrepreneurs are not simply great technicians, but rather have the gift to attract, cultivate, and empower a multi-disciplinary, faceted, and well-meshed leadership team.

And this team together, in turn, creates a culture of achievement. The tone of this culture might be, and usually is, set by a charismatic founder. But its enduring success depends on how it can be replicated and maintained as the company grows, and as its founder’s role becomes less pronounced.

3. They are Goldilocks-ish. While there are certainly outliers in this regard, the best entrepreneurial managers are not “too hot” nor “too cold.”

They have had a few past successes and maybe a failure or two, and are now in that sweet spot between experience and wisdom, and youthful hunger and energy. They know what they know yet they still have the intellectual and emotional flexibility and curiosity to change and grow.

2. They are Technologists.  Well-led modern companies leverage technology — from CRM and ERP to SEO and SEM to scenario-planning and simulation — to “best practice” their business models.  Their leaders understand that “IT” is not just the domain of a geeky guy to call when computers can’t boot up, but is rather the crucial skeleton of the organism of their business.

1. They are Pig-Headed, Determined, and Willing to Sacrifice To Be Successful. More than anything else, great entrepreneurs work hard.

They work nights. They work weekends. They work when they’re sick. They work when they’re tired. They work and work and work and then to paraphrase the great (and famously hard-working) golfer Gary Player, “The harder they work, the luckier they get.”

Look for this quality above all else — it is almost always the best predictor of the presence of the other qualities on this list, and of entrepreneurs that build companies that grow and last.

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