Entrepreneurship has acquired multiple connotations over the years—not necessarily for the entrepreneurs themselves—but more frequently for those who enthusiastically follow them. In fact, some have escalated their magnitude into celebrity status.
The public fawns over these brilliant men and women who have devised stunning concepts which have revolutionized the way we do so many things in our modern world. Companies continue to hire brilliant minds and they, in turn, improve the company’s products, enhance the company reputation and, occasionally, even receive rewards for remarkable achievements, which the company still owns.
The Other Shoe Drops
On the flip side of the coin, one British company reportedly solicited ideas from their employees for ways to enhance efficiency, save money, and improve products and services. One employee suggestion, which was recently adopted by the company, managed to save them an estimated £1,500,000 (or equivalent to $1,976,250 USD) per year. In appreciation, the company presented this employee with a £10 (approximately $13 USD) gift card from a local retail store.
The British public is allegedly reeling at the crass handling of the matter. The company, itself, is claiming that they had already considered the idea before receiving the suggestion, and it was just coincidence that they were implementing it now.
Unfortunately, whether or not the details of this circumstance are completely precise does not entirely matter. The perception is that under the corporate umbrella, innovators seldom get credit, or at least suitable compensation, for ingenious ideas. In the beginning, it was difficult for people like Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs to acquire development funding to help to bring their ideas to market; as they worked out of a garage, on a shoestring budget, until they succeeded.
Development is now the domain of teams, and creations are legally considered to be company assets. Consequently, it is much easier to say that fantastic developments don’t belong to the creators because they are being compensated by the corporation.
The Lone Genius
Seen less frequently since the 1950s, the “lone genius” began to reappear just prior to the beginning of the dot com phenomenon. The rise of technology provided the opportunity for bright individuals to recognize and realize possibilities. These visionaries gathered a group around them to develop an amazing idea; and it actually became exceedingly hard to fail for several years, until, of course, the bubble collapsed.
A New Paradigm
The idea of innovation has become so commonplace that it is now seen as one of the fundamentals of business. The idea of a toothpaste company or sewing machine manufacturer making the same single product for their entire existence is virtually obsolete.
Every year, even if there is no practical benefit, products are different than the previous year. It might be an incremental improvement, a different way to use the same product, or even just a new color. In fact, in the eyes of some, the whole concept of innovation has been trivialized.
Going It Alone
Now we’re back to where we started—tiny innovations are encouraged—but true game-changers and revolutionary concepts are often looked upon as being “too risky”. It can be difficult to gain traction in anything but the most innovative companies.
If a person or a small group has faith in a particular idea, they’re often better off financing and developing independently, or seeking and waiting for an “angel” venture capital source that knows something about their field, and is smart enough to see the potential.
Related: Smart Risk-Taking For Entrepreneurs
A Certain Set of Skills
Brilliance alone is not enough to succeed; a great idea, on its own, is just that: a great idea. The modern entrepreneur needs a large array of talents in order to succeed, as shown in the following list. The good news is that all of these talents don’t have to exist in one person.
Your cadre of fellow developers or staff members can possess enough overlapping skills to cover this entire list. If you find yourself missing a skill, you can always hire people to fill the gaps. Here is what you and your team members will need:
- Communication skills and the ability to raise money
- The ability to manage money effectively
- The ability to identify strengths and weaknesses in people and maximize their effectiveness
- Project management skills
- Knowing how to identify and hire the right, or most effective people
- The ability to train new staff and motivate them
- The ability to be productive
- The ability to achieve balance and relieve stress
- A desire to leave the world a bit better off than you found it
- How to communicate with customers and close a sale
- How to spot new trends
- Knowing how to fail the correct way to gain the most benefit
- You know when to ask for help
- You have an ability to implement basic SEO, understand social networking, perform A/B split testing, and create customer relationships
- The ability to make entrepreneur friends
If you carry a highly traditional business sense, some of these skills may strike you as slightly unorthodox. Consider #9 (“A desire to leave the world a bit better off than you found it”), for example. Studies have shown that entrepreneurial companies with altruistic intentions succeed more often. Those driven by financial gain can succeed, too, but the underlying secular benevolence of, for instance, a wind-powered water desalinator for developing countries, appeals to us on a fundamental, or even emotional, level.
Such a device is necessary; it has wide application; it stands to be very profitable even with small margins that make it affordable where it is required. Yes, a household thermostat that you can control from your Smartphone is clever and useful, but the other device is truly important and feels more worthy to investors.
In the same way, #8 (“The ability to achieve balance and relieve stress”) is also important since those who are maniacally driven, or under excessive pressure, often make mistakes. If you don’t have a company culture that promotes emotional intelligence and periodic breaks from the tension, you may be creating a perfect storm for potential problems.
There are certain skills which you may not need immediately. For example, #14 (“You have an ability to implement basic SEO, understand social networking, perform A/B split testing, and create customer relationships”) has limited application until your product is almost ready-to-go. And you can hire someone to take care of that when the time comes.
Some aspects, such as #15 (“The ability to make entrepreneur friends”), you can use immediately. Creating a network of other successful entrepreneurs will give you access to a great deal of experience that can drive your development forward, and steer you away from those less-than-obvious pitfalls.
The temptation is strong to simply jump in with both feet and start developing your great idea. Familiarize yourself with the list first, aggregate most of those skills, and you have a much better chance of success.
Further Reading: Entrepreneurs: 4 Ways To Improve Your Company’s Sales Performance
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