Posts Tagged ‘Determination’

The big dipper

March 23, 2010

I wouldn’t normally blog about a book but  Seth Godlin’sThe Dip’ explores   one of the most difficult and profound questions in life  – knowing when to quit and when to keep going. If you don’t know of Seth, you should – he’s a marketing legend! Challenges are constantly around us  but when the going  gets tough with  a hobbie,  job or startup should we give up or keep going?  Don’t be afraid to give up when a situation is  no longer  a challenge or after much effort it’s not growing. Good things will happen!

I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago to a group of PhD students about the how a business idea literates and that sometimes you have to give up on a product/idea. After the presentation one of the PhD’s approach me and said that their Pharma startup has been working on a product for 10 years. They’ve  just run out of money and the product is only just going into clinical trials. Unfortunately they don’t know if the product will pass. Nightmare situation ! Give up or keeping..

On the same week one of my family asked: “when are you going to give up”, referring our startup. This is a very good question. One which I have tried to answer in previous posts – Knowing when to quit flogging a dead Startup. This is probably the most difficult question of all for a founder. And That’s probably why they asked. NOTE: They’re already  a successful company founder 🙂

Seth is so right – it’s really hard to know when to quit or when to keep going. Success maybe just around the corner but that corner could just another shoulder obscuring the next climb. During my employee career I sometimes found it easy to stop pushing new boundaries and settle into a comfort zone. I believe it so important to keep pushing forward  and knowing when to quit if  your not moving forward.  However it’s not always easy to let go of something you have put so much effort and dreams into, like a startup or a new job.

You will know when something has run its course but are often too afraid of change to doing anything about it. Unfortunately change will eventually be forced upon  you if you settle for too long. The problem is the ego gets in the way of quitting – doubt kicks in. What will people think if I give up, ‘he’s a looser’ or ‘she’s a quitter!’, etc. The Dip is about  seeing the challenge for what it is – a  test, a learning experience and something that should be ultimately rewarding. It is there to be overcome one way or another – just get over it!


The source of entrepreneurial determination

August 12, 2009

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?

terminator_fireThe Terminator movie

The Terminator machine has absolute determination to achieve its single objective. Entrepreneurs derive their determination from:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”

There is a fine line between entrepreneurship & insanity*

June 2, 2009

“It is true that there is a fine line between entrepreneurship and insanity. Crazy people see and feel things that others don’t. But you have to believe that everything is possible. If you believe it, those around you will believe it too.” Anita Roddick *


The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s
Alice in Wonderland (Sir John Tenniel,
1865. Wood-engraving by Dalziel)

Many of my  friends think I’m as Mad as a Hatter! I gave up a well paid stable job to pursue hare brained ideas. And I continue to spend ever increasing amounts of money without return. They say, “I just don’t understand.” or “it makes no sense.” Not many people working in comfortable jobs seem to understand. They see only danger and risk. However I don’t see it as risk but as opportunity.

The academics say entrepreneurs don’t see their actions as taking risks. The entrepreneur sees their decisions as calculated judgements. “isn’t it a risk staying in your job year after year” I heard. My more sympathetic friends tell me how brave I am having a startup, especially with a young family. In fact, people have been telling me how ‘Brave’ I am for years. Like when I moved to London OR when I left a well paid job in London to go traveling for a year.  “I wish I could do that”. Well you can!! Live your dreams and don’t let fear rule you.

Are entrepreneurs mad or unstable? Is there something  more sinister lurking in the mind of startup entrepreneurs? I think not. Insanity, craziness or madness is described in Wikipedia as “the behavior whereby a person flouts societal norms and defective function of mental reasoning”. As Anita Roddick put it so well- entrepreneurship is about beliveing and seeing things that others don’t.” Its having a dream of how things can be. This is the Successful Product dream Simon, my co-founder and I are chasing with our website monitoring startup:


Understand the Risks, from Tim Berry’s
Hurdle: the Book on Business Planning

We dream of building something great! A consultancy service is less risky and brings immediate revenues but has a smaller upside. Whereas the product startup needs more time and has much greater risks but also massive potential rewards.

We can all dream of a brighter and grander future. Martin Luth King had a “dream” which is now coming to fruition. Entrepreneurs see a clear pathway into an uncertain future and are prepared to pursue that dream with vigor and determination. Doubters will only believe in entrepreneurs dream when they see it forming into reality. It just takes time before an idea starts to become real.

A final thought:There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”(Oscar Levant, 1906 – 1972). To truly create we must leave convention, the norm and even reality behind. For a while at least 😉