Growing and Excelling as an Entrepreneur


As an entrepreneur, it is important to maintain ambition and hunger for fresh ideas as well as opportunities. It does not matter whether you are in charge of a big business or a small one. To remain successful as an entrepreneur, it is necessary to have that enthusiasm and drive, as is commonly seen in most industry leaders like Steve Case – the AOL co-founder and Ted Turner, the media mogul who founded CNN. Here are some clues on how they achieved their success.

Do not get restricted and bound by your resume.

Kathy Bushkin Calvin, CEO of the United Nations Foundation shared, “Way back when I was just 26, Gary Hart entrusted me with the responsibility of becoming his press secretary and manage his very first presidential campaign. At that time, my academic and paralegal background would not have seemed to be ideal to take on that responsibility. However, when I did a close introspection of myself, I realized that besides being a good advocate, I could also take on other functions, thanks to the skills I possessed and my belief that I could make a success of anything that I would take up.

Again, when I joined AOL in the year 1997 as its senior vice president as well as chief communications officer, I was apprehensive that I might not fit into a company known for its technocrats; till I understood that I did have the requisite skills to harness my technical knowledge and could therefore become successful. The fact is that it is very easy to restrict yourself and think you cannot do much, when in reality, an honest appraisal of your competencies will reveal that you can indeed take up challenging assignments and will find a way to overcome them to be successful.”

Go by instinct but also do your homework

Many people have lost out big time because they did not trust their instinct, which is the most pure form of signals that your body or mind is giving you. Right from the famous relativity theory to many path breaking inventions and discoveries, we have seen that an individual’s instinct or gut feel has been primarily responsible and the individuals who went by those instincts were able to come out with those ideas.

However, it is important to test out the idea with knowledgeable and talented professionals. That will help you to discard ideas that are not of the required standard, help you reassess the feasibility of the ideas and then go ahead with the ones that seem practical and implementable. It would then become possible to vest some of the bigger and plausible ones with the people who can take it forward to its logical conclusion. That will establish the right ownership and accountability for those ideas.

Don’t Run a Marathon Like a Sprint

Steve Case often used to remind employees at AOL about this and that enabled them to remain focused on the macro picture without getting distracted by any short term advantages or successes. For example, we had to take a call on whether it would be of advantage to AOL to tout the ‘privacy of user information’ as a unique selling feature. Though it would provided us with a great fillip in the short term, we understood that it would be in our interest to get in touch with other major Internet companies and promote this feature jointly so that more people can get the confidence to come online and use the internet freely.

Get Your Hands Dirty

The philosophy at AOL was that no job is too small or should be taken lightly and has to be approached with the same professionalism that one would accord a bigger assignment. A simple example is the manner in which some individuals hand over papers with a lot of errors rather casually to their peers or bosses. It just goes to show the respect they accord to their profession as well as their colleagues. On the other hand, I have also been fortunate to see top bosses step in and do what is necessary to rectify a situation without a chip on their shoulder and without showing any attitude of them being the top boss and they expect somebody else to do that job. They are invariably considered the best superiors by their subordinates and are able to motivate the people working under them.

I have also noticed that women tend to be so fixated on the job at hand and are so engrossed in achieving perfection, that they often miss out on other equally important aspects related to the job and their future prospects of growth. They thus miss out on enhancing their skills and knowledge that would have helped them progress more rapidly in their career.

A Closed Mind Produces No New Ideas

If you wish to become successful as an entrepreneur, it is imperative to be bold and have a broader perspective of things. You would recollect the reference to Maria Pacheco who founded Wakami World and how I mentored her using the Vital Voices initiative. Maria was truly somebody who was different from others in her mental approach and she could achieve what she did primarily due to her never say die attitude and passion for what she was doing and committed to.

She was the one responsible for me knowing so much about Latin America and she has had a great influence on the kind of international work we are able to achieve in our capacity at the United Nations Foundation. It is indeed a great challenge to constantly motivate oneself to keep learning and keep learning new things. That is why I consider myself fortunate to have got the opportunity to mentor individuals like Maria who are upcoming leaders and who have faced diverse experiences in their lives. It is important to always have an open mind about learning and seeking knowledge. It really does not matter how successful you are currently as this is an ongoing process.