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Successful Company Founders

January 27, 2019

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:48

I thoroughly enjoy listening to NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts. I wrote about them here nearly 15 months ago. Each one consists of an interview with a successful founder of a company. After listening to more than 50 of them, I have drawn a few conclusions about what it takes to successfully launch and grow a company.

A good idea: It often starts with a “half-baked” concept. I learned that it does not necessarily need to be a brilliant idea. In fact, the original ideas behind most of the companies were questionable at the time. An example is Perry Chen, principal founder of Kickstarter. It took him eight years to refine the concept of crowdfunding.

Another example is Jake Burton of Burton Snowboards. He founded the company in 1977, but it took him and others years to develop the snowboard and make it commercially viable. Without the following attributes, a good or great idea will go nowhere.

Passion: This is something that Chen, Burton, Richard Branson, and countless other successful entrepreneurs have. Most have a great deal of it. Without passion, a company founder has little chance of commercializing an idea.

Risk-taking: This means courage and grit. Some might view it as an adventure, which can really get their blood flowing. Those who succeed in starting a company are willing to take calculated risks.

Hard work: Perhaps this goes without saying, but do not underestimate the number of hours, including evenings and weekends, that company founders spend. It’s often at a time when they are raising a family, making it even more challenging.

Determination: Founders of companies face a seemingly endless number of obstacles and problems, including flat-out rejection. Yet, they get up in the morning and work tirelessly to overcome them. They are absolutely determined to move forward, no matter what gets in their way.

Luck: Some would argue that you create your own luck. While this may be true, a little luck, such as accidentally meeting a person that becomes your co-founder or partner, helps a great deal. Putting yourself in a position to create luck is helpful.

Having an idea or two, along with passion, a willingness to take risks, a great work ethic, and determination does not guarantee success. Without these attributes, along with a bit of luck, a person has little chance of launching and growing a winning company.

Note also that much of this applies to entrepreneurs working within another organization. Launching a new product or business in these companies is not entirely different from starting a company.