The journey of an entrepreneur to develop, grow and potentially exit a startup is not for everyone however, and the skills and attributes required to be successful in this journey are not easy to come by.
In the frst of a two-part series, a friend of Pitcher Partners, Aaron Birkby (Serial Entrepreneur, CEO of Startup Catalyst and Entrepreneur in Residence of the RCL Accelerator), sets out his list of those practical traits and skills every startup founder needs to invest the time in to develop:
This is the uncanny ability demonstrated by successful entrepreneurs to continue to persevere despite adversity. It’s the ability to get knocked down and stand up again, over and over and over. Founders with high resilience never speak of backup plans, and struggle to comprehend anyone who asks them at what point they will admit defeat.
Distinct from resilience, endurance is the ability to physically give 100% of your energy to every task when needed, even when your tanks are completely drained. It manifests as the ability to take a long-haul fight and run straight on a stage to talk to hundreds of people, before running back to a key client meeting, then hosting a key dinner event, before spending hours with your engineering team working through problems—all while appearing energetic and focussed. You need to be the energiser bunny.
Founders need to be able to make decisions extremely quickly, and get themselves to the point where 95% of them are correct (distinct from running experiments where higher failure rates may be desired to push faster laps of learning in innovation cycles). Being decision ft means you are in-tune with your business, and with your gut responses. Fast decisions improve productivity and growth rates, and instil confdence in the team.
People are everything, making your connections a form of currency. But so many people make the mistake of thinking that networking is about building your Facebook following or connection count on LinkedIn. Connections are really only valuable when you build real and meaningful relationships, based on respect, trust and credibility. Which is exactly why we build so many “breaking-bread” events into our Startup Catalyst mission schedules.
Starting and scaling a business is stressful, and high levels of anxiety are extremely common amongst founders. But it is easy to decouple the emotion from anxiety by realising that anxiety is actually a highly-evolved mental function that processes critical social and informational data and manifests the result as a signal to your consciousness of problems that need to be addressed. Once you accept anxiety as the high-functioning tool it is, you can remove the emotional symptoms and actually weaponise it as a powerful tool for problem solving.
Develop your listening skills, your ability to read body language, and your situational awareness. People constantly emit signals through their choice of words, their body posture, and their choice of situational environment. Developing the ability to detect and interpret these signals gives you incredible cut-through in understanding others, selling, team management and relationship building.
True leaders inspire others to follow, as well as step up so they themselves in-turn lead others. Leadership is distinct from management, and does not involve hierarchy. I have found a great starting point to learn about leadership is from military training manuals.
Cole Wilkinson is our resident advisor to startups and Director of Startup Catalyst. Aaron Birkby is a Serial Entrepreneur, CEO of Startup Catalyst and Entrepreneur in Residence of the RCL Accelerator.