As an entrepreneur with a brilliant idea for creating an industry disruptive innovative new business, what’s the single most important factor for success? Put another way, for increasing the odds of avoiding failure. To put this in context, it’s worth noting that roughly 90% of start-ups fail. Over 50% fail despite having angel and VC funding and help. Sales smarts is certainly important. Inventing a much needed product or service helps. Funding never hurts. A team working together is great. Attractive financials and cost effective sales channels even better.
But I would argue that the single most important step for success, for avoiding the pitfalls of failure, is taking full advantage of smart experienced mentors or advisors. Whether these are friendly board members, industry experts, hands-on management consultants, CEO Advisors, or just interested friends of the firm, past successful experience counts. It counts as long as the entrepreneur CEO and management team actually properly use them.
Use them? Yes. Not just with monthly or quarterly “formal” meetings, but daily by asking them for advice, carefully listening and learning from their experience, their successes and failures. By encouraging them to get to know your company, its people, products, prospects and operations. Authorize and encourage them to truly get to know the company. Then their experience, working to help you be successful, will open doors, discover opportunities, stumble on problems, and help find answers in support of your efforts.
Advisors of one sort or another, some my bosses early in life, were absolutely critical to the phenomenal successes I’ve had in my business and investment efforts over the years with many innovative industry disruptive companies. I first discovered the importance and value of experience, and listening and learning, while working with an embryonic MCI Telecommunications which went on to change the communications world we live in today.
Put your ego away. Ask, listen, take notes and learn, always learning. And use mentors!