Based on my experience advising entrepreneurs, I’m convinced that success is often more a mindset than a specific set of skills or intelligence. The mindset I’m looking for is one that sees challenges as exciting rather than threatening, setbacks as learning opportunities and that effort and perseverance will overcome any obstacle. Most experts call this a growth mindset.
Of course, that mindset has to translate into a set of specific actions that other people recognize as going above and beyond the fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is when entrepreneurs believe their abilities and market are fixed, and the challenge is to make the best of the hand already dealt. Here are key maxims that I believe indicate a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset:
A need to learn from customers, rather than educate them. Technologists, in particular, are prone to building solutions looking for a problem. Successful entrepreneurs start with a customer problem, and develop a solution, rather than the other way around. They build a startup culture of working for customers rather than pushing a product.
Develop market insights and a growth vision far beyond today. This is commonly called understanding the big picture, or the ability to see around corners. It is a mindset that customer needs are constantly changing, and the entrepreneur’s job is to anticipate and contribute to that change, rather than just react to it. Market change is opportunity.
Don’t try to solve all the world’s problems in one solution. The most successful customer solutions are sold as simple and focused, such as in Apple’s iPhone 5 TV ad, rather than a complex solution to a host of problems. A mindset of simplicity is what it takes to overcome a customer’s natural fear of change and new technology.
Foster leadership and accountability at all levels of the company. A company culture of initiative and collaboration breeds new strategies, processes and innovations that are driven by customer input, rather than by autocratic management from the top down. An entrepreneur mindset of integrity and honesty is required to make this happen.
Partnering with customers, rather than acting as a supplier. Founders with a growth mindset engage their customers and vendors in a win-win partnership. This increases customer loyalty, facilitates problem-solving and allows you to anticipate what customers need even before they know they need it.
Replace “push” marketing with value-added “pull” marketing. The basic objective of the pull-marketing mindset is to proactively demonstrate value and expertise, so that when potential customers are ready to purchase, your company relationship is “top of mind.” Traditional push marketing is losing effectiveness due to information overload.
Manage by metrics rather than by crisis and emotion. A success mindset starts with setting “stretch” objectives for yourself and your team, based on market needs, with the confidence that everyone grows from looking ahead and pushing the limits. Progress must be measured to allow for corrections and the opportunity to celebrate success.
Other indications of an entrepreneur with a growth mindset include a priority on coaching and employee growth, a willingness to accept negative feedback as an opportunity to learn and greater use of outside relationships to stay tuned into market and technology changes. They contribute time to outside causes, and see their company as part of the greater ecosystem.
All of these maxims expand an entrepreneur's image and the impact of his or her company on the marketplace, which in turn accelerates success. There is no room in business today for entrepreneurs who are worried about how smart they are, how they’ll look or what a mistake will mean. It’s time to step up the game by adopting a growth mindset. Anyone can.