Carve your own path

Entrepreneurship is many things. Google it and you will find page after page of theories, articles and cheesy inspirational wall posters. However you define it, it's about carving your own path and following your own idea.

Carve your own path

Entrepreneurship is many things. Google it and you will find page after page of theories, articles and cheesy inspirational wall posters. However you define it, it’s about carving your own path and following your own idea.

Not all ideas work out, I’ll give you that. But as an entrepreneur, you don’t see the risk; you see the reward. So that I don’t fall into the cheesy domain with the rest of this piece, I am going to use Mark Cuban as the basis for outlining what I feel every entrepreneur needs to have in their toolbox.

For those who are not familiar, first let me do the introductions. Mark Cuban is a billionaire tycoon. A billionaire. He has the kind of wealth that every burgeoning start-up and entrepreneur dreams of. He’s also earned every cent of it himself. Listed on Wikipedia as an American businessman, investor, media proprietor, author, television personality, sports team owner and philanthropist ‘ the self-made mogul and star of Shark Tank founded his first company aged 25 and is currently estimated to be worth in the region of $4.3 billion. He’s the kind of guy that every entrepreneur should be listening to. So, here are six characteristics I think stand out from looking at his career to date.

Driven and determined 

Give it some welly. Cuban, like myself, is a firm believer in this premise when it comes to business, the harder you work, the greater your chance of success. Sounds obvious, but it never fails to amaze me how many entrepreneurs I’ve seen fail or flounder because they simply haven’t put the hours in. Cuban agrees and has been quoted as saying that one of the top reasons people fail is a lack of effort. He’s right. The cold, hard facts are this: if you don’t give it everything you’ve got, the chances are that it won’t work. 

Setting up a business is like having a child; it requires all of your energy.  Nurture it. Pour your heart and soul into it. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out ‘ it’s that straightforward. Never rest on your laurels either. It’s all too easy to relax when a little success comes your way, but for every ‘you’ there are hundreds, if not thousands, more ‘yous’ waiting in the wings should you lose focus. 


I literally feel like pulling my hair out when I hear someone say ‘but it’s always been done like that’. So what? For years we cleaned our homes with a dustpan and brush before someone invented the vacuum cleaner. Being creative and having the ability to spot opportunities before anyone else is what makes us entrepreneurs. It’s gold dust and the hallmark of a great entrepreneur. Cuban once used a Henry Ford quote to illustrate this point perfectly, he said: If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses. He’s completely right. The vast majority of people don’t think further ahead than what they already know ‘ and that’s fine. The key to being a successful business owner, however, isn’t about accepting the status quo. It’s about challenging the norm; being disruptive and seeing a gap where others don’t. If you wait for clients to tell you what they’re looking for, you’ll undoubtedly be too late. It’s your responsibility to identify what your customers need and create it for them. 


 Imagine, if you will, that I’ve triple underlined this point for extra emphasis ‘ it really is that important. Cuban says selling for a reason is one of the most valuable lessons he learnt as a young entrepreneur and I wholeheartedly agree. Survey after survey has found that we’re far more likely to buy from someone we know and trust, and one of the best ways to create this trust is by offering a genuine, bona fide way to make their life easier ‘ be that by solving a problem, saving them money or improving their efficiency. It’s not rocket science; put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Think about what you’d want. It’s a straightforward approach but one that means your clients will view you as a partner, rather than an annoying salesperson who won’t stop calling.  


When my sister, Rachel, and I founded Moneypenny 20 years ago, there were many things we didn’t know. That attitude is far more important than aptitude when it comes to hiring employees, for instance, or just how important great contacts are. There were, however, two things that we were absolutely sure about ‘ 1) creating a business we would want to buy from if we were a client, and 2) being a workplace we would want to work in if we were an employee. These two things continue to shape everything we do, and like Cuban, we try to make our company a genuinely fantastic place to work. From days out white-water rafting to organising an ice-cream truck to stop by on a hot summer’s day, we understand that if our staff are happy, our clients will be happy. It’s a virtuous cycle. Employees want security, clarity, consistency and freedom ‘ it’s up to you to give it to them and help them thrive both professionally and personally. 

Resourceful The best entrepreneurs I know have great instincts. They seem to know exactly what business deals to invest in, what products will be an instant hit, or what will be the next big trend. That said, instinct alone isn’t enough to do well in the long term. No-one’s that lucky. So as well as great instincts, they also know their business, their sector and their clients inside out. They understand exactly what’s required to satisfy their customers, and crucially, what their competitors are offering. Cuban is the epitome of this. In his early-twenties he bought a $99 computer and taught himself programming by reading every manual going. The result? A thorough understanding of the technology he was selling and the insight to make it better. This knowledge is power. Harness it and use it to your advantage. 


While listening to customers isn’t always helpful when it comes to sparking innovation, it is a must in terms of feedback for your business. Cuban once said: Your customers can tell you the things that are broken and how they want to be made happy. Listen to them. Make them happy. It’s a simple sentiment but one that often gets overlooked and I’ve seen countless companies spend thousands of dollars on expensive market research when all they needed to do was look closer to home. Most customers will be willing to take the time to tell you their thoughts ‘ be that what works well / what doesn’t, what aspects of the service they like / don’t like. This makes them one of your greatest assets, so treasure them and use them regularly.  It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen ‘ and I mean really listen ‘ to their answers. 

Ed Reeves
Ed Reeves

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