While each entrepreneurial success story is different, certain qualities separate great business ideas from the thousands that try and fail. Here are a few examples of what it takes to make it:
Successful entrepreneurs validate their ideas.
Dreamers dream, successful entrepreneurs do. Turning ideas into products, measuring how customers respond, and learning whether to stay the course or pivot are the bedrock of scaling a successful startup, so all processes must be aimed at accelerating that feedback loop explains startup guru Eric Reis in his book The Lean Startup.
The idea of a "minimum viable product" is sacred to entrepreneurs who hunger to see if their ideas have real market potential.
Successful entrepreneurs pursue niche markets.
Creating a product that appeals to everyone may seem like a laudable goal, but successful entrepreneurs know that there is a lot of money to made in clearly defined niche markets.
Occupying a niche means you won't be competing with a lot of similar businesses solely on price. And because you will be selling products and services that are customized to the specific needs and predispositions of a select group of people, you can often charge more. Your products and services serve a market that can't easily find alternatives.
Successful entrepreneurs delegate.
Believe that "it's better to just to do it myself"? While the lone wolf scenario is attractive to many entrepreneurs, it has serious limitations. Entrepreneurs who learn managed delegation (as opposed to delegating without giving clear direction) gain efficiency and have time to create new opportunities. And avoid potentially embarrassing (or worse) mistakes.
Successful entrepreneurs are obsessed with getting more done faster and better.
Entrepreneurs love big and lofty goals, but "one of the best ways to focus your effort toward achieving your dreams is to plan and pursue goals. This doesn't have to be a crazy big or detailed thing, it's as simple as thinking about the steps to achieve something, and making deadlines for each step," says Jesse Phillips, a co-founder of the calendar company NeuYear.
Small goals (that are easily achievable) will help keep you motivated, medium range goals will allow you to keep projects on track, and long-term goals help you to understand how it all fits together. Learn how to design your own productivity system here.
Successful entrepreneurs cultivate good mentors.
While entrepreneurship attracts a lot of self-starters, it takes a village to raise a successful business.
A mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time, usually free of charge. Why do they do this? First and foremost as a way of giving back to their community and to society at large. They may do it to develop their skills as a teacher, manager, strategist, or consultant. And a true mentoring relationship also works in both directions — they learn about new ideas from you just as you learn timeless wisdom from them.
Successful entrepreneurs solve problems.
Consider Anita Mahaffey, who started Cool-jams in 2007 to help solve a problem she was experiencing herself.
"I found a great fabric that I wanted to turn into pajamas to help with my own menopausal night sweats, so I did. The product was so wonderful and great at helping the night sweats and overheating that I knew I had to turn it into a business." San Diego-based Cool-jams designs, manufactures and sells wicking sleepwear to help with night sweats, moisture management and temperature regulation problems while sleeping.
Obviously, you love your ideas, but is there a market for them? The best business ideas connect with shared challenges.