As an angel investor, I get approached regularly by aspiring entrepreneurs who can talk endlessly about their latest great idea, and little else. While I recognize that every new venture starts with an idea, a successful business of lasting value is all about people and execution. Every investor is looking for someone who can turn an idea into a solution, and turn that solution into a business.
If you think about it, some of the biggest current business successes have been based on fairly mundane ideas, including Google (search the Internet), Facebook (talk to friends), and Amazon (electronic shopping). Based just on my own experience, each of these has been tried thousands of times, and only a few of the teams and implementations have met with long-term success.
In fact, according to a new book, “Built for Growth,” by Chris Kuenne and John Danner, the specific beliefs and preferences of the founders can be shown to be far more important than the idea alone. These personality elements drive team motivation, decision making, and personal leadership style, and ultimately shape the plan and the execution leading to success or failure.
In fact, new business founders come in every shape, size, and personality type. Yet my own experience is consistent with the author’s analysis that there are four distinct types who consistently are among the most successful—Drivers, Explorers, Crusaders, and Captains.
After looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each of these in some detail, per a related article by the authors, I applied my own extension of this analysis to how they could be most effective in addressing the five challenges that we both believe every entrepreneur faces, no matter what the type:
- Converting ideas into solutions.Drivers and explorers have the advantage here. The challenge is to correctly sense the market, and match the product to the customer need, rather than celebrate the technology or assume that everyone will buy. Captains and crusaders sometimes get too focused on selling the idea before they have the solution.
- Galvanizing talented individuals for collaborative impact.Business growth requires many people, so captains step to the forefront in this challenge. Every business ultimately needs empowered teams, with less dependency on star talent. Great businesses are built with trusting relationships, both inside and outside the company. Watch your alignment.
- Transforming customers into advocates.Today’s dependence on the customer experience also requires need and cause alignment, as well as exceptional relationships. Every entrepreneur type needs to balance their focus on the customer, with their love for a solution, cause, or business return. Customers will solicit or drive away new customers.
- Aligning investors and strategic partners. Investors and external partners tend to favor drivers and captains. However, strategic partners who are already drivers or captains need to align with crusaders and explorers. The challenge is to find complementary relationships, for added value, rather than non-productive thrashing.
- Scaling and innovating the business. For scaling and long-term survival, every business needs a continuing focus on the systematic approaches and continuous innovation of an explorer. It’s time to empower more people, keep the broader team engaged, continually translate why to how, and be flexible for market shifts.
It’s evident to me that new business builders who understand their own personality type, with their own particular combination of beliefs and preferences that drive motivation, decision making, and leadership style, can select the right partners, the right team, and the right customers for maximum impact. Business is not rocket science, but it is personal. Get to know yourself first.