Founding and leading a successful startup is a journey that demands much more than just a great idea. It requires a unique set of skills, traits, and habits that set effective founders apart from the rest. These habits go far beyond the ability to innovate or raise capital, they encompass a range of practices that help founders navigate the turbulent waters of entrepreneurship with poise and purpose.
In his book called The Innovator's Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen wrote, “To succeed consistently, good founders/managers need to be skilled not just in choosing, training, and motivating the right people for the right job, but in choosing, building, and preparing the right organization for the job as well.”
On the other hand, to enhance your success, it is crucial to draw inspiration from accomplished individuals who have made significant strides in their careers. Gaining knowledge from experts and emulating their approaches can provide valuable insights and enable you to implement essential changes when aiming for career success.
Here are 07 habits that effective founders embrace to do just that.
Adaptability: Adaptability is a defining trait of effective founders, setting them apart in the world of entrepreneurship. In the unpredictable and ever-changing landscape of business, the ability to pivot, adjust, and respond to shifts in the market or unexpected challenges is a critical factor in achieving and sustaining success.
In his book, Adaptability: The Art of Winning In An Age of Uncertainty, Max McKeown has written, “Doing nothing requires effort. Over time, that effort is greater than the effort necessary to improve or move somewhere better. The trick is to redirect energy.”
Effective founders recognize that the initial business plan or vision may need to evolve as they gain insights, gather feedback, and adapt to changing circumstances. They don't see deviations from the original plan as failures but as opportunities for growth and improvement.
Moreover, adaptability is closely intertwined with resilience. Effective founders understand that failures and setbacks are part of the entrepreneurial journey, and they use these experiences as valuable learning opportunities. Their capacity to bounce back and persevere, even in the face of adversity, is a testament to their adaptability.
Setting clear goals: According to Henry David Thoreau, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” Like, setting clear goals provides founders with a roadmap, a guiding star that outlines the path they want to follow. It helps them establish a compelling vision for their company's future, making it easier to communicate that vision to others. This clarity is not just beneficial for founders but for their team members and stakeholders as well. When everyone understands what the ultimate objectives are, it creates alignment and motivation.
Setting clear goals is instrumental in breaking down a long-term vision into actionable steps. They enable founders to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives. These smaller, tangible goals become the building blocks of the larger vision and help to monitor progress and success.
In the ever-evolving world of startups, where there are often more ideas and opportunities than resources, having clear goals also facilitates effective prioritization. Founders can assess whether a given task or project contributes directly to the achievement of their defined goals. This ensures that time, energy, and resources are invested in activities that will lead to meaningful outcomes.
Ruthless prioritization: Prioritization is a fundamental habit of effective founders, serving as the cornerstone of their ability to manage the complexities and demands of entrepreneurship. This practice is essentially about making choices, allocating resources, and focusing energy on what matters most.
The One Thing book asks its readers, "What is the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" This question helps you identify your top priority and allocate your time and energy accordingly.
In the entrepreneurial world, where opportunities and challenges are plentiful, founders face a constant influx of tasks, decisions, and responsibilities.
Prioritization allows them to distinguish between what is urgent and what is truly important. It's the process of deciding which activities will have the most significant impact on their startup's success and focusing their attention on those tasks.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
Effective founders are skilled at aligning their day-to-day efforts with their long-term goals. They are not just busy, they are purposeful in their actions. This approach ensures that their time and resources are invested in areas that drive progress, growth, and innovation.
Resilience in the face of failure: In the thunderous journey of founding and running startups, resilience serves as a pillar of strength. Effective founders understand that their path will be fraught with obstacles and failures, but they don't let these challenges deter them. Instead, they view adversity as an opportunity for growth and learning. It's a mindset that allows them to emerge stronger from each setback, armed with valuable insights and experience.
As Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned to have the life that is waiting for us.”
This resilience is not limited to individual founders, it often extends to their entire team and organization. A founder's ability to remain steadfast in the face of challenges sets the tone for their company's culture. It encourages team members to share the same determination and view obstacles as stepping stones to success.
Moreover, resilience is closely tied to adaptability. Effective founders possess the agility to pivot and adjust their strategies in response to changing circumstances. They are not locked into a single path but are open to exploring new solutions when needed. This adaptability is a key factor in their ability to thrive in the ever-evolving landscape of business.
Effective decision-making: Founders often need to make critical decisions in a fast-paced and uncertain environment. Effective founders are decisive and have a structured approach to decision-making. They gather necessary information, consider the pros and cons, and make choices that align with their long-term vision and goals.
In his book, The Book of Secrets: Unlocking the Hidden Dimensions of Your Life, Deepak Chopra said, “If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.
The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.
If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.”
One key element of effective decision-making is understanding the importance of alignment. Founders must ensure that their choices align with their startup's mission and goals. This commitment to staying true to the overarching vision is what keeps the company on course and prevents it from drifting off track.
Moreover, effective founders base their decisions on data and information. They gather the necessary facts, assess risks, and consider various options. Their choices are not based on intuition alone, they are informed and rational, weighing the pros and cons to make the most suitable decisions.
Continuous networking: Building and maintaining a strong professional network is crucial for founders. Effective founders are proactive in networking and relationship-building. They seek out mentors, advisors, investors, and industry peers who can provide guidance, support, and opportunities. Networking can open doors to partnerships, funding, and valuable insights.
Though, networking is an essential habit that sets effective founders apart in the world of entrepreneurship. But it's not just about collecting business cards or adding connections on social media, it's a strategic and ongoing practice that plays a vital role in the success of startups.
Know when to say “no”: Effective founders are often bombarded with a multitude of opportunities, requests, and demands. This habit of saying "no" is rooted in the recognition that they cannot do everything, nor should they try. Instead, they prioritize their efforts and resources on initiatives that align most closely with their strategic objectives.
Saying "no" is about preserving the startup's core mission and vision. It's the realization that every diversion, no matter how tempting, can dilute focus and hinder progress. Effective founders are keenly aware of their priorities and are resolute in defending them.
Apart from that, saying "no" is closely tied to effective time management. Founders understand the value of their time and how it should be allocated to high-impact activities. They resist the urge to become entangled in tasks or commitments that do not directly contribute to their company's growth.
Steve Jobs wisely said that “innovation is not about saying yes to everything. It’s about saying “no” to all but the most critical features.” In fact, “no” may be the most powerful word. It lets you focus, protect your priorities, and reduce the chance that you will fail. Saying “no” to unimportant matters can save you, your time as well as your company.
Overall, the habits of effective founders are the building blocks upon which entrepreneurial success is constructed. These visionary leaders possess a unique blend of qualities that set them apart in the ever-evolving world of startups. They understand that a great idea alone is not enough, it's their habits, dedication toward their work, and behaviors that determine whether their ventures thrive or not.