Entrepreneurs have a different way of thinking that allows them to make their business ideas become a reality. But the life of an entrepreneur is tough: not only do they face massive barriers to get into the market, they must stay ahead of the competition and learn how to meet their customers’ demands all while on a shoe string budget.
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At last month’s Annual EY Strategic Growth Forum and Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Program, entrepreneurs from all over the country gathered to share their success, learn from one another and encourage global competitiveness through innovation.
Herb Engert, EY Americas Strategic Growth Practice leader, says the conference allows entrepreneurs to gather together and talk candidly, pointing out that it’s lonely being a CEO, particularly when you are a start up venturing into a new world.
Engert adds the conference is also designed to help established market leaders to get a glimpse of what they may be overlooking in their business. “The market leaders of today are not the market leaders of tomorrow” says Engert. Those looking to keep their edge need to be talking to the current and future disrupters who are leading the charge and this is a great place to find them.
Hamid Moghadam, founder and CEO of Prologis, was this year’s overall winner of the conference and said that it’s not just entrepreneurs’ ability to see trends that make them stand apart, it’s “their th courage to do something about it.”
In an effort to better understand the mindset of entrepreneurs and potential market disrupters, I sat down with three current and past award recipients to get their take on three key themes: resilience, fearlessness, and being true to yourself. Here’s what they had to offer:
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At the core of each of each successful entrepreneur’s story is an unflappability that can best be described as resilience. They possess the ability to allow “no” to roll off their backs and keep going as if they never heard it. A great example of this resilience can be seen in this year’s “Emerging” category winner Will Dean, founder and CEO of Tough Mudder. In our conversation he shared the following:
“I think the most important thing you can ever say about entrepreneurship is the importance of resilience. If you look at some really successful entrepreneurs they are not the smartest, the most dynamic, the most charismatic of people, but what they do have is the ability to quickly pick themselves up and dust themselves back down. Whatever venture you are starting it can feel like the specific challenges you’re going through no one else has been through before, but the reality is anyone who ever tried to build anything went through very similar challenges… and the energy and resilience you need to get through that is hard.
When it comes to disrupting the status quo, this year’s services category winner, Spencer Rascoff, Co-founder and CEO of home-buying website Zillow, is no stranger to mixing things up. He recently explained how being a disruptor can be tricky:
“Expedia ruffled a lot of feathers in the travel industry by putting a lot of travel agents out of business. At Zillow, we had to explain that while we empower consumers by giving them access to information, we still believe real estate professionals play a crucial role in the industry.”
While flying into airports, Rascoff would look at rooftops and imagine prices on all the homes and buildings and wonder why people didn’t have better access to this information. For most of us, turning this idea into a reality would be a daunting task, but not for Rascoff. “There are times when not being encumbered by experience can be liberating,” he said. Sometimes it’s better not to know what you are getting into and just go for it!
Being True to Yourself
Many of the entrepreneurs who have been honored over the years have been true market disruptors. In my conversation with Seth Goldman, co-founder and TeaEO of HONEST Tea and past retail/consumer category winner, he explained how he has been able to keep true to himself while impacting change in the marketplace.
“I’ve always been an activist. I worked in the non-profit sector, I worked in the public sector… Someone said the other day if I wanted to be an activist, let’s say I set-up a campaign to try to get Coca Cola to sell organic products or to sell lower calories drinks and I boycotted or I protested in front of the building it would have fallen on deaf ears. But, I am an activist and I have found a way for Coca Cola to sell organic products, hundreds of millions of them and to sell lower calorie drinks. I’m doing it through the company, through the business.”