Published June 09, 2014
When it comes to being a successful entrepreneur, it takes more than just hard work, dedication and a great idea.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in Monaco and mingle with some of the top entrepreneurs from around the world to learn their success secrets. Bryan Pearce, global leader, EY Entrepreneur of the Year, called the finalists “some of the most successful and inspirational entrepreneurs on the planet, creating products and services that change lives, create jobs, inspire the next generation and help build a better working world.”
Here are a few things that are top-of-mind for many of these high-performing entrepreneurs, and should also be top-of-mind for each of us:
Do Well by Doing Good
More and more, I’m hearing stories about entrepreneurs going to great lengths to solve social problems, and this conference has certainly added to that momentum. To kick the event off, Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus gave a heartfelt talk on the power that entrepreneurs have to do good for their communities. Known as a father of microfinance, Yunus explained that “social business is a problem solving business,” and entrepreneurs are well-positioned to lend their talents to making the world a better place.
He said corporations have become oriented towards a check-the-box style of corporate social responsibility programs in favor of actually taking steps to solve real problems. He insists institutions should focus less on generic corporate social responsibility programs and more on starting and funding a social business. The idea of doing vs. checking the box is something I think we can all get behind.
Draw Outside the Lines
During his opening day keynote, performance artist Erik Wahl demonstrated the power of art and creativity by painting portraits of celebrities with his bare hands all while sharing his own struggles as an artist and entrepreneur.
In grade school, Wahl was told by a teacher that he wasn’t good at art because he drew too fast and didn’t stay inside the lines. This unfortunate comment prompted him to give up on a pursuit that brought him great joy as a youngster. Nearly two decades later he rediscovered that passion while fighting through bankruptcy and the loss of his business.
Wahl pointed out that sometimes finding your true passion means drawing outside the lines and opening your mind to those possibilities that seem impossible. It’s easy to fall into the trap of closed thinking, even for artists.
In order to push forward, we must be mindful of the self-imposed limitations we create for ourselves. No doubt, this is something these entrepreneurs excel at, but we can all use a reminder. While drawing an upside down portrait of Albert Einstein, he encouraged entrepreneurs to “twist the landscape and unthink.”
End Corporate Speak
Moghadam said, “If you want to capture the hearts and minds of people, you need to be clear and concise.” His frustration with corporate speak stems from the fact that he claims too many people in business overuse qualifiers and tend to avoid having real conversations.
He says employers and workers can benefit more from being more honest and open in their workplace conversations. He encourages managers and executives to set the right tone and stop any corporate speak when it starts to creep into a conversation. “The ultimate sign of respect is to be transparent” he says, and corporate speak is anything but transparent.