Flickr Image by DonkeyHotey

Forget Shark Tank.

For anyone who fancies themselves as a future entrepreneurial star, studying Donald Trump (just watch the nightly news) may be all you need to learn about entrepreneurial success.

Here’s why. Almost every ‘successful’ (valuable business leading to personal gratification) entrepreneur we’ve known over the past twenty years has shared most/all these characteristics with the US President:

  • Smart in many ways
  • Can’t stand working for others
  • Spotted an opportunity that others have missed
  • Believes in their own ability to make it happen
  • Doesn’t trust what others tell them
  • Views many employees as disloyal and a burden
  • Driven to prove something to someone/everyone
  • Values gut over strategy and sees strategy as a waste of time
  • Constantly risks limiting their upside through their actions

Early on, when Boardroom Metrics was a start-up, Karen and I completed a SWOT analysis to help us highlight our chances of success. There was one risk we identified early on that we’ve been dealing with ever since – ‘we may not be crazy enough to make this happen’:

  • Not trying to prove anything to anyone enough – our dads just wanted us happy!
  • Not desperate enough – we could both survive at least a month or two without income!
  • Not authoritarian enough – we both saw teamwork as a key to success!
  • Not overconfident enough – why else would we do a SWOT analysis on our chances of success?!

Given this shortage of entrepreneurial ‘fire’ to drive our business, how do we think it’s affected us? Our bet is that’s it’s taken us longer than it might have to succeed and we’re still not the size we thought was possible. However, we also see that we’ve built a unique, sustainable business that reflects our values and lifestyle.

Finally, how is it that so many entrepreneurs seem to risk limiting their own success? Here’s our observations:

  1. It’s impossible to overcome the natural level of any untapped opportunity without strategy. The world is chock full of entrepreneurial companies that have peaked. Why? Because the skills that enable a founder(s) to spot an opportunity and fill a void are completely different from the skills required to translate that opportunity into something sustainable. Without a strategy, identifying what lies next and dealing with threats to survival doesn’t happen (for really interesting insight on this, check out this story of RIM – one of the world’s largest start-up flameouts) .
  2. It’s impossible to have the authority and brain power to lead every campaign, deal with every threat. One person can’t do it all. So not trusting others and having to be the smartest person in the room on everything is automatically self-limiting.

Yes, Donald Trump can seem different. But if you’re considering your own entrepreneurial venture, you likely want to share at least a few of the characteristics that have made him who he is.