Forging A Path To Success


I think entrepreneurs today are a lot like the pioneers of years ago. We have dreams of sunnier skies in a better world. We are driven to forge a new path in the pursuit of freedom. We crave the independence to do something meaningful. And to succeed, we can also draw on some of the same skills that enabled pioneers to survive and thrive.

To entrepreneurs, a new opportunity is like uncharted territory to our forebears. To get there, a strong work ethic is essential, along with some often overlooked capabilities that pioneers had in abundance. They had a clear vision of a bigger and better future at the end of the road. They drew people together by communicating a compelling story of the riches to come. They knew how to maximize resources, under many constraints, to build something that lasted. And they used their strong social skills to foster a community.

Beyond pitching, chasing capital, and product tinkering, entrepreneurs who want to succeed today also need to communicate their vision consistently, internally and externally, develop creative ways of working under significant resource constraints, and the social intelligence to connect and build a solid community of followers. In this sense, even hundreds of years later, pioneering hasn’t changed much.

However, while some of us start with a vision and understand the importance of establishing a following, at least through social media, we can often be led astray from our original intentions, particularly when it comes to raising finances.

True entrepreneurs, like the pioneers before us, possess an independent spirit. Protecting that independence enables creativity and flexibility, facilitating innovative breakthroughs and the drive to make a difference. Selling out in order to amass capital goes against the grain of that independence.

The dilemma for the modern entrepreneur revolves around how to get as much financing as possible, and grow as quickly as possible, while still striving toward your original goals. When you take money from someone, there are always strings attached. The question is, what is more important – the money or the freedom?

I believe the most successful businesses start with a clear vision, and a creative use of cash and resources, to unlock growth potential. I know many entrepreneurs who feel they need the money first, and put their businesses on hold to pitch for the big dollars. Once that money is gone, the cycle begins again for the next cash infusion. Boom or bust.

This way of working can be a major distraction. It’s almost impossible to do the right things to build your business while you are hunting for investment dollars. Being dependent on others for capital can result in demands for shorter time frames and pressures to move in a different direction, to get to the exit as soon as possible. Entrepreneurs can be forced to take their eyes off the prize. We become stressed and diverted from our path by the expectations of these investors. We need to explore smarter, more productive ways to finance growth, such as mining cash flow opportunities from customers.

As a pioneering entrepreneur, you can stay true to your beliefs by building three key skills:

  1. Create a clear and compelling vision to guide the business, and communicate it consistently to everyone around you, so people see the better future.
  2. Become financially literate and manage cashflow more effectively; use creative ways to leverage resources to fund growth and own the cashflow to own your future.
  3. Be self-aware – understand how to connect with others both inside and outside your business; employ your social skills to bring together a community to support the vision.

The chase for cash can castrate creativity. Entrepreneurs need freedom to thrive. Exploring that new horizon and building the bigger, better future require a strong vision, a clear understanding of how to best manage resources under constraints, and an ability to connect with people and bring them together.

As entrepreneurs, we must leverage our pioneering skills to forge our own way to success.