FROM THE BULL | I have a soft spot for entrepreneurs in general and start-up entrepreneurs in particular. The reason is that it is tough to start a business without much money and even tougher to make it work. To make it prosper requires guts, resilience, discipline and smarts. To take it to a position of market-leadership you need some luck and a healthy dose of bloody-mindedness as well.

The successful boot-strapping market-dominating entrepreneurs start small and are almost all under-capitalised to begin with. Many start from home while working part-time jobs to pay the bills. By rights they should ALL fail. The statistics are against them. Larger competitors should squash them or they should run out of cash before they get traction. Most do but some make it despite the odds. Miraculously, a small number go on to dominate a market sector.

So how do these people do it?

  • Firstly, they don’t believe that failure is an option. Nobody told them that the odds are stacked against them and they wouldn’t have listened anyway. They’ve cut off their safety nets, called in favours and borrowed to the hilt to get started. They have to find a way through all the obstacles they encounter and make it work. The only other option is that they’ll lose everything and that’s just not acceptable to them. So they fight like hell, endure incredible hardships but somehow make it out the other end. What they do is not glamorous nor is it easy. It’s also only really understood by others who have actually done it themselves.
  • They get on with it. Most start with a good idea but without a clear idea or strategy of how to put it on the ground. This only becomes clearer later on. They know that planning is not reality and that at some point you have to take the plunge and do it for real. They compensate for any uncertainties by staying nimble and reacting quickly to risks and opportunities as they emerge.Sometimes they have to make the best of a bad situation or move more quickly on an opportunity (than they’d like to) otherwise it will disappear. This is rarely planned in advance. Good entrepreneurs have a capacity to think outside the box and they dig deep and do the hard yards when they need to.
  • They understand “risk” better than most people. Successful entrepreneurs generally carry the tag of “risk-takers” but this is not my experience. They’re actually risk managers, not risk-takers. They develop these skills because they have no choice. One bad decision could spell the end for them so they make sure they have considered all the angles before making the most-informed decisions possible.

Whatever else, they don’t punt, rarely speculate and never EVER bet the farm. They know that tomorrow is a new day and that anything is possible – consequently they only do things that ensure their longevity. Simply, they know that business is a long game and if they are still standing then they’ve got the best chance to take advantage of whatever future opportunities might come their way.

The successful boot-strappers are tough, disciplined and resilient. They are also prepared to pay the (sometimes heavy) price for success. They’re few in number and many are not well-known. What they achieve, however, is nothing short of a miracle and they have fundamentally changed the sectors in which they operate. I’m a huge fan of them…