As I drove home today from assisting a superb founder present to a VC, I listened to an author of a very helpful book. I heard the founder of Noahs Bagels talk about his personal adventure in life in his book, Business Mensch: Timeless Wisdom for Today's Entrepreneur. He eventually sold Noahs Bagels and cashed in his chips.
Noah discussed several points he makes when talking to people wanting to do a startup. Here are two standouts for you to think about, points rarely mentioned but very important to big thinking entrepreneurs:
- Religion matters. Alper is a Jew who applies his fundamental beliefs to his businesses (he did six startups). In his case religious values include charity and "do onto others as you wish it done to you". Ethics and values matter. They came from his family traditions which he learned at home and respected. Alper put them into practice. That distinguished his business from competitors. People talked a lot about how Noahs Bagels was different, in a positive way.
- Entrepreneurs have to be a bit crazy. Alpers spent some time explaining the importance of applying basic business methods that work , but he also said that then when special situations pop up, the entrepreneur has to step out of the mainstream and get very creative ("out of the box"). He had to get the city of Berkeley to make an exception to a food regulation in order to serve coffee in his first shop.
I've seen Noah's points about being different applied in many of the great startups I've been privileged to witness. There is something strong inside the founders of such enterprises that they call on when the biggest challenges suddenly loom up (just at the worst of times). The personal values and creative thinking are two of the most powerful things they use in such times. For example I've see this "crazy thinking" turn a startup with two businesses (consulting and software products) focus on one and wildly succeed (Informatica). Of course you know about the web site for faces of college girls that became Facebook. The list is endless.
BOTTOM LINE: Listen for entrepreneurs talk about what made their enterprises different. Look for their moves that they made which used strong personal values and that are very creative out of the box thinking. Then try that thinking on your enterprise. It can be central to boosting the power of your stalled or slow startup. It can propel your business to greatness and an unfair competitive advantage.