Often, I ask myself what it takes to be a world-class entrepreneur — clearly, I have not figured it out yet. I am researching on the topic of successful entrepreneurship a lot, reading lots of books, testing different business ideas, and exchanging my findings with others. In regard to books, I am done always reading about the same thing — the alleged successes of their business and why you can only be successful by following a strict set of giving steps. I myself am considering a set of personal characteristics to be much more important than a given order of steps that entrepreneurs must follow to be successful. If someday there will be a chance for me to become an influential entrepreneur, I can take this chance because I have a flexible set of characteristics and not a static plan which such books suggest. So far so good, but what are these characteristics?
I am amazed by animals and their nature because they follow native instincts with which they are born and which they even perfect by practice. By accident, I got pointed into the direction of one animal that we are quite familiar with and which can teach us real entrepreneurship — cats. While cats are around us humans since ancient Egypt as a religious symbol, nowadays they are social pets that we are excited about and which we admire. I am not only talking about their superpower of being cute nor their ability to be sleepy. There is a set of characteristics that makes cats better entrepreneurs showing us how to be successful. Let us consider the following cat characteristics and map these to how I see successful entrepreneurship.
Be Selective on your Key Partners
Cats are very selective about what they want to eat. If they have found a brand and flavor of cat food they love, they rarely change their opinion and totally rely on their humans. Entrepreneurs shall be as selective on their key suppliers and partners as cats are with their food. Foremost, the reason is that if you have found a supplier or a business partner you want to work together with this leads to a leverage effect as you will create a common understanding with this key partner. In order to maintain a relationship with a lot of different key partners, you should limit the number of partners to focus on the ones you are really convinced of. This reduces the effort of maintaining relationships and helps your partner to understand more of your overall intentions. What I did not want to imply is that you shall never change your key partner if the relationship has downsides e.g. a cost structure that is not feasible anymore. As you can change the main food for cats so you can change your key partner — but think carefully about this it can have a negative influence on the relationship and may result in keeping the same partners finally.
Be Aware of Your Appearance
Cats like to groom themselves and spend a lot of time cleaning their fur. On the one hand, be aware of what your personal look means for your appearance and, on the other hand, how the look of your slides makes your story more compelling. With your personal style, you can underline the vision you are targeting. While sneakers, ankle-free trousers, long shirts, and thin glasses are a symbol for business innovation, suits and leather shoes represent traditional consultancy. According to the saying “What you see is what you get” your look is much more than a daily routine. Very similar is the appearance of slide material. In this regard the balance between appealing slide graphics and real content is key. While good looking slide material might be catching in the first place, the content will be more important the more interaction. My personal belief is that material design will be the new standard for business presentations as this style focuses on the content. Use the appealing graphics to promote the content and not the other way around. Besides this update your personal style and your slide materials regularly as cats groom themselves on a regular basis.
Pursue Lucrative Opportunities only
Cats are world-class hunters. Their native instinct tells them to stay low and to observe the environment properly before taking action. Talking business, this teaches entrepreneurs to focus their capacity on lucrative opportunities — may it be an advantageous partnership, an investment in resources, and especially the effort for pursuing an offer. All I am talking about is to carefully think about the return on investment before making decisions. Often, there are a number of different options involved as well and my personal experience says that not going for an opportunity may offer much better opportunities in the end. While time and budget resources may be limited the decision shall be considered carefully. If cats take the decision to give a hunt a try, they put all their effort into it. This is what it takes to be an efficient entrepreneur — weight the opportunities, decide on them patiently, and then go relentlessly for the most promising ones based on a set of pre-defined key performance indicators.
Make Efforts for your Customer Relationship
Have you ever thought about why cats bring mice and other hunter trophies to their owners? Cats want to thank for their care and the prey as a gift is an act of love. In this regard, it is beneficial for an entrepreneur to show gratefulness to their customers and partners in order to maintain a good relationship with them. Like cats, you should not make these efforts in exchange for something that you want immediately. Such efforts shall not be taken literally so that you expect the same return for your investment. The efforts for a customer relationship shall be considered as indirect leverage for later discussions e.g. a better argumentation for price negotiation.
Take Chances and Admit when you have Failed
Cats see many chances in climbing to the top sweet spots of literally everything — trees, counters, and shelves. Their goals are obvious, going to the highest spot to foresee the environment. This behavior can be compared to our goal as entrepreneurs to be on top of the business — revenue maximization and cost reductions are some of these strategies. As mentioned before, opportunities shall be considered carefully before pursuing them, but this does not mean that when you are going for an opportunity that this may not turn out the way you expected. Cats accept when they do not see a chance of solving a situation themselves. Imagine a cat that is stuck on a tree — if they know they can`t climb down on their own they alert attention to be rescued. This is something that most entrepreneurs will not do. They will fight till the end and that behavior makes it even more difficult to pull themselves out of their misery.
Find a Compensation to be Focused
It is fun time — consider that cats love it to play with everything that attracts their attention. May it be a laser pointer or a little bell. You can observe that during the day as they have several fun times where they play and forget about all their other concerns e.g. protecting their territory. This kind of compensation helps entrepreneurs during the day to not think about their business ideas for once and that helps to focus on the business when it is business time again. Taking time to explore new hobbies will also provide new ideas and views on life. Similar to cat interests the compensation shall trigger your full attention and shall be exhausting to allow you to refocus.
Find Your Unique Selling Point
Have you ever had the situation that a kitten looked at you with such big eyes that you would basically grant them every wish? I have had this situation and I would refer to this as a unique selling point. Try to find a unique selling point that makes you special — not from a product perspective but from a personal perspective. Attributes might be trustworthiness and/or honesty. Most likely you have perfected these attributes by practice, and this is something that also customers and partners will witness when working with you. Qualitative unique selling points are more sustainable than quantitative ones as successful entrepreneurship looks for long-term relationships which can more easily be maintained if the relationship is built on social interactions. Besides this, there is not only the one ideological type of entrepreneurs that is client-facing and is best at selling products. Like different breeds of cats e.g. the British Shorthair or the Persian have different characters, there are also several different types of entrepreneurs. Take for example the entrepreneur that manages all the back-office activities with a talent for coordination but relies on a business partner for the client-facing activities.
Adapt to the Environment
Cats love boxes, even when the boxes are tiny, and cats will only fit in if they twist their whole body. Are you visually trying to imagine this right now? This attitude to try to fit in environmental circumstances is something entrepreneurs need to consider more than ever nowadays. As the market changes much faster in a digital era, entrepreneurs need to adapt their thinking to stay up-to-date. If you steadily rethink your business, you can profit from changing demands and do not risk your entrepreneurship. Considering boxes, it may also help you to some extent to think in boxes than in individual decisions. Boxes shall not be profitable vs. non-profitable but rather to categorize e.g. decisions in a set of boxes to see the bigger picture from a macro-perspective and to easily substantiate decisions.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
From an entrepreneurial point of view, we can learn a lot from our beloved pets. Be it their hunting strategy to carefully observe the environment and only pursue an opportunity if the success can be foreseen or their cuteness which is one of their unique selling points. There might be so many other things that cats may help us to realize. I want to add one more aspect and this is to live in a beloved environment. Cats are grateful for all the devotion we have towards them that they try to pay it back. Living in a beloved and secure environment can be key for entrepreneurs to succeed in their visions. Being financially secured and having a family at home that takes care of frustrating days or nights gives the ambition to be a successful entrepreneur. Coming back to my initial statement that I have not figured out to be a successful entrepreneur: I am still foreseeing to work on the above-mentioned characteristics to prepare myself for being a world-class entrepreneur and will hopefully get the chance one day.
The following material provides further information on how to become an entrepreneur nowadays.
Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future (Link)
Zero to One is worth reading if you are interested in thoughts and ideas about startups and entrepreneurship. It focuses on business contradictions and rethinks the current status quo of over-optimization by appealing to create a more creative thinking approach. Accordingly, the new way of innovation is to start searching for value in new domains.
The Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Launch and Grow Your New Business (Link)
The HBR Entrepreneur’s Handbook helps you to acquire important entrepreneurial skills e.g. how to create a business plan and furthermore provides a step-by-step guide to become a successful entrepreneur. The book contains stories of real companies and addresses the needs to start a new business.