Paul Graham is the perfect example of an Empowered Entrepreneur. The acquisition of his earlier company, Viaweb, by Yahoo for $49 million and 145 start-ups since have made him somewhat of a hero to techies and entrepreneurs who dream of translating their ideas into some of the red-hot Web 2.0 companies Graham has helped launch.
In a suffering economy, few would think it possible to create bundles of wealth, but according to Graham there is opportunity everywhere in the world of software. His new company, Y Combinator, advices and funds 40 start-ups per year. His idea was to create a start-up machine by innovating the start-up process. His guiding principle is smaller, cheaper, faster, precisely those factors that lead to the innovation that fuels successful entrepreneurship. Graham has proved that even the process of innovation can be innovated.
According to Inc. Magazine, which features him on the cover of its June issue, “Graham’s system generates scores of ideas, churns out dozens of new companies, and creates hundreds of jobs – for a lot less than you might think.” Graham’s accomplishments prove that even when the economy is in decline, there is room for innovation and that innovation can be highly profitable.
What about the story of Millennium Music. With sweeping changes to the music industry and the sale of online music, Millennium music’s profit had declined by double digits each year. Kent Wagner and his partner Clayton Woodson did what any great business mind would do: adapt. Instead of folding up the business, they decided to transform it completely.
Although the focus of Millennium Music was around record and CD sales, the store also featured a used music section which allowed customers to trade used CDs for store credit. Wagner and Woodson used this as the basis for the company’s future and in 2006 launched FeedYourPlayer.com
By 2007, the site has brought in almost one quarter of the company’s total revenue. And the entrepreneurial pursuits of the two don’t end there.
What is it that enables Graham, Wagner, Woodson and others like them to turn even the most difficult challenges into opportunities for profit? Few would claim that the phenomenal success of these three is due to chance. There is a secret to success, and that secret is in the mind.
Behind the entrepreneurial results individuals like Graham have produced is the mind of an entrepreneur. Hiding behind the scenes are beliefs, perceptions and mental strategies, the very mental strategies that lead to extraordinary results.
If so, just what is hiding behind the scenes?
I define performance as the behavioral manifestation of aspects of cognitive functioning. Put more simply, the results we achieve in life are a product of what we have in the mind- our internal programming. How we get from the stuff of mind to results in life functions based on a simple formula: Thoughts lead to feelings which lead to actions which lead to results. You can try to do what Graham did, but without his beliefs, mental strategies and perceptual filters, you will quickly fall short.
What are the beliefs of an empowered entrepreneur? In working with and studying the mind’s of successful entrepreneurs, I’ve found a common theme, an idea they swear by that gets them up in the morning and inspires them to do what they do with unrelenting focus. What is it? Opportunity is everywhere.
They run this idea like software of the mind. The program acts like a driving force, pushing them to seek out and uncover hidden opportunities in the most unlikely situations. While opportunity passes by all those who believe that times are tough, the economy is in a slump, and now is not the time to be investing or taking risks, some entrepreneurs are seizing up opportunities and delighting in the returns.
Despite all the risks and difficulties involved, what is it that leads individuals like Graham to devote all their time and energy to starting a business (or 145 of them)? The belief that founding a company is the most efficient way to create wealth. Average individuals think that if you need money, you get a job. And that’s precisely how the successful entrepreneur sees it: If you need money get a job… if you want wealth, build a company.
But beliefs aren’t the only secret to success. In the back of the mind of the empowered entrepreneur are mental strategies that lead to success. To produce any result in life, whether its poor performance or impressive results, there is a strategy operating in the mind – a sequence of thoughts, perceptions and ideas that lead to decisions and actions. A strategy is like a recipe- when you combine all the ingredients in the right amount and in the right order, you get the desired result. What are the ingredients of a mental strategy? Thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and feelings.
The mind of the stunningly successful entrepreneur is filled with great questions. Bright questions lead to bright results, and questions are the first step in the mental strategy of the world’s most impressive performers. Questions direct thinking. Most people ask themselves poor quality questions. “Why do I always fail?” “What’s wrong with me?”
The interesting thing about the mind is that it will search for and find an answer to whatever question you ask it. If you ask poor quality questions you will get poor quality answers and poor quality results.
Running behind the scenes in the mind, individuals like Graham ask themselves first-rate questions, questions that lead to superior results. What’s the secret question that fuels the innovation behind successful entrepreneurship? How can I make this better, faster, cheaper? Brilliant business minds like Graham ask themselves this question as if it held the key to life. They might not come up with an answer right away, but it doesn’t matter. They plant the question like a seed and water it with continued focus. They ask and ask and ask as if they were chanting the question like a mantra until the seeds begin to germinate and answers begin to arrive.
The right questions lead to a flood of creativity that can lead to innovation. When you ask the right question, the mind becomes filled with images, snapshots and movies of ideas, possibilities and opportunities. Bright questions lead to bright ideas.
And the mind of the entrepreneur is filled with many more secrets. July 14th at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel is The Empowered Entrepreneur Event. Some of Montreal’s brightest business minds have teamed up with local Entrepreneurial groups to connect, share and learn with the aim of fueling the economy by empowering entrepreneurs. I will be kicking off the day by giving the secrets to running your brain like a Paul Graham, Warren Buffet or a Donald Trump. What could you do with The Instruction Manual for the Entrepreneur’s Mind?