What's the highest compliment for an aspiring entrepreneur? What's the one thing you can say that suggests they're in tune with the ultimate definition of entrepreneurship, and that they're likely to succeed?
I don't think it's that they're smart, determined or even that they're a great leader--as nice as it is to hear any of those things. Instead, I think the ultimate compliment for any entrepreneur is to say that they're resourceful (or scrappy, inventive or enterprising).
Why? Because while it's one thing to have a great idea, it's much more rare to be the kind of person who finds creative ways to execute. Here are some of the things that truly resourceful people do.
1. They bend the rules.
Rules exist for a reason. I'm not advocating anarchy. But when rules and tradition hold back progress, a truly resourceful entrepreneur decides that progress wins. There's a reason why we say that entrepreneurship requires "creative destruction." So, cultivate an attitude that says you're out to accomplish things, not just go along with how things have always been done.
2. They look for the common good.
Resourceful people recognize that they need help. Meanwhile, people generally want to help more when it's in their interest, and when they see how others will benefit from their efforts. So, the more you can show other people truthfully that by working with you they'll advance their goals, the more likely you'll succeed.
3. They don't apologize unnecessarily.
If you're going to be willing to bend a few rules now and again, get used to this wise, old saying: It's easier to get forgiveness than permission. The key is to make sure that the infraction is insignificant compared to the benefit you've created. At the same time, while there are times when you do need to apologize, make sure that you do so only for true offenses; never apologize for your success.
4. They burn their ships.
In the classic movie The Hunt For Red October, Sean Connery plays a Soviet submarine captain trying to defect to the United States. He tells his crew the story of the controversial explorer Hernan Cortez, who supposedly destroyed his own boats so as to motivate his troops. Nothing focuses the mind and pushes you to look for innovative solutions like realizing you have no Plan B.
5. They adapt and apply other experiences.
If you're coming up with a creative, resourceful solution, then there is by definition no real road map to follow. That doesn't mean that there aren't other examples to take inspiration from. One of my favorites is Jim Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Co., who tells the story that when he first started his company, he couldn't get an office, so he'd just pull up a chair and do paperwork in the bars where his customers were. Resourceful people turn challenges into advantages.
6. They play a few hands at once.
Have you read The Great Escape, or at least seen the 1960s movie? It's the best book about entrepreneurship in history, certainly the best that isn't about business. It's about Allied soldiers breaking out of a German prison camp in World War II. They realized the Nazis had a pretty good chance of finding any escape tunnel they dug, so they increased the odds of success by digging three of them. A plan might not work out, so really resourceful people are always working on multiple plans.
7. They dare to ask for what they need.
This one is so simple, and yet so many people self-select out of success because they are afraid to ask for the things they need. Here's a personal example. A few years ago, I was writing for a newspaper in Washington, and I decided to put together an investment group to try to buy the entire company.
The deal didn't quite work out in the end. In retrospect, it was kind of a crazy idea. However, the experience and the contacts I made in the process led to many other opportunities. Resourceful people dare to make bold moves, and they know that even if the road doesn't take you exactly where you plan, it can often lead to other great places.
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