Every entrepreneur hopes to be successful. Some entertain the remote possibility of becoming very rich. But most entrepreneurs do not achieve the kind of material wealth that Bill Gates enjoys. You may wonder -- what are the secrets to their success?
I have been fortunate to start several software companies myself and now lead the team at Aha! -- I always want to keep learning. So, I read as much as I can about innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as the stories of successful entrepreneurs.
Of course, their upbringing, influences, and personalities are all very different, as well as the companies they lead. But I have noticed a few important qualities that any entrepreneur should emulate if they want to be successful.
Here are five obvious approaches that you should definitely follow:
Work with the best
Having a great idea for a business is not enough. You need the complementary talents of others to help you reach your goals. As Marc Andreesen once said, "Everyone wants a Sheryl, the high-powered business person with deep capabilities in sales, marketing and operations," referring to Sheryl Sandberg, who Mark Zuckerberg hired as the Facebook Chief Operating Officer.
Takeaway: Surround yourself with great people who will round out your team and challenge you to bring your best.
Tackle tough problems
Elon Musk could have easily developed a line of gasoline-powered cars and been successful. But he believed that electric-powered cars mattered for the health of our environment, and sought to make them affordable with his latest model. He is also tackling a second problem -- how to keep those cars powered -- and is rolling out a network of charging stations across the world.
Takeaway: If you are looking for an opportunity, consider taking on a difficult problem that most others are afraid to tackle.
Pursue your passions
Many successful entrepreneurs first focused their energy on what made them happiest and it paid off. Self-taught software developer Larry Ellison started Oracle so he would have a working environment that he enjoyed. Likewise, Bill Gates spent countless hours programming as a kid, launching his first business at age 15 along with school friend Paul Allen (his partner in founding Microsoft.)
Takeaway: You cannot go wrong if you are pursuing what you love.
Many wealthy entrepreneurs have realized they can put their money to good use and change lives for generations. Bill and Melinda Gates, Larry Ellison, Warren Buffett, and many others have signed the Giving Pledge to donate half of their wealth to charity. Sheryl Sandberg started the Lean In Foundation to empower young women and is also working to stop hunger in the Bay area.
Takeaway: No matter how much you have, being generous will help you live a life of purpose.
Know when to innovate
Being first matters. Case in point: In the 90s, Jeff Bezos heard the Internet was growing by 2,400 percent annually and recognized the great opportunity there. Inspired by the digital catalogs of book distributors, he created a book distribution channel that completely upended the publishing industry (and Amazon panned out for other kinds of merchandise as well.)
Takeaway: Always stay curious, keeping your eyes open for game-changing ideas.
There is no foolproof recipe for achieving success, and there is no getting around the hard work and perseverance required. But you can learn great lessons from wildly successful and wealthy entrepreneurs and develop the qualities that will position you for success.