Great entrepreneurs and great companies come in all shapes and sizes. Young women, old men and everyone in between have the capacity to find that magic in a bottle. Smart execution of a good idea with a little luck on timing can be all you need to make something special.
As an investor who has looked at thousands of entrepreneurs and as many ideas, I will share that there are specific warning signs that you and your idea will not get off the ground or your current company is headed for failure.
The first and most glaring is how you vote with your time. If you begin to work on other "projects", your current venture is doomed. Your brain only has so much room. Startup ventures require you to make hundreds of decisions that tax that brain. Any time spent on something else takes away from the company you are building today. There is no wiggle room here.
I believe that a good team executing smartly propels the company in a positive direction. Duh. But the corollary to that point is when the team begins to depart. And by team I mean multiple business partners (not your customer support team). If more than 25% of your senior staff leaves you within a 30-day period then they are voting with their feet. That's a pretty loud signal that something is wrong.
Great leaders operate from a critical viewpoint that the company comes before their own needs. As the leader of your company, if you are beginning to make decisions based on what is good for you rather than the company--then I believe your company will fail. Again, there are so many little decisions that add up to a strategy. Mixing personal and business goals pollutes those micro decisions creating bad execution.
Your customers are leaving you. No customers--no business. You have worked hard to acquire and service those customers. But something has changed and they no longer see the value in your service. If you are losing more customers than you are gaining your company is headed to the scrap heap. This is why so many advisors and mentors ask customer questions. This is why all of the customer metrics need to be top of mind.
The final warning sign is when you lose motivation and those closest to you ask about you rather than the company. Akin to those senior partners leaving the company, your closest family and friends know you and know how you operate. Listen to them and listen to what and why they are asking about your business life. These questions can serve as a not so subtle signal that you have run out of steam.
Smart execution of a good idea with a little luck on timing can be all you need to make it something special. If you are seeing signals that question the smart execution of your idea, then you might want to step back and audit what and where your company is going.