The Quality that Leads to Entrepreneurial Success
TechFW has been operating out of Fort Worth, TX since 1998 with the purpose of helping innovators in technology get their start. Since its initial founding, TechFW has become a community success story, forging partnerships with several local universities and helping hundreds of entrepreneurs develop and market new products.
In addition to space from which to work, entrepreneurs operating out of TechFW receive coaching sessions, funding, and general business help from professional mentors who are familiar both with technology and the struggles of creating a successful business. With the aid TechFW provides, many of its entrepreneurs are able to build a well-accomplished and profitable business.
As the Executive Director of TechFW, Hayden Blackburn has seen many entrepreneurs come and go. Even with the best of help, not everyone will make the cut - it takes the special few to truly accomplish something great. Through the years, Hayden has noticed that those who are successful do one particular thing well; Dave and Kenn from our Brand Junkies podcast sat down with him to learn just what that ‘thing’ is.
Hayden: “The movie Field of Dreams is a terrible movie for entrepreneurs. ‘You build it and they will come’ just does not exist. You've gotta know that there's actually something out there that can be done - the importance of that can't be iterated enough. That's usually my first go-to homework to see how an entrepreneur reacts to being given some guidance is to say, “Go talk to 30 people about this whom you don't know. Come back and report on what the findings are.” If they never come back, then I know that they’re not going to be someone who will put in the work. It's action-oriented people who put in the time and who really believe in their vision that are gonna put in the legwork to make it happen.”
It’s great to have an idea, but it’s hard to know if your idea is actually a good one. Successful entrepreneurs recognize this and work to verify the strength of their idea.
Hayden: “If I'm not the customer, I'm not gonna judge the idea. The market is gonna make the decision. The entrepreneur needs to go out and talk to 100 potential customers, and talk about their pain - not about their potential solution - to see that the pain actually exists. A lot of it is getting comfortable with talking to people who you don't know. Most people share their ideas with friends and family who say, “Oh, your idea is great, it's the best thing!” But truly talking to people who you don't know is an odd thing, especially if you're a researcher or a scientist and you've been really developing something and you're taking that first plunge into it.”
It takes putting yourself out there and receiving honest feedback to recognize the merit of an idea.
Hayden: “They've gotta know the secret sauce behind their idea: what really gives it a competitive advantage, how it’s defensible in the marketplace, that no one else can replicate it overnight. And that's what we're usually trying to push an entrepreneur to do, is to take their idea and push it farther to make something that can be defensible. Something that can be patented, something that can really stand alone. But it really comes down to the market. The market is going to make the decision.”
The market decides what it wants, and sometimes even ideas that seem good fail because the market didn’t want them.
Hayden: “There's a lot of people out there who will skip those steps, who will jump into it and go. But it's building culture into your operations, even before you are operating; it’s going out there and being comfortable talking with anybody about their problems and what they're experiencing; it’s being able to continually learn from who you're serving; it’s staying big-picture and connecting some of those dots that’s going to bring in new ideas and build a skillset.”
It’s easy enough to have an idea, but we often become so close to our ideas that we can’t recognize whether or not they’re truly valuable. Hayden explains that as an entrepreneur you have to be willing to talk with strangers to see if your idea is filling a need in the community. It’s especially important that this mission is not about pitching your idea to the community - because if you pitch an idea, most strangers are polite enough that they would agree to it, even if they would never actually spend money on it themselves. You need to verify that people actually have the need that you think your idea would solve.\
It’s also important that your interviewees are strangers because family members are going to be all-too-likely to agree to having a need simply to placate you.
Part of creating a successful anything - be it a product, company, or advertisement - is knowing your field inside and out. You must be able to recognize not only the need in your community, but also the exact ways your idea solves it. You should know all the ins and outs of your idea; know its strengths and its weaknesses as well as all about your target market. Only in this way can you create a product that will sell.
Even if it’s difficult to put yourself out there, it has to be done. Even if your initial idea gets rejected, you now have the foundation to move on to a better one. Recognizing this fact is what truly creates a successful entrepreneur.
Think about this:
Are you willing to put yourself out there - and possibly receive rejection? Will you stop the production of something if you discover there’s no need for it, even if you’ve already invested time and resources?
How often do you assess the need in a community before you populate it with content? How much could your output improve if you paused to accumulate more research before putting your product out there?
Are you willing to learn from those you serve?