Please allow me to be literal and focus on what makes a great entrepreneur, rather than a successful one. There are terabytes of advice on the ingredients for success – although it puzzles me that the streets are not teeming with billionaires!
Entrepreneurs are different, they have an inner drive to succeed, the strength to recover from failure and the ability to convince others. Sometimes they are original thinkers, or quicker to identify opportunities, sometimes they are simply in the right place, at the right time. Every now and then, these attributes combine to make them successful.
But none of this makes them great.
Great entrepreneurs are no different to great people. They know that the measure of your life is how much you contribute, not how much you take. They understand that integrity and ethics matter as much as material success and that helping others to succeed is as rewarding, perhaps more so.
The image you carefully nurture and present to the world: your personal branding, be it a black t-shirt, red sports car, leopard print shoes or whatever, it’s all ephemeral. The media may enjoy the shorthand and easy labels they can apply, but when you come around the next time looking for funding or building a team, what will be remembered is the kind of person you really are.
Great entrepreneurs know that the way they treat their team, their customers and their investors will not only contribute to their success, but also to the way they are regarded and ultimately to the quality and meaning of their achievements.
They know that keeping promises, paying the bills and delivering outcomes will be noted in life’s long-term ledger.
But there is more.
If you’re searching for the secret to happiness, it’s simple. Helping others, with no expectation of reward, goes a long way towards making your life complete and satisfying. Volunteer for a charity, raise money for a good cause, serve meals in a homeless shelter, help the parents of an autistic child take a weekend off. These and myriad other avenues are open for us all and the more you do, the more you’ll understand and enjoy what really matters.
I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a successful startup in eServGlobal. At the height of that success, fresh from an ASX listing, I joined the board of the Asthma Foundation. I didn’t realise it at the time, but serving a charity saved me. When you talk to a parent whose child died suddenly from Asthma, your own ambitions and ego are rendered trivial.
We all have the choice between aspiring to be envied for our possessions, or admired for our commitment to helping others.
Today at Maestrano, we are working hard for our success, winning new customers around the world and building enduring growth and value. But we are also working on being great people, it’s a journey I recommend for every entrepreneur.
Ian Buddery is the founder of multiple companies including eServGlobal in 1991 (ASX:ESV). During his career he has successfully obtained Venture Capital and Angel funding, performed two IPOs, six acquisitions and one major trade sale. Ian holds a number of positions, including Executive Chairman of Maestrano. He is also President of the Asthma Foundation of NSW.