Have you got what it takes to be a founder?

Have you got what it takes to be a founder?

Simon Jenner

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Successful founders come in all shapes and sizes, but we think they all have these seven things in common.

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Setting up a business is tough. Really tough. Even the most successful founders tend to have a story about being near bankruptcy / a full on nervous breakdown at some point on their journey to success. It’s why a lot of entrepreneurs give up. If you want to make a success of your start up you need to have ‘the right stuff’, but what does the right stuff look like? Well, here’s a lovely list of the characteristics we think you need!


It’s a virtue isn’t it? Unless you’re really lucky you’re going to need buckets of patience to make your business work. It’s likely that you are going to have to revisit you product or service design over and over again before people start to buy it. Then there are all those interminable pitch meetings and the knock backs that go with them. There is nothing more disheartening than trying to raise money.

However, the thing that you are most likely to have to wait for… is payday. 

Starting a company is a great way not to get paid. My personal experience is that it usually takes a couple of years before you can draw a living wage and that’s if your business is a success which is by no means guaranteed. 

If you are the kind of person that can whether each setback with a stoic “oh well, lets keep going” then you’ve possibly got what it takes.


I should clarify this. You don’t necessarily need to be suave and sophisticated to launch a business, but you are going to need the skills to get other people to buy into your idea. That means customers, partners, employees and investors. 

Believing in yourself and your idea is half the battle won. If you aren’t really convinced that you can make your business work, it’s probably time to give up!

However, being the most driven believer in the world isn’t enough on its own. You also need to develop the skills to sell yourself and your business. Every founder has to be a salesman, every founder has to be a marketeer and that means reading up on how to deliver a marketing plan and how to pitch. 

For some people selling is a step right outside of their comfort zone… which brings me on to: 


Bin your comfort zone, you won’t be staying in it very long. In fact only focussing on the things you enjoy doing, to the detriment of the things that scare you, is a pretty quick route to failure. 

In my office we like to make things. We really like to get our heads down and write some code. The problem is we procrastinate. Maybe we should just add this feature? Maybe we should tidy up the way that app looks? None of this is winning us business or earning us more money. We have to force ourselves to get and and sell stuff.

From time to time you are going to need to do things that you really don’t enjoy (and never will) like firing people or demanding a customer pays their bill. It’s all part and parcel of being a successful business person. 


The second you start a business you become an Octopus. You need to keep one eye on sales and one on the operation and technology. You need another eye on your cashflow and one more on managing your staff. Then what about driving growth and raising money? You’d better keep an eye on that too. Just like an octopus you need lots of ey…. 

I mean a spider… not an octopus.

It’s no surprise that the first thing every good book about founding a business says is “write a business plan!”. Having a plan that you revisit regularly is one great tool you can use to stay on track but there are loads of others.

Look into customer relationship management (CRM) , project planning, team communication and accounting tools that reduce your workload and make it easier to communicate with your staff and stakeholders. Find the right tools for you and your business and don’t be scared to invest in them. They will save you money later! 

As you grow focus on maintaining a simple structure that defines clear responsibilities and lines of communication. 


Not really! That was a trick! If you care about looking good and making friends more than you care about achieving success you’re doomed to failure. 

Business is not a popularity contest. You are going to need to be hard nosed and you are going to make decisions that upset people. Sometimes you have to cut the people that helped you start your business loose on your road to success. 

I know one founder that wanted his company to be like a family and hired all of his friends. I remember a really tough conversation when he realised that, for the business to survive, he needed to fire them all. Don’t make the same mistake. 

Get used to the fact that some people are going to hate you, no matter how hard you try to do the right thing. 


To start with every day is going to bring big decisions. You are rarely going to have all the information you require to make an educated choice so you’re going to have to ‘trust your gut’.

Don’t make the mistake of spending huge sums of money on research either. More often than not you can find an answer with a simple small data test. Will customers understand this user interface? Get your mum to try it! Will customers buy at this price? Stand on a street corner and ask them! Should we roll out this prescription drug which tackles heart disease in the over 50’s… ok… sometimes you need to pay for the proper research… but you get my point. 

Your team will respond well to a leader that gives clear and concise decisions (even if they don’t always agree with them). Leaders cannot be wishy washy. No-one respects wishy washy.

If you’re reading this you probably have a decision to make right now. Do you think you have all of these characteristics? 

Do you think you have what it takes? 

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