3 Ways To Excel In The Business Of Building Companies

Entrepreneurship can be a messy affair.

Manifesting success requires a mix of scrappiness, grit, talent, and luck in proportions impossible to predict. For some, the inherent unpredictability implies that the whole endeavor is more art than science, where the risk of failure can be mitigated but not avoided.

If this is your view on entrepreneurship, you are certainly not wrong; the vast majority of start-ups fail to return a penny to their founders.

However, this view is not exactly correct either.

Not every founder is equally likely to fail, and quite a few find their way to success with consistency that defies our understanding of the inherent risks of entrepreneurship. The common denominator among founders and CEOs that seemingly can’t fail is that they approach building companies as a process to be perfected. For them, entrepreneurship is simply the business of building companies, and adopting this mindset is one of the most transformative insights for any leader.

Join us below as we explore three particularly potent variations of this approach to entrepreneurship, all with proven results.

Founders Who Transmute Purpose and Frustration Into Success

For some, entrepreneurship is something to fall into after nothing else has panned out as planned.

For others, becoming a founder is the culmination of decades of preparation and introspection that leave no other choice than forging one’s own way forward. You will hear leaders belonging to this category speak natively of purpose, passion and perseverance against even the most daunting odds, and it is here where we find leaders who might stumble but are unlikely to fall as they make their way towards success.

In the beginning, I didn’t have a website, producers, clients or anything else that you need to run this kind of a business,” Aubre Winters-Casiano, founder of workout platform Sweat Sessions noted in our recent discussion about turning scrappiness into success.

All I had was a ‘why’, and that why fueled the grit and perseverance I needed to build Sweat Sessions into the international online community and studio it is today,” Aubre reflected on what drove her forward during the most challenging times of her leadership journey.

Knowing your ‘why’ seems to be a CEO’s superpower, something which Simon Sinek has expanded upon wonderfully in his book Start With Why.

It’s not that entrepreneurship is relentless toil one cannot withstand without a clear sense of purpose. On the contrary, most who succeed in entrepreneurship fall in love with being an entrepreneur long before they succeed in it. However, a clear sense of purpose is what gets founders to get up each time they are knocked down. It is exactly this type of resilience that hikes the odds of succeeding regardless of where one starts from.

Few know the transformative power of purpose and resilience as intimately as Alyssa McKay who lifted herself from a life spent in foster homes to a career as the co-founder of streetwear brand Beyond Lost and lifestyle creator with millions of followers.

It’s all been rather surreal,” Alyssa noted as we retraced the path she has taken to where she is today. “I’ve never had a backup plan for entrepreneurship. I know that what covered my rent last month might not pay out another dime next week, and the way I play it safe is pushing myself by constantly taking risks and investing into myself and my business,” Alyssa explained.

If you’re having a hard time defining your purpose, you can lean on frustration just as well.

I was incredibly frustrated with the state of the medical field,” Dr. Mitesh Rao, CEO of healthcare data ecosystem OMNY Health, recalled during our chat about what got him started.

I looked everywhere for a pre-existing solution to the fragmented state of healthcare data. At some point I realized that I would need to take action myself, and the best way to do that would be by leaving medicine altogether to become an entrepreneur,” Mitesh continued to reflect.

Although the results can be extraordinary, there’s nothing magical about purpose, passion, or frustration. Instead, when founders rely on this trio of drivers, they significantly tip the scales of fortune in their favor.

Just as luck favors the prepared, success comes to those who don’t know how to give up. The same goes for those who simply can’t shake off the feeling that there’s a problem with their name on it waiting to be solved.

Founders Who Just Can’t Let Go Of A Good Problem

There are two kinds of people when it comes to problems: those who know to avoid them and those who can’t stop themselves from trying to solve them.

Mathematicians are known for their love of a good problem, even if it means collectively devoting centuries to reaching a solution.

There’s an uncanny similarity between founders who seem almost destined to make it and mathematicians who can’t let go of a problem until it’s solved. For starters, both begin by asking questions others ignore.

How is it that we can buy fresh food for our dogs, but everything for babies comes in a can,” Ben Lewis, co-founder of Little Spoon, found himself asking out loud more often than he liked.

I was by no means a baby food expert, but the question just wouldn’t let me go. Ultimately my co-founder and I succumbed to the need to find an answer, and we realized there was no reason why parents shouldn’t be able to buy fresh baby food. It just hadn’t been done, which is why we decided to do it”, Ben reflected on the company’s beginnings.

For founders motivated by an insatiable need to find an answer, entrepreneurship is the only logical conclusion. Here we find something that goes beyond purpose or passion; certainty of direction.

Leaders who find themselves equipped with certainty of direction can be true forces of nature, with success being an inevitability even if reaching it means going back to the drawing board until the equations line up.

Elise Burns, founder of veterinarian staffing agency Evette, is a great example of how conviction can lead to success.

I have to admit that I wasn’t even an animal lover until I got started with Evette,” Elise confessed during our discussion on how her path to leadership began by identifying a problem instead of a deeply held passion for the industry.

What roped me into this life was my inability to let go of solving an obvious problem others were ignoring. How can it be that the veterinary industry didn’t have a human-centered recruiting process while the human side did,” Elise explained as we dug deeper into what got her started with Evette.

The reason why building a business around a problem is a particularly powerful approach is that it focuses the founding team’s efforts while also inviting them to try new approaches until the original itch to get started has been scratched.

We had already launched three to four times with different versions of our core idea, but nothing really happened,” Brendan Kamm, CEO of enterprise gratitude and gifting platform Thnks, reminisced as our chat turned into his views on why they ultimately succeeded in launching off the ground.

We wouldn’t be here without our drive to pivot until we found a solution to what we knew to be a problem others were having; the lack of truly personal forms of expressing gratitude over a distance. I could have never guessed that our product-market-fit would come together how it did, but I knew that as long as the problem persisted we’d need to continue trying,” Brendan added.

Founders and Funders Who Build Companies As A Business

We have a tendency to oversell the importance of individuals and understate that of the team behind them.

Even Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Jeff Bezos needed their teams to make it, and there’s a fascinating group of founders and venture capitalists who know how to leverage this fact to their advantage.

It can be incredibly difficult to get a company off the ground even if the timing is right and the business model is impeccable,” Kevin Leneway, CTO of Pioneer Square Labs which has raised tens of millions of venture-funding for a number of start-ups within their portfolio, stated in our discussion on how their company has formalized the business of building successful companies.

The reason why most start-ups fail to live up to their potential is that they never get the right team behind them. This is why we run a start-up studio that lowers the risk of entrepreneurship by combining great ideas with financing, operators and technical talent to get the company on the right path,” Kevin elaborated.

PSL’s approach also includes equipping their foundlings with the right tools, even when it means having to build them themselves as they recently did with JACoB AI – an open source AI agent that streamlines the process of building software.

Material Impact’s co-founder and managing partner Adam Sharkawy is another believer in the power of optimizing the process of building companies.

We build companies in a very codified manner,” Adam explained.

We have a whole ecosystem of core teams that are ready to be deployed to any company within our portfolio with clear goals and exit points for when their skills are no longer needed. Each engagement helps the founders as much as it does the specialist teams in learning how to build companies more efficiently,” Adam noted as we discussed the positive feedback loops that emerge from Material Impact’s approach.

What PSL, Material Impact and their peers have realized is that there’s outsized returns to be had by treating company formation as a business in itself.

Founders and VC who have internalized this approach leave less to chance after each iteration, ultimately making each venture less of a gamble and more of a trial run.

For those who are still looking for their path to entrepreneurship it’s relieving to know practice and commitment can make up for purpose and a passion for problem-solving.


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