By Jean-Marc Patouillaud, General Partner at Partech
As General Partner of Partech, I get to meet different entrepreneurs everyday. Having met thousands throughout my career in VC, it has become clear to me that there are several key qualities that recur in all successful entrepreneurs. Below are what I believe to be the best 12 that can help lead to entrepreneurial success.
Vision is a big word, sometimes vague, but entrepreneurs must ask themselves, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this?” In my experience, 1 in 4 entrepreneurs that I come across don’t even know how to answer these fundamental questions… questions that should be driving their ambition. You must be ambitious even if it doesn’t work out.
Even if there are several counter-examples and various opinions on the subject, I think that it is still better to begin an entrepreneurial adventure with several people rather than on your own. There is always strength and support in numbers. When it comes to structuring the roles of Co-Founders, it is not necessarily the CEO-Commercial / CTO-Developer duo that is the ideal combination but rather the Visionary / Operational that works better.
Being ambitious does not mean spending everything. A good entrepreneur is an entrepreneur who is frugal with the right mindset and who aims high without doing anything ridiculous with money. Like crossing a desert with just a few jerry cans of water.
The key sentence here is “hire slow, fire fast”, you shouldn’t rush to recruit, it’s better to waste three months finding the right profile. In the same way, right away when you realize a hiring is unsucessful, act immediately, as every day spent with an incompatible or unqualified person can put your business at risk. Recruitment also shows who you are. The A’s recruit the A’s, B’s recruit the C’s.
5) Decision making
Whether it is in the execution, recruitment or the pivot… you must move fast. Take the right advice not all advice, and don’t waste time: decide!
Especially for a tech company, there are no borders. You have to get to grips with the US market, which is often make or break for a tech company. This requires a lot of resources. For me, Asia is also interesting, with strong potential in South Korea and the ASEAN region. But like Germany in Europe, China and Japan are complicated. Africa is also interesting with a strong propensity to adopt leapfrogging innovation.
7) Addicted to sales
The entrepreneur must be obsessed with selling, bringing their product to the market as soon as possible, even if some features are not yet fully developed. You can never get a perfect product out anyway. You have to penetrate the market brick by brick. But never compromise on the quality of customer support. If a client feels supported, they will forgive everything.
8) Numbers count
Despite the romantic vision that some people may have of the instinctive entrepreneur who goes on to set up a superb company without a business plan, financial Excel files etc., everything is in the figures. It is necessary to define your KPIs (performance indicators), to know them well and to follow them.
The entrepreneur which makes these efforts which will be able to get the truth out of a company from its figures.
It is important to be able to steer a company both quantitatively and qualitatively.
You have to look not only through binoculars (vision) but also with a magnifying glass (the numbers).
9) Returning calls
Networking is very important. Whether they are prospects, investors or partners, you have to build a network and nurture your relationships. You have to be available and call people back.
10) Fundraising is a war, not a battle
Even if fundraising should not be an entrepreneur’s be all and end all, ambitious projects require capital. With the funds, you have to do pre-marketing. The investors that you meet in year N, you should contact them in year N-2, not just to send them your entire dossier (BP, Pitch Deck) but also to get to know them, speak about what you want to do, possibly set a few milestones and maintain a relationship. When an investor knows you, and you call him back with good news, it’s ideal.
It is better to re-establish contact with 5 qualified investors than to coldly contact 50 unqualified investors.
11) Don’t forget company culture
A company is not just numbers, even if they are important: turnover, profit etc. It is an association of individuals, which adheres to one project and its values. It is not only the salary, the stock options (or BSPCE in France), which motivates people to work hard for a company. The commitment of a team to a common project that makes sense, is very important. It’s essential to therefore define company values.
12) Don’t forget your private life
If you are happy at home, you will be happy in your professional life, and your collaborators, clients and partners will sense this and it will influence them.
Sleep, take a vacation and exercise.