I am frequently asked by clients and reporters what is the key ingredient to entrepreneurial success.
- A great idea?
- Financial backing?
- A charismatic founder?
- A bulletproof business plan?
- Great selling skills?
These things can certainly help. But what will make or break your entrepreneurial journey is:
The ability to be a scientist.
What I mean specifically about being a scientist is willingness to:
- Create a working hypothesis and test it
- Observe results with curiosity, not judgment
- Ask why
- Tweak. Retest. Observe. Ask why. Tweak again.
When you view the entrepreneurial journey as a series of experiments, it is interesting and intellectually stimulating, and a puzzle to be solved.
When you view it is an epic Hollywood drama of sweeping success or crushing failure, chances are you will not last very long, and be an emotional wreck.
Let’s imagine Groupon’s marketing team meeting on Monday morning after their Superbowl advertisements:
Groupon, the Scientists: “Well that was fascinating.! We had the hypothesis that spoofing serious social issues in our commercials would be hilarious and garner new fans. The results show that we just spent millions of dollars to invoke mass ire. I wonder why that happened and how we can turn this experience into something positive?”
Groupon, the Hollywood Producer : “You are all a group of total idiots. Whoever signed off on that marketing campaign is fired. Let’s find a way to cover our ass as quickly as possible.”
Notice the difference?
Few people are as enthusiastic, and relentless, about testing than my friend Ramit Sethi. In a recent post, he lays out numerous examples of the power of testing your assumptions (FYI there is a bit of Not Safe for Work language in the piece). My favorite is the best man who spent 7 months perfecting a wedding toast. Now that is a friend you want to have!
Brian Clark of Copyblogger shares the same enthusiasm for testing, described in his 7 Small Tweaks That Boost Conversion. Who would have known that given a choice, more people would click a button that says “It’s free” rather than “Sign up free” or “Free Signup.” Or that changing a sign-up button color from green to red would boost conversion by 21%? Brian Clark would know, because he has built a thriving business sharing tips on tiny twists and tweaks that add up to successful online commerce.
I share some more examples in an interview in The New York Times today on the topic of Testing the Entrepreneurial Life.
So if you find yourself with a thought like:
“I knew I should never have approached that store with an offer to sell my spicy almonds, they rejected me!”
Put on your scientist hat and think instead:
“How fascinating! I thought the store would be excited about selling my spicy almonds but they were not. I wonder why?”