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Build a profitable business- the baby steps part 32

Think outside of the box. We have found that one of the common traits of great entrepreneurs is their ability to find the brilliant but less obvious solution to a problem. Successful entrepreneurs are not conventional. In fact, quite a few of them might appear to be eccentric, even borderline crazy. We believe that can be attributed to the fact that they just don´t care as much. They don´t care what society thinks about them, or at least they care a lot less than the rest. They don´t care what conventional wisdom dictates. They create their own realities. And they do so by using intuition and highly obstinate methods. They trust their gut. They do not feel the need to be part of the herd in order to feel safe. In fact many entrepreneurs are disgusted by the herd. They feel that the majority of people are simply trying to fit in to much. They are part of a giant fleet of ships without a harbour. What´s even worse is that they are sailing away quietly into the sunset with no goals, no visions, and no destination. Why be part of a delusional fleet when you can be a purposeful pirate?

Some entrepreneurs didn´t do that well in school, and yet they can find ingenious solutions to intricate problems. Now what´s important to understand is that this ability to think outside of the box has little to do with intelligence. We know entrepreneurs of varying degrees of intelligence. Our theory, based on years of interaction with this group of people, is that many entrepreneurs have a highly developed creative intelligence. On top of that creative intelligence comes the willingness to separate oneself from the crowd. And when these two forces work together, magical things tend to happen. In fact we think one of the main reasons entrepreneurs can think outside of the box is that they didn´t acknowledge the box was there in the first place. They do not recognize boundaries as readily as the rest of the population. Boundaries are seldom definitive for entrepreneurs. They are merely unimportant distractions. And by ignoring these distractions and focusing only on what needs to be accomplished, some very creative and original stuff will eventually surface.

Good entrepreneurs can often come across as a bit headstrong. The way we see it that is both a good and a bad personality trait. It all depends on the situation. We know some extremely successful entrepreneurs who can be outrageously brash and eccentric in business meetings. You want some examples? One billionaire entrepreneur has made a sport of coming underdressed to meetings with prominent bank executives. He is the client after all, why should he dress up? On one occassion he came in a track suit and some old sweaty pumps to a fancy dinner meeting where five bank representatives in expensive suits and matching ties were trying to persuade him to do more business with their distinguished bank. As word spread about the hilarious stunt, it quickly became an instant classic in our business community.

Another story that cracked us up was an entrepreneur who made a point of greeting posh investment banking guests in his flip flops. That is when he fancied meeting them at all. Sometimes he called the meeting off 5 miutes before it was about to start. Other times, when he didn´t feel like it, he would simply walk out of a meeting right after it started. And on those rare occassions where he actually intended to attend the whole meeting he made sure he was a good 30 minute late to it at the very least. He figured the investment bankers were too greedy not to play his game. And he was right. Every single time he would ridicule them. But they kept coming back for more. They had to. He was too important a client. He was a whale. And when a whale invites you to dance, you had better put on a big smile and face the music.



You don´t have to be intelligent. Contrary to what many people believe entrepreneurs don´t have to be intelligent. In fact, being overly intellectual is probably a major obstacle. We know entrepreneurs who are clearly very intelligent. And we know entrepreneurs who aren´t particularly intelligent. And yet intelligence only has a limited correlation to the success of those entrepreneurs. We think it has to do with the fact that there are different kinds of intelligence. Some entrepreneurs may come across as considerably less educated or intelligent than an ivy league scholar. But the world does not automatically open its doors to the educated and intelligent man. The world will only open its doors to the commited, persistant,resourceful man who keeps banging on those doors and simply won´t take no for an answer. The writing is on the wall. You don´t need book smarts to become a successful entrepreneur. But you do need street smarts. Lots of it. I have witnessed countless situations where highly intelligent individuals have underestimated an entrepreneur in a negotiation or a business deal only to find themselves on the wrong side of the trade once the dust had settled. Don´t mistake intelligence for shrewdness. You do not need intelligence to be shrewd. The two are not related, and one can indeed exist without the other. We find that most entrepreneurs are shrewd. And some of them are intelligent as well. But that is another story altogether.

The shrewdness we are talking about is a skill set like any other skill set. Some entrepreneurs seem to have plenty of it innately. Others have aquired this skill the hard way. They have learned by making mistakes and adjusted their behaviour accordingly. They have become wiser by trial and error, and the experience that this process entails. And they have finally developed an ability that is highly coveted by any business man; an uncanny intuition that rarely fails them. Thus, what they may lack in intelligence most of them make up in street smarts. They know how to handle themselves in almost any situation in a way that the intellectual cannot.

We want to be clear about something. Even though intelligence is not a prerequisite for entrepreneurial success, that doesn´t mean it is going to hurt your chances either. It simply means that intelligence is not a factor. Provided you have a relatively normal IQ you could be a successful entrepreneur. It´s that simple. We know some extraordinarily smart entrepreneurs. Me and my partners have all gone to the “right” schools and collected the right diplomas. It didn´t help us in becoming successful entrepreneurs, but it sure didn´t hurt our chances either. Being smart or having a high IQ can open up a lot more avenues to success as an entrepreneur. That is if you can remain humble and not be overwhelmed by your own intelligence. There are plenty of crash and burn stories dealing with entrepreneurs who figured they were a lot smarter than their peers. Turns out intelligence is not the only weaponry in the arsenal of an entrepreneur. Intelligence is a two-edged sword. It can help you out in allowing you too succeed faster and in multiple avenues. Or it can get to your head and make you implode.

Obviously companies like Google or Facebook couldn´t have been created by people who weren´t exceptionally smart. At the same time those same people probably wouldn´t have been able to build the next Walmart or IKEA either. Different types of companies require different types of skill sets and different types of aptitudes. And when it comes down to it intelligence is nothing more than one specific piece of weapon in an arsenal of multifaceted weaponry.

The entrepreneurs of this world will always find a way.


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