Head, Heart, and Hands: 3 Essentials for Startup Success

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startup success

This article is part of our Business Startup Guide—a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time!

Starting up a business requires a lot of different steps.

First-time entrepreneurs and small business founders often feel anxious when they think about all the factors that play into getting their idea off the ground.

Plus, it can seem like success or failure hinges on finding deep-pockets funders, expert mentors, ample press coverage, and other “champions.”

But the truth is, you already possess some of the most important assets you’ll need to achieve success. These are nothing less than your personal faculties—the awesome power of your own head, your own heart, and your own hands.

In other words, much of your potential for success will be determined by:

  1. The quality of your idea
  2. The strength and sincerity of your belief in it
  3. Your effort to make it a reality

Succeed with your head: The impact of innovative ideas

Big or small, every successful business starts with an innovative idea.

Nike was born when Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman recognized the hidden potential of a waffle iron to improve soles for running shoes. Howard Schultz brought the espresso bar concept from Italy to the United States and grew Starbucks into a global phenomenon. And when Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, many people had never even heard of something called the internet.

True, your business aspirations may be on a more modest scale than these world-famous brands. Nevertheless, your first step is to come up with an innovative idea.

But where to begin? Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software and Bplans, says there is no better starting point than looking in the mirror. Each of us is a unique individual. Within ourselves, we each carry the seeds of entrepreneurial success—concepts that interest us, questions that intrigue us, skills that set us apart, and an internal sense that some things could be done differently and better.

It’s good to have role models in business, but you should not try to mimic someone else’s success. Successful businesses are always built from the special aptitudes and unique insights of the people who founded them. Your truly innovative idea will be as one-of-a-kind as you are.

The Lean Business Plan Template

Succeed with your heart: The power of positive belief

To bring your idea to fruition, you must genuinely believe in it.

Good luck persuading others to invest if you can’t convey your own enthusiasm and confidence in your idea. An idea for a business might seem “great,” but if it fails to ignite your sense of passion, it probably isn’t the right one for you. Go back to the drawing board and come up with an idea you can truly commit to.

A secure and persevering spirit will be an essential factor in your success. Trust that you will adapt to changes; learn to conquer fear and approach uncertainty with confidence. Become fiercely committed to seeing your goals through.

For example, if you’re an aspiring entrepreneur who feels “mathematically challenged” (and many of us do), then you may feel intimidated by financial forecasting and fall into a pattern of prioritizing other tasks. You may tell yourself you’re “too busy” tending to outside obligations or allow yourself to get bogged down in other details of ongoing business planning.

Sometimes we engage in such behaviors just to procrastinate. At other times we are actually creating preemptive excuses for the failure we fear is inevitable. If left unchecked, negative belief can grow into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Freeing yourself of negativity will require a conscious effort. Take note of the goals you tend to put off and the productive tasks you habitually avoid. Ask yourself why. As you learn to identify the negative beliefs that are impeding your progress, you will feel empowered to begin changing them.

Use tools that can help you manage the challenging aspects of your business. For example, if finances are challenging and you notice that you avoid reviewing them, use a business planning and ongoing financial management tool with a dashboard so you can see where you are without getting bogged down in spreadsheets.

If you need to learn more about digital marketing, take an online class—just take small steps toward the things that seem overwhelming. You don’t have to solve everything all in one day. Small accomplishments can mean a lot when you’re trying to get out of a procrastination rut.

Succeed with your hands: The effectiveness of effort

The best ideas and most heartfelt belief are of little value without the resolve to take action and work hard.

You will sometimes hear people explain a business leader’s success by giving credit to “good luck.” People who talk like this have little knowledge or practical experience starting a  business.

If you believe in succeeding through perseverance, you have the right frame of mind to do what it takes to make your business grow. Those who believe in success through luck might be better served to buy lottery tickets. In business, there is no such thing as luck; you achieve success because you are willing to work hard for it.

People who are accustomed to working hard are less inclined to feel overwhelmed by challenges. They are eager to acquire new skills because they can quickly put them to good use. And contrary to the image of the “head in the clouds” visionary, you will probably find that your most inspired thinking actually occurs when you are engaged in productive work. Research even indicates that hard-working people tend to live longer than take-it-easy types.

Thomas Edison famously said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Much has changed since Edison’s day, but sweat equity is still the most effective kind of startup capital.

Practical ways to get started

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business but you haven’t yet taken the leap, there are a few ways you can position yourself for success.

1. If you have a business idea, write a quick business plan—a Lean Plan

If you’ve heard of the business model canvas idea, Lean Planning is similar but ultimately more useful. You can download the Bplans Lean Plan Template to help you get started.

2. Validate your idea and make sure that it’s one worth pursuing

Passion is important, but so are the details.

Use your Lean Plan to help you think through your ideal target market, the specifics on your product or service, and whether you’ll need to seek a loan or private investment. This idea validation checklist can help you think through every aspect.

3. Make sure you take care of the details

When you’re ready to start a business, you’ll need to think about registering your business’s legal structure, doing market research, finding office space if you need it, developing a website for an online business—and more!

Use this startup checklist—it will guide you through every aspect you’ll need to consider. And if you have trouble staying on track, read and then follow along with this guide to starting a business in 30 days.

As you get your startup or small business up and running, don’t be afraid to reach out to your network for support. It can also be helpful to find a mentor. SCORE provides free business mentorship from experts who have been where you are and want to see you succeed. Good luck!

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