Entrepreneurship is a common word today — not only is it the backbone of the economy in many countries, including the UAE, it is also often seen as the ultimate path to success. The question is … what really defines that success?
As an entrepreneur with more than a decade spent building a business together with my brother — our company ASIS Boats is a home-grown business selling marine craft to military, naval and defence forces, as well as leisure boat owners — we have learnt that success means so much more than just financial achievement.
About a year after we set up our business, I read ‘True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership’ by Bill George and Peter Sims, which included wisdom from more than 100 outstanding leaders, and helped to identify the elements that are key for true entrepreneurial success. The start of an entrepreneurial journey usually begins with a burning idea, a vision and a passion.
Staying true, authentic and focused is woven into the very fabric of the entrepreneur as he starts to bring his idea to life. His motivation is simple and generally there are few people involved in the initial decision-making processes. Autonomy rules.
As the venture grows, the path changes — widening to accommodate new team members, new customers, new products or services, new markets and new stakeholders. And while the entrepreneur remains at the helm, the dynamics start to change and new challenges present themselves.
Not only does a growing team need to be managed, the original motivation and passion that drove the start up of the business needs to be instilled, and the leader has to do just that — and lead. This means, in large part, moving from an ‘I’ to a ‘we’ mentality.
It is at this important stage of development, that the entrepreneur is at his most vulnerable. Already achieving success, and surrounded by a growing community of supporters and dependents who concentrate on telling him what they think he wants to hear, the entrepreneur might lose the capacity for honest dialogue.
As his profile increases, he might even start to believe his own PR — a deadly mistake. This is the critical time for entrepreneurs to remain as grounded as possible — to acknowledge the support of their families and friends, to remember the identities and responsibilities they have beyond their business, and to gain perspective on the rest of the world beyond their own universe.
Maintaining this equilibrium and balance are key to achieving solid, uncompromised, sustainable success. The journey does not end here though. The final stage of true entrepreneurial success, and often the most rewarding one, is the opportunity to give back.
Whether contributing to others’ growth, success or development, playing a role as a supporter, facilitator, mentor or investor can be the most exciting, delightful and profound time for entrepreneurs. The chance to move beyond our own egos and to contribute to someone else’s success is a measure that can hold the same level of excitement and achievement as making the first million.
At all stages of the entrepreneurial journey, the fundamental keys to success are our consistent commitment to our values, our determination to develop ourselves and the teams around us in the most authentic way, our keen competitive spirit, and a broader sense of purpose.
Integrating our lives — personal, family, professional and community — helps keep us grounded. And grounded leaders and entrepreneurs are easily identified by their steady and confident presence. They do not show up as one person one day, and another person the next.
These are the true measures of entrepreneurial success.
The writer is the founder and CEO of ASIS Boats.