Recently, I interviewed a successful business owner as part of an MBA project. Our conversation eventually became a casual discussion about entrepreneurial success, as I tried to gain insight into how he became successful. I was quite surprised by his explanation…
He said it was an accident.
I felt both bewildered and intrigued by this explanation, and continued to ask more questions. There just had to be more to it than that.
Yet, this explanation is not unheard of when entrepreneurs talk about their success. So what’s the deal?
Here is the quick version of his story:
After graduating from Harvard, he worked for a prominent company for a few years and then decided to take an extended trip to Thailand. There, he discovered that “backlinks” were being sold for only a few dollars each (if you don’t know what backlinks are, don’t worry). Knowing that backlinks were selling in the U.S. for over $100, he set up a business with friends to profit from the geographic price arbitrage…and made a ton of cash.
He then took some of the money he earned from that business and rolled it into other online businesses, ones that required minimal time investment, so he could enjoy a fruitful lifestyle in Thailand, where he now lives permanently.
Ok great, sounds simple enough. But was his success really accidental? On the surface, it might appear that way. He made it sound as if it was something he just stumbled upon…like finding a winning lottery ticket on the sidewalk. He could barely believe his own good fortune.
I tried to challenge him on the “accidental” nature of his success, but he just didn’t see it any other way. He insisted it was an accident and that he just got “lucky”.
But as I dug deeper, a different story emerged.
The more information I gathered from him, the more I understood that his success was no accident. Rather, it was a combination of several factors that contributed to his “luck” along the way.
Here are the five key factors for success I took away from my conversation with that business owner. With these factors working in your favor, you just may be able to create your own “luck”……
1. The right background, network, and experience
How many people out there would have recognized a price arbitrage between backlinks selling in Thailand and the U.S., even if it was put right in front of their face? Probably not very many, since most people outside digital marketing probably don’t even know what backlinks are.
He obviously had the right background and expertise to understand the subject matter. And having a network of fellow Harvard grads to tap into when looking for business partners didn’t hurt either.
2. The ability to recognize opportunities
Opportunities are everywhere, but few people recognize them. This ability starts with having the right background and expertise, but it goes beyond the baseline knowledge. You need to be able to see the future…to see an unmet need in the marketplace and envision the solution. People with this ability can magically find themselves “in the right place, at the right time”.
The business owner I interviewed had this ability. Not only did he have the baseline knowledge, but he was perceptive of what was going on around him, and saw there was money to be made.
3. The ability and capacity to act on opportunities
Simply being able to recognize opportunities is worthless unless you have the ability and capacity to act on them. Time and money can be two of the biggest obstacles, and getting around them can be challenging. This often comes down to resourcefulness. Having the right network and expertise is helpful here, too.
The business owner certainly had the means to act on the opportunity that he uncovered. He had the time, and he was in the right location. He knew the right people. And while I don’t know how much money was required to start his first business, this was clearly not a problem for him.
4. Actually taking action
Having the ability to take action means nothing unless you actually do it. This is where many people fall short. The first step is always the hardest, but once you are in motion, things have a way of becoming easier.
The business owner took action, rather than just talking about taking action (as so many people do). He made the conscious decision to go for it. Getting over that initial hurdle can be challenging, but once you do, you’re in business.
5. Being persistent
Taking action is just the first step. Long term success depends on your follow-through. This includes deciding on your goals–your definition of success–and then creating a plan to achieve those goals. And then following your plan through to the end, making any necessary adjustments along the way.
The business owner didn’t stop until he got what he wanted. He built upon each success and kept going until he achieved the wealth and the lifestyle that he wanted. And then he sat back in awe of his accidental success.
I’m sure there are other factors for success, but these five stood out the most from my interview.
In my opinion, success is not an accident. Even when success may sometimes seem accidental, these factors are likely working beneath the surface. Get them working in your favor, and you have a great chance of becoming successful.
How do you feel about this? What are some other factors for success?