Hanging on my office wall is one of my favorite prints that I bought a few years ago in Chicago. It is a quote from the movie The Untouchables that reads:
“Never Stop Fighting ‘Til The Fight Is Done”
That quote has come up in at least three conversations this past week as I talked with people about what makes an entrepreneur succeed. Through five classes at The Brandery, we have seen nearly 50 startups come through our doors with our fair share of successes and failures. And while it is tough to point out one thing that separates the companies that make it from the ones that don’t, there is a common thread. The ones who make it are the ones who “never stop fighting”.
The life of a startup is one hell of a roller coaster. Even the companies that ultimately succeed go through their fair share of moments where their backs are against the wall and the future looks bleak. It is in those those moments that it is easy to quit. To take the fall back option that they all have. After all, the entrepreneurs that walk through our door at The Brandery come from remarkable backgrounds. We have folks that were in Med School, were working as a Product Manager at Google, or were running very successful digital agencies. It would be really easy for any of them to throw in the towel and go back to that world they came from.
But the best entrepreneurs are not wired that way. Once they have gone down the path of starting a company, they do not want to go back to the world they came from. For them, failure is not an option. Or said differently, failure would be going back to what they were doing before.
I was reminded of this when I recently sat down with one of our Brandery alumni. This was a company that had moved here from the East Coast and stayed in Cincinnati when they raised their seed funding. Over the last two years, they have been cranking on their MVP but it never really got to product/market fit. Fast forward to today and some folks would have hung up the towel. But not these guys. For them, the fight isn’t done. Instead, they bootstrapped a little more capital and are using it on a new concept. And this new concept might actually be bigger than their original idea. They could have given up many times along the way but quitting just isn’t in their DNA. Sure they still might fail…but they won’t be a failure. These folks gave it their all and I know they put everything into it. They did not just quit because things were tough.
Even after 5 years working with startups at the Accelerator stage, I am still trying to figure out how you determine if someone is wired this way. It is a trait that is rarely going to show up in the “resume” of a first-time founder. But it just might be the single most valuable trait an entrepreneur can have in succeeding in their early days.