How entrepreneurs and their mentors can become more successful

Whether you’re new to entrepreneurship or an experienced founder, the balance between novelty and commercial viability is key to your entrepreneurial success, says UNSW Business School’s Siran Zhan.

So first, I encourage entrepreneurs to adopt one of these positive thinking tactics that work for them. One that has proven to work again and again, across different work in life domains is a growth mindset, or what we call a learning orientation. So what is that? 

Well, instead of focusing solely on the outcome, find pleasure and meaning in learning just for the sake of gaining knowledge and skills. 

Secondly, I encourage entrepreneurs to surround themselves with a supportive community of like-minded peers and mentors. This is really important because when you face a setback, you feel alone, you feel sometimes ashamed. So you actually cut yourself out of social contact. But if you have people that you can trust and lean on, you can actually go talk to them and draw strength and inspiration from them when your own is running low. And these are people who will hopefully not only make you feel less sad and less frustrated but instead people who will also help you brainstorm new ways to get out of the challenge. 

And the last one is controversial. So some people argue that when you want to start a new venture, you should give it your 100 per cent,  you should quit your day job. But instead, new research evidence is also revealing that there might be merits in keeping your day job because that provides you with a steady source of income. 

Why is that important? Because in entrepreneurship, you don't know your customers very well. And it takes a long time for you to find your product-market fit. And during that time, a lot of companies can run up run out of cash and therefore end up not making it. But having a source of stable income can provide you with both material and psychological buffer for you to remain optimistic and motivated even when you face setback and failure. So that is very important and helpful, as well. 

We found a tendency for novice entrepreneurs to get over captivated by situational demands, and they lose sight of the bigger picture. In contrast, we found that experienced entrepreneurs were much less prone to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. Instead, they are able to balance the pursuit of novelty and commercial viability simultaneously. 

Even though the situation of demand can make it difficult to achieve both. So that is good for them. And given these findings, experienced co-founders and mentors can help novice entrepreneurs. To keep a balanced pursuit of both novelty and commercial viability, especially when situate situation demands make it difficult, or make it easy to pursue one at the cost of the other. So there are several ways that they can help. So first, they could gently nudge their mentee or co-founder one way or another when we know when they notice that they are leaning to pursuing just one go at the cost of another. And they can also just jump in and make up for whatever the novice entrepreneur is neglecting. 

And finally, they could also just initiate an open discussion about how they can simultaneously pursue both the situationally selling goals and other important venture goals.

Dr Siran Zhan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Management at UNSW Business School. In her research, Dr Zhan investigates the individual (e.g., identity and cognitive biases) and social (e.g., culture and diversity) factors important to creative and entrepreneurial processes. For more information, please contact Dr Zhan directly.


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