According to Khan, the very first thing he looks for in an entrepreneur is a person above and beyond anything else. Think of a pyramid. The entrepreneur (or jockey) is at the top. “The next tier is the business model (or horse) and at the bottom of the pyramid is the market (or race course).
We can assist with the business model and making the business offering ‘fit’, but we can’t work with a jockey that doesn’t have the right mindset to begin with.” We quizzed him on what else is important.
What is the most important characteristic of an entrepreneur?
Self belief. Without self belief you will never meet a challenge head on. You’ll always find reasons why something won’t succeed instead of finding a solution to every challenge. For example, we’ve found that entrepreneurs who focus on the belief that they can’t start their business without funding miss the important point that funding is not a barrier.
Any challenge can be overcome if you’re willing to look for a solution – even if it’s not the solution you thought you needed at the beginning of your journey. Make a plan. It’s as simple as that.
What have you found entrepreneurs lack the most?
Synergy and support. Many entrepreneurs, especially in the very early phases of their businesses, tend to be quite alone and isolated. We create spaces where they can network with each other and share their insights, lessons learnt and potentially even find synergies.
However, you need to be open to networking. Understand the value of spending your time speaking to other entrepreneurs. Don’t think you can do everything alone.
How important is passion?
While not all businesses can be built on passion alone, if you don’t believe in what you’re doing it’s going to be difficult to push through the tough times. We always ask prospective candidates of the programme what they wake up for every day.
We then ask them what they would do (if they could choose anything) even if it meant they didn’t get a salary. If these two things don’t align with the business they are launching or running, we can immediately see they’re in the wrong business and need to re-evaluate their path.
What is the area that start-ups struggle with the most?
A lack of focus, particularly when cash is a problem. Entrepreneurs tend to spread themselves across a number of ideas, believing that more means success. The problem is that this actually just waters down focus. Evaluate what you’re doing and figure out what your ‘cash cow’ is, and then work it. If it’s not making money, leave it. It’s as simple as that.