Making a business succeed: desire for success or fear of failure?

Simon Lyons, CCO at Slide, reveals 5 consistent behaviours identified from conversations with 14 successful and varied entrepreneurs.

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In recent months we have been talking to many entrepreneurs to understand the drivers and common bond between them in succeeding. A few characteristics stand out which I wanted to share – there are a few I found quite surprising.

I think that those of us that work for a corporation or business don’t see the stresses and strains that entrepreneurs experience. We see incredibly strong-minded individuals who can provoke or inspire a range of emotions (good and bad!) from their staff.

Have you ever wondered what makes them different? What gave them that differentiator to start a business and see it through right to the point of success? Interestingly for every entrepreneur who is successful there are ten that are not. Despite technological advances, business failure is the same now as it was when records began. Nobody seems to have managed to quantify the reasons, nor solve them.

5 Behaviours for Entrepreneurial Success

So instead of focusing on the failure reasons I wanted to identify the behaviours required for success. I have spoken to fourteen very successful entrepreneurs from various industries, some finished up in them by accident, some by design, but they all shared the following 5 attributes:


They all believed in themselves. Out of the fourteen, eleven were on their second or third business. They always believed. It was interesting to see that most believed in their own ability as opposed to the business they were running. Whilst they doubted they made the correct decision of the line of business, they all believed they would make it work.


Surprised? It was uniform across every entrepreneur. They were incredibly protective of their lot and unbelievably guarded when it came to the inner workings of what they did and how they did it. A great quote from probably the most successful out of the fourteen was that they never believed anybody except a tiny group of people. That person was utterly paranoid that people would copy, take away or try to damage what they had. It was later described to me as protectionism.

Risk aversion

I’ve tried several phrases for this one so let me expand. It’s really easy to focus on reasons why not to do something, we all do it. Every entrepreneur I spoke to found ways to do something. They identified the positives and the can-do element of the task in front of them. They all saw a way through the jungle of starting a business. As a note they were all ages from 22 to 71. All started at different times and stages of their lives, some with money, some on credit cards and loans from anywhere they could get them. Each saw a way through the challenges in front of them. Nothing was impossible. The message I took from all the comments was: “I must not fail”.

They all saw a way through the jungle of starting a business


This Scottish word has a multitude of meanings such as shrewd, careful, streetwise, and smart. However the key meaning and the common bond with the fourteen entrepreneurs was being canny with money. They all were excellent financially. This is a standout, if you want to succeed and you are looking for a key skill, being canny is a big one. Leasing the Porsche, taking the flash office are all vanity decisions. One business owner gave me a soundbite which has stuck, “don’t buy one unless you can afford two”. Sounds very basic doesn’t it? But if I swapped the word canny for “sound financial skills”, “focus on cashflow” or “financial management, then it sounds a lot more credible.


You would think these great business men and women (the survey was 60 – 40 split) all knew they would succeed. Not so, the drive to avoid failure and the fear of it was a common bond. They are eternal optimists, but the need not to fail got them to that point where they could take more strategic approaches to their businesses and plan for the future when orderbook and finances were stable enough to allow.

I can summarise this pretty easily: if you want to be a successful entrepreneur you need utter belief in yourself – not only in your ability but in your talent to survive and find the right people. You must be optimistic, but you can trust few, ever. Most of all you must be good with money. The goal is financial independence and control of your life. You have a lot of sacrifices to make to get that halcyon outcome.

Manage The Cash

Managing the cash is crucial, it’s the reason you are doing it, to get more cash. Learning where you will be yesterday, today and tomorrow is the most valuable information you can hold as an entrepreneur. Good luck, if you have the courage, you will need lots of it. I wish you nothing but well.

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