Amid our rampant love affair with startups, here’s a question: do we give entrepreneurs too much credit when they’re successful?

It’s something struck me while reading about the rise and fall of Nasty Girl, a one-time e-commerce high-flyer now apparently filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Founder Sophia Amoruso had gone from the penthouse to the proverbial outhouse.

entrepreneursCreating a successful startup is a huge challenge. It’s hard to develop a product that consumers want and, as important, hand over money to buy or use. It’s tough to spread the word so enough people know about a startup to turn it into a business.

It’s difficult to create a product that consumers want and, as important, will hand over money to buy. It’s difficult to spread the word so enough people know about a startup to turn it into a business.

This is why we admire successful entrepreneurs. We celebrate their accomplishments and revel in stories of how their startups evolved from ideas to vibrant companies.

It is natural to shine the spotlight on successful entrepreneurs because most startups fail. Startups are a David vs. Goliath proposition so entrepreneurs that succeed are seen as rock stars.

But are these entrepreneurs that good? Do they beat the odds by being smarter or savvier than other entrepreneurs? When we praise successful entrepreneurs, we give them super powers. We treat them as remarkable people who someone figured out how to beat the odds and outflank the competition.

While these entrepreneurs are smart and savvy, many of them lucky. They discovered an opportunity that they exploited and then got enough traction to grow a business. They benefited from impeccable timing and surrounding themselves with the right people.

At the same time, there are other entrepreneurs who are just as smart. For whatever reason, their efforts failed. The window of opportunity closed quickly, their products were priced too high, they didn’t connect with the right influencers or received enough media attention, and the list goes on. It wasn’t for a lack of effort or even money that things didn’t work out.

In other words, there is a thin line between entrepreneurial success and failure. The entrepreneurs who make it could have easily failed and vice versa. As much as successful entrepreneurs are glorified, it is important not to get too carried away by label them as business wizards.

Instead, I think it’s important to realize that being an entrepreneur is hard. It is an all-consuming proposition. You work long hours, it is stressful and there is always the possibility of failure. As much as success is celebrated, we should also tip our caps to all entrepreneurs, including the ones who try and fail.

What do you think? Are successful entrepreneurs celebrated too much?


I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.

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