Sunday, October 25, 2015

10 Age-Old Entrepreneur Rules Still Lead To Success

Andrew_CarnegieIn this world of constant change, new technologies, and a thousand cultures, it’s evident and somehow comforting to me that the basic rules for business prosperity really haven’t changed in the last hundred years. Business success is still more about the people than the technology or idea involved. As an angel investor and a mentor to entrepreneurs I still see this every day.

I was just perusing a recent book, “The Science of Success,” a collection of essays by and about Napoleon Hill, who is most recognized as the author of the best seller “Think and Grow Rich” from way back in 1937. Hill attributes his ten rules of success to Andrew Carnegie, who was in his prime well before that, over a hundred years ago.

Since language and implication have changed a bit since then, I’ll restate Carnegie and Hill’s original rules here, with my own current-day commentary and recommendations added:
  1. Definiteness of purpose. Every entrepreneur needs to start by setting a major purpose for embarking down a specific business path. This objective needs to go beyond making a parent or spouse happy, getting rich quick, or advancing a technology. For success these days, the purpose better focus on people, and solve a real problem for customers.

  2. Master-mind alliance. Building successful businesses still requires the ability to find and inspire the best people who “have what you haven't,” whether that be skills, knowledge, connections, or funding. Then you must extend these alliances to vendors, partners, customers, and even competitors (coopetition).

  3. Going the extra mile. Hill's eagerness to serve others gave him greater opportunities, and this Law of Reciprocity works the same today. Doing more than you have to do is the only thing that justifies raises or promotions, and puts people under an obligation to you.  This is still one of the most important competitive differentiators that you can offer.

  4. Applied faith. This is a level of belief that has action behind it. Anyone can have ideas, passion, and faith about an important business opportunity. Yet for most people it’s only a daydream, since they are not willing or able to commit the actions required to deliver. Results are still the only true measure of success in business.

  5. Personal initiative. Successful entrepreneurs do what they need to do without being told how to do it. Asking for insight is not the same as asking for the next step, or asking an advisor to make the decision. Great entrepreneurs are proactive, not only in selecting the right idea, but in implementing a product, setting a price, and choosing customers.

  6. Imagination. This is the number one skill required for creativity and innovation. Without imagination, entrepreneurs cannot look at a problem from a new perspective. Without imagination, entrepreneurs cannot visualize how various solutions to a problem would work. Without imagination, entrepreneurs can never dream up new ideas.

  7. Enthusiasm. This is the contagious quality that great entrepreneurs have to attract correlative passion, commitment, the best people, and customers to their idea and solution. Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful motivational tools in an entrepreneur’s arsenal, and no success will accrue without it.

  8. Accurate thinking. Accurate thinking is the ability to separate facts from fiction via deductive reasoning, and to isolate and use facts effectively that are pertinent to your own challenges and problems. When the necessary facts are not available, accurate inductive reasoning or hypothetical thinking is required to fill the gap.

  9. Concentration of effort. In current terms this is called focus and determination, to never give up and never be diverted from your purpose. With focus and determination, you and your team will understand what's most important for success, and drive your motivation through the execution steps required.

  10. Profiting by adversity. This simply means remembering that there can be an equivalent benefit for every setback. Successful entrepreneurs learn from funding failures, economic adversity, ruthless competitors, and lethargic customers. They insist on greater efficiency, try new business models, organizational improvements, and better cash management.
Carnegie and Hill understood how business success rules were tied to the entrepreneur way back in the early 1900’s, and the evidence is that those rules are still as applicable now as they were then. Business models and technology have improved dramatically, but the power of people with foresight, passion, and determination continues to supersede all these elements.

So the next time you are tempted to broadcast an abstract email to me and other investors on your new “million dollar idea,” make sure you include your track record on how well you stack up against these rules for business success. Investors still tend to bet on the jockey, not the horse.

Marty Zwilling




  1. "Success is the completion of anything intended". I agree with this quote. And thanks to this post we will definitely achieve a success despite these age-old rules. I think the key element of success is a positive thinking. And I found an article which is called "5 Action Steps To Unlock Your Positive Thinking". I hope the pieces of advice from this article will be useful and help to become successful.

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  3. Very surprising post. I would have thought "advancing a technology" would have been a decent purpose.

  4. It's a good article, but you left out integrity. Both Carnegie and Hill were famous for the promotion and daily practice of integrity. It's an important function of long term success that is too often overlooked in a culture of "tell them anything they want to hear and do what you do". Failure to practice of integrity in all aspects of business leads to business failure.

    1. Good point! This from Kate Hufstetler on the web: Andrew Carnegie became America's richest immigrated citizen after years and years of hard work. At age 65 he sold his company and devoted his remaining years to giving away his wealth. He funded the building of over 2,000 libraries within the English speaking world. And gave away somewhere close to $350 million total to those needing various forms of assistance.

  5. Thanks for sharing this list of great rules! Time is going by and some people think and we need to change our approaches to be up-to-date but these rules showcase that not all the things have to be changed. I also can recommend wonderful article “Language in International Negotiations – Avoiding Embarrassment” where everyone can get the basics of international negotiations.

  6. These rules are so true. The basics of business haven't changed much in one hundred years.