What does it take to have an idea and create something tangible out of it? What does it take to create a startup that will sustain past the first year? It’s estimated that a majority of businesses will fail within the first year. What is it about those companies that do succeed that makes it possible for them to sustain past that one-year mark? Entrepreneurs Cameron Chell and Jamie Clarke try to answer these questions in their book, The Sustainable Startup, which details 7 principles that create the difference between an unsustainable and a sustainable startup.

The underlying idea behind these seven principles is the idea that having a great amount of passion for an idea or product affects the company’s ability to sustain itself. Putting a lot of hours towards your startup and working hard are good qualities and necessary ones, Cameron Chell says, but sometimes having too much passion towards your idea can cause you to lose sight of what’s really important in creating a business. With passion, comes egotism.

This means that sometimes when a person gets so involved and invested with their idea or product, they can be reluctant to change, not open to working with a team or too focused on beating others. The key to a sustainable startup, Chell and Clarke say, is to focus 80% on the creation and 20% on the competition.

So, what goes into the creation part of this equation that makes for sustainability? The key, Chell and Clarke say, is to balance your passion with an understanding of the force behind the start-up. There is something behind that product or idea that the entrepreneur is so passionate about that drives it into fruition. Also key to the creation part of the equation is how the entrepreneur perceives “success.” If success is beating everyone else, then that start-up might not be as successful as one where the entrepreneur defines success as creating an innovative expansion in a market that wasn’t there before.

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Most importantly, an entrepreneur must put aside his own egotism towards a product or service and instead focus on the people that are going to be receiving this product. This is an extremely important step to having a sustainable startup, Chell and Clarke say, because without this focus, you lose sight of why you are actually creating a startup in the first place. Your product or service is going to be sold to customers. Without them, your idea would be just that: an idea.

Don’t get me wrong, a little bit of passion can go a long way and can be extremely important to any company. Without passion, we would live in a world without leaders and innovators. Yet, what Chell and Clarke are stating in The Sustainable Startup is that passion and egotism are characteristics that have their place and that must be balanced in order for a company to succeed and be sustainable. The focus must be taken away from the actual idea and directed towards the ideas behind the idea: Why do you actually want to create this service? How will this product make the world a better place? How will customers react to this idea and how can you appeal it more towards them?

These are questions that entrepreneurs should be asking themselves, instead of keeping the focus directly on how much profit can be made. Chell and Clarke’s idea of breaking away from the ego is an idea that can prove to be very fruitful when it comes to the future of start-ups. If more entrepreneurs went into a business thinking about the creation process and the people they’re going to serve and less about money, we would see not only more successful businesses, but more meaningful ones as well.


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