3. Think different
The famous advertising slogan could serve as a motto for every elite entrepreneur. Manny Stul, Chairman of Moose Toys and EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016, says, “We are fastidious about ‘being different,’ and we challenge our teams to set the trends, not follow them.”
If you are going to break the mold, you have to break with conventional wisdom. The ability to think differently about a problem, a process or a route to market is critical for challenger brands — and increasingly vital for all business leaders. This particular kind of mental agility has become an imperative as the Transformative Age disrupts almost every business sector and market.
“As a businessperson, your primary movers are management systems, processes and people,” says EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2010 US regional winner Jim Nixon of Nixon Energy Investments. “But entrepreneurs are intuitive and break the mold — they change something and make it different.”
Difference can come in many forms. When Ilkka Paananen founded mobile game development company Supercell in Helsinki, his ambition was to build a world-beating creative house. A few years later, Supercell became Europe’s first decacorn — a company with a market capitalization greater than US$10b.
“We wanted to build a new kind of games company that would focus on getting the best creative people together,” says Paananen, the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2015 Finland, “and provide them with a home that would ignite the creativity latent in them.” That meant allowing his core developers to work autonomously, free of the corporate weeds of timesheets, meetings and approvals.
Four sequential megahits launched onto the rapidly expanding mobile market: Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Boom Beach and Clash Royale. A team of just five created the monster hit Clash of Clans.
Success did nothing to shift Paananen’s belief in creating autonomous teams. Small teams, carefully recruited, are given freedom to create the games they believe in. And this continues to be a point of difference between Supercell and other large game developers.
Having the courage to think differently can uncover new sources of value.
4. Go with your gut
“Lightbulb moments happen rarely,” says EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2012 New Zealand Award winner Craig Heatley of Rainbow Corporation and Sky Network Television. “But when they do, they change the direction of your life.”
Entrepreneurs are notoriously endowed with a sixth sense that recognizes a truth before it can be completely rationalized. This “gut instinct” allows them to move earlier than competitors and drive toward a target that may not be truly visible. Listening to your gut is something all business leaders should do more of.
Diane Foreman, co-author of Daring to Compete, which features many more insights from EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners, says, “Entrepreneurs don’t just run businesses — they create, expand and redesign them. They risk the unproven to realize and constantly evolve the future.”