Nothing is sweeter than success, real success, hard-earned success. That is what my grandfather achieved when he helped create the company (van Melle) that still makes the Mentos candy today (since acquired) and, in the early 1900s turned it into a worldwide company and brand.
Every day, I subconsciously strive to live up to his achievements. Not just to make a buck, but to fundamentally challenge the establishment and contribute to improving the world we live in. Albeit my sweet spot is now
technology policy, capital, and innovation combined in a single operating-system for humanity.
Building a business is all about people; with entrepreneurs and investors are working hard towards achieving a common goal. Too many times do I see or hear from investors how entrepreneurs finagle their way into the money pot, with damaging consequences.
I want to emphasize how critical the evaluation of personal skills is to support a great company. I learned some valuable lessons from my grandfather early on – not by asking him many questions (I was too young to do so intelligently) – but by watching him operate.
My grandfather did not have access to the funds we have at our disposal in Silicon Valley, but the rules of success have not changed.
1/ Have an opinion.
Unless you are ill-informed, having an opinion, and expressing it is vital. Vital to you personally – in achieving what you want, and critical to the company you work for – to provide the best quality of service. If you can’t see the flaws around you (and in yourself from time to time), you won’t be able to detect or imagine real innovation.
2/ Have guts.
The world is full of artificial rules to keep us all in check. Throw them out from time to time, to see what happens. I run a stoplight litmus test with most entrepreneurs, to demonstrate how tucked-in we still are. And you’ll be amazed.
3/ Have integrity.
The goal of creating a lasting personal brand should outweigh the short-term obsession with making money. “Nice” people don’t make great impressions, what they stand for does. I bet you’ll make more money sticking to your brand than you ever will chasing dollars.
4/ Be transparent.
Transparency is the fair assessment of capabilities, good and evil, combined with the ability to expose them. The companies we create together inherit our good and evil, yet no one will suffer if their practices are adequately disclosed. Quite the opposite, transparency builds fairness and trust.
5/ Find your passion.
You will not see me go-green anytime soon, even though there is a lot of money to be made there. My passion is technology, specifically consumer technology, and has been since I was twelve years old. I was lucky in that way, but it hasn’t been easy, extricating myself from prevailing beliefs. Explore your true passion (not that of someone else), and don’t rest until you’ve found it.
Many times is the path to success cut short, not by the market, but by the entrepreneurs themselves. As a CEO, I have left companies when majority shareholders lack or infringe on those fundamental principles, and I prevented investors from transferring funds last minute for similar reasons.
The sweet taste of success comes from remaining true to yourself. So, next time you knock on your investors’ doors, pay a little more attention to yourself – rather than the business plan.
(In memory of my grandfather Simon de Smit, who inspired me to be who I could be)