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The first five years can be brutal, but sticking to your mission — the reason why you started — is the way to go. Do that by avoiding these pitfalls.


6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Believe it or not, border walls and driverless cars now have something in common: When Quanergy launched in 2012, it was a promising Silicon Valley startup that seemed destined to play a major role in the driverless car revolution. But, when Quanergy’s particular technology for autonomous vehicles fizzled, the company shifted its mission substantially — toward surveillance.

Because Quanergy’s lidar sensors (the same technology as that used in driverless cars) “see” in 360 degree views and spot objects from about 100 meters’ distance, they’re being tested in outposts along the U.S. border with Mexico. The company’s hope? That instead of steering consumers’ cars, Quanergy’s technology replaces a physical border wall with a virtual one.

Sure, Quanergy is clearly on a mission. But is its trajectory veering toward profit rather than purpose? Its mission shift to the illegal immigration issue is reportedly wounding employee morale, as well. And that’s hardly a first: Google, Salesforce and Microsoft are just a few other big tech names that have received employee pushback after making partnerships with the U.S. government.

Related: Tesla Crash Raises Stakes for Self-Driving Vehicle Startups

Quanergy isn’t the first company to have drifted from its mission over the years. At young companies, “mission” tends to be the most well-defined component of an organization. After all, the orginal idea behind the company’s being is what makes the work necessary and drives employees to action.

Unfortunately, as forces push and pull on that mission, crises of identity may lead companies to bounce around and forget what made them great in the first place. Fool’s gold (think: early-stage funding) can knock brash startups off track. It then becomes easy to fall into the trap of misaligned revenue streams; and, here, only companies with defined missions have the grounding they need to resist temptation.

Although it may difficult, founders have to remember that mission (not revenue) determines whether their company will sink or swim. Every other piece — whether related to strategy or structure — depends on the power of the mission driving the business.

What makes your mission so special?

By the time I joined LaunchCode, we already had a clear mission: Our business existed to close the talent gap in technology through free training and apprenticeships. We didn’t need to wonder what to do in pivotal moments because this framework was our guide.

In fact, this overarching goal is what drew me here over all other opportunities. Sure, other companies were pursuing similar goals — but this company was explicit about why it wanted to pursue this business. The big-picture view of the the mission that resulted made it easy for me to do my job and for the company to grow.

We’ve grown to 42 employees in the last five years, and our alignment has helped us create positions and hire people who can immediately help us move in the direction we want to go. If we’re unsure about a hire or the need for a new position, we look to the mission statement and find our answer.

Having a solid groundwork is essential to gaining the trust and support of the right stakeholders. The mission lays the groundwork for hard decisions, financial factors and other variables, consistently communicating what everyone inside and outside the company can expect.

Related: 4 Techniques for Crafting a Mission Statement Worth Remembering

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple Inc. in the ’90s, he brought the company back from the brink of bankruptcy by doubling down on a mission to build customer-centric products. Today, Apple is one of the biggest consumer brands in the world. This is largely because of Jobs’s contagious commitment to what Apple was all about.

As new challenges rear their heads, a company’s ability to snuff them out will depend on continued focus.

How to identify and avoid 3 threats to your mission

Threats to company missions are everywhere. Luckily, founders can employ a few simple strategies to mitigate the most common ones.

1. Gradual drift

Decisions that pull organizations away from their stated purposes (usually for money) help in the short term, but they can create long-lasting issues and rifts. And, according to research by Wiley, businesses that accept more money and influence from venture capitalists have greater mission drift.

To combat this problem, sit down with your leadership teams to set intermediate and long-term goals for the company, with your overall mission in mind. Don’t take shortcuts or count on windfalls; set attainable goals that don’t require compromises to your mission. Place benchmarks along the paths to those goals to keep morale high in the bad times and check yourself during good ones.

2. Irrelevant offerings

Although it’s now the poster child for the failure to adapt, Blockbuster once enjoyed a reputation as an industry disruptor. By creating customer-centric inventory practices that didn’t cut into profit, Blockbuster founder David Cook changed the dynamics of the industry. Unfortunately, the company remained committed to an irrelevant mission after industry change occcured in the company’s final years.

Related: You May Run From It, But Disruption Is Going to Occur All the Same — Here’s How to Embrace Change

Industry and technology factors outside a company’s control can cause irrelevance, but not necessary if the company determines it should act. Being ready to pivot is important: When disruptive technology or drastic economic change comes crashing down, a company’s original mission might no longer fit the market in its original form.

At that point, it’s critical that the company evaluate the core idea of the mission, determine whether the market demands an update and remain committed to the new principle. In many cases, outside pressures positively influence startups by forcing them to shape their missions for the long haul.

3. Misinterpreted meanings

A good mission provides a clear foundation, but clarity does not guarantee understanding. Because many people read the mission statement of the company before they read anything else, founders must ensure that their missions are understandable not only when they’re read in isolation, but also when they’re read in context.

According to Capgemini, 75 percent of companies surveyed said they identify as customer-centric, but only just under a third of consumers agree with that assessment.

So, make sure you overtly align other components of your company’s identity with its mission. Create a vision statement, values, testimonials and more to back up your primary claim. If someone doesn’t understand your goals at first glance, supporting materials should make up for that problem. Avoid miscommunication by picking clearly defined mission parameters and delivering on them.

During the first few years of growth, mission really is everything. It determines sales, partnerships and possibilities, both today and in the future. Don’t let easy mistakes turn big opportunities into big regrets. Navigate the potential pitfalls and lean on your mission to shape your company for years to come.


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The stock market was down today, but FANG stocks were still up.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Can the FANG stocks save this faltering stock market?

The big technology companies that have led the nearly 10-year bull market in stocks made a stand today, as stock prices across segments of the market fell sharply in morning trading. Facebook, Alphabet Inc., Amazon and Netflix all ended up more than one percent on the day and helped the market recover from intense selling this morning.

In a dramatic reversal, the Entrepreneur Index™, down nearly three percent by late morning, closed the day with a gain of 0.85 percent. The Dow Industrials index was down nearly 800 points before rallying almost 700 points to close down 0.32 percent. The S&P 500 index was down 0.15 percent, while the Nasdaq composite index was up 0.42 percent.

The bond market had another wild day, as investors sold stocks and moved into the safety of U.S. Treasuries in the morning, then reversed course in the afternoon. The 10-year Treasury bond yield was down more than nine basis points to a low of 2.83 percent before closing the day at 2.89 percent.

Technology stocks, led by the FANGs, performed better than the broader market. Most had gains on the day with Netflix posting the largest at 2.74 percent.

The biggest decline on the Entrepreneur Index™ was posted by Rollins Inc., the premier name in termite and pest-control services. With no obvious catalyst, Rollins’ stock was down 5.7 percent today, though it is still up 27 percent for the year.

Kimco Realty Corp. a REIT specializing in shopping centers, had the biggest gain on the index, rising 5.31 percent. With interest rates falling sharply, other high-yielding REITs, including Equity Residential (2.67 percent), Extra Space Storage (3.01 percent) and Simon Property Group (3.0 percent) also posted good gains on the day.

Financial services companies continued to struggle due to fears about the economy. Investment bank Jefferies Financial Group fell 2.73 percent. The market volatility is also hurting asset management companies. BlackRock, down six percent on Tuesday fell another 2.08 percent today. Franklin Resources was also down 2.22 percent after losing nearly three percent Tuesday.

Oil and gas producer Hess Corp. was down 2.82 percent after OPEC members failed to agree to cuts in oil production at their meeting in Vienna today. The cartel delayed its decision until consulting tomorrow with Russia — the second largest producer after the U.S. The price of West Texas crude oil was down 2.33 percent to $51.66 per barrel. Hess Corp.’s stock is down 30 percent since the beginning of October but is still up 11 percent so far this year.

Other stocks posting gains today included Costco Wholesale Group, up 3.03 percent, and active apparel maker Under Armour Inc., which was up 3.13 percent. Homebuilder D.R. Horton Inc. rose 1.87 percent as mortgage rates fell to a two-month low. The stock has been under pressure as interest rates rose and the housing market showed signs of deteriorating.

The about face in the stock market today followed a report in the Wall Street Journal that the Federal Reserve Bank may halt or pause its current policy of interest rate hikes. The Fed’s next meeting is on Dec. 19.

The Entrepreneur Index™ collects the top 60 publicly traded companies founded and run by entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurial spirit is a valuable asset for any business, and this index recognizes its importance, no matter how much a company has grown. These inspirational businesses can be tracked in real time on Entrepreneur.com.


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There is so much to learn from Queen and Freddie Mercury.


7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Recently, I took my 16-year-old son Tyler to the movies to see Bohemian Rhapsody. One-on-one time with teenagers is precious, so you always want it to go well. And it did.

Related: 3 Startup Lessons From Hip Hop Entrepreneurs

We both enjoyed the movie, but the better moments happened afterwards. When Tyler asked me what I thought about the film, I told him that it was inspirational. In a way only a teenager can, he replied, “Are you going to start a rock band and die of AIDS?”

There is so much to learn from Queen and Freddie Mercury. Here are eight lessons for entrepreneurs.

“Under Pressure”: Preparation generates luck.

Imagine handing a couple songs you’d written to a band, then hearing them say their lead singer just quit. What big break are you hoping for? What company do you need to pitch?

If that magic moment happened now, would you be prepared? Do you know what you would say, do, or ask for?

“Killer Queen”: Different is better than better.

A self-proclaimed “hysterical queen” led a rock group to become the most popular band in the world. Every super-successful person I interviewed for my bestselling book has a similar story. These are not the top 1 percent. These are people whose millions of dollars of annual income put them in the top 0.01 percent of our population.

When Gordon Logan wanted to start a hair cutting business for men and boys, everyone said, “That already exists. It’s called a barbershop. It will never work.” With more than 1,700 Sport Clips locations and a Joe Gibbs Racing car with his logo on it, it’s safe to say his critics were wrong.

Trust your gut and do something different.

Related: 10 Quotes From America’s Rebellious Musical Legend Johnny Cash

“Don’t Stop Me Now”: Think bigger.

When a local band gets a chance to tour Japan, they say they want to tour America. Your investors, partners, friends and employees will all compare you to someone in your industry. If you only think about being better than your immediate competition, you are missing the opportunity. Consider ideas from other industries and incorporate them into your business so you can dominate your space.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once said at a Harvard commencement speech, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” Did she practice what she preached? Sirleaf became the first elected head of state in Africa, when she was elected as the 24th president of Liberia in 2006.

“Somebody to Love”: See your negatives as a positive.

Having extra teeth makes for a strange appearance. It also allows you to open your mouth wider and to have greater range as a singer. What challenges have you turned into excuses?

I used to own a boutique insurance agency. When I had a chance to pitch one of the nation’s more successful law firms, I was up against some heavyweights. So, I offered to help the firm create its own agency and eliminate me from the equation after a few years. I ultimately landed the account because I was willing to show them how they wouldn’t need insurance people in the future. I made millions of dollars from the relationship before I was replaced.

Too small to compete? You are nimble and can react faster to changing customer needs. Don’t have brick-and-mortar locations for new customers? You can go set up shop inside your customers’ offices and provide better service. Write down three things that you think are holding you back, then write down how those things could be positives.

Related: Long Live the King: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Can Follow Elvis Presley’s Ingenious Business Playbook

“I Want It All”: F*** formulas.

If Queen had listened to their record label, they never would have released “Bohemian Rhapsody” as a single. It was too long. It was weird. It was heavily criticized. It was also a global No. 1 hit — twice!

A mentor of mine in my early year taught me a valuable lesson. When doing roll-ups, he would hire senior management exclusively from other industries. When I asked him why, he replied, “If I do things like other people in the industry, I won’t be creating any real change or any real value.” Where do you find your creative ideas?

“We Will Rock You”: Give the people what they want.

The key to Queen’s success was their ability to connect with the audience. They understood this even better than their producers and record labels did. Most people focus on what other companies have done, in the past, to sell to their clients. Sometimes, they overreact and completely misjudge their customers’ desires. Remember “New Coke”?

Instead, prepare to sell your clients what they will need in the future.

To paraphrase the late Steve Jobs, people don’t know what they want until they see it. It’s your job to create and sell it. Jeff Bezos took this idea and ran with it. Amazon wasn’t just the first place to sell books online. Amazon sold clothes before online retailers were on board. Amazon even put the toy giant Toys ‘R Us out of business. Kids loved going to toy stores, but parents hated the experience.

Do you know what your clients love and hate about your industry?

Related: From Paper Boy to Music Mogul: Entrepreneurship Lessons From Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs

“I Want to Break Free”: Take the blame.

Calling your friends into a room and admitting you were an asshole takes guts. Taking full responsibility for a bad situation, offering to make amends and being willing to consider what others suggest is the sign of a great leader.

Even Mark Zuckerberg may have changed his tune lately. After a history of news reports indicating a lot of finger pointing and not much thumbs up, he seemed to take some responsibility in front of Congress in April.

You are supposed to have the answers and see the better path, but you are not perfect. Think about what you needed to handle better in the past. Go take the blame, apologize and ask for forgiveness. Do it this week.

“We Are the Champions”: Do good. Be good. Make good.

Freddie Mercury’s father, Bomi Bulsara, had a quote that came up over and over again: “Good words. Good thoughts. Good deeds.” If you say what you think, and do what you say, you will be authentic. If the true goal of what you do is to help other people, there is no limit to the amount of success you can achieve.

Over the last 10 years, the insurance industry has been pretty stagnant. During that same time, National Life Group has doubled in size while focusing on serving teachers and middle America. It sponsors a “Life Changer” program that awards dozens of scholarships and receives over 900 nominations. It practices what it preaches and put its money where its mouths are.

Commit to helping others. Speak you mind. Do what you say you will do. When you do, you will rock everyone around you and become a true champion.


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