Follow Your Heart, Not Just Your Mind
Diana Hoffman shares tips for cultivating the right attitude to be a successful entrepreneur.
While teaching at UC Davis “New Product Development”, I threw the students a curve…I did not provide a recipe or a “How To Develop A Product.” I told the MBA students that the class was about how to think independently and to pursue a career. I gave them an acronym to follow which was: POPPS:
- Passion. You must be passionate about what you are doing or pursuing. Without passion, you lose interest and sustainability. So how does passion apply to what career or business to pursue? What are your interests? I have always been interested in serving humanity and while I pursued the law (I loved the art of negotiation and I was always an arguer or debater), at some point it did not ignite sufficient passion. Then opportunity struck whereby I was asked to lead a startup company which had a formula that would be effective against a broad range of diseases but harmless to humans, animals and the environment. While I knew nothing about chemistry, my family was in medicine and I have always been interested in the eradication of diseases. Therefore, I decided to pursue this opportunity.
- Optimism. You need to be optimistic about achieving your goals and/or objectives. How else will you put one foot in front of the other each day? Will you have disappointments? YES!! Will you have failures? I sure hope so, for from failures we learn how to move forward. Feel good about yourself and know that you can succeed. In the example above, if I was not optimistic about my ability to gain funding and build the business of the new company there would be no point in pursuing it. While practicing law, I helped entrepreneurs start their businesses and gained understanding of the venture process. Therefore, it was an “educated” optimism that spurred me on, not a Polyanna attitude.
- Perseverance. Perseverance gets you past the speed bumps or barriers that will be in your path to success. Don’t give up and keep moving. When I had my law firm in Silicon Valley a wise client used the acronym “FFF” — -FUMBLE, FEEBLY, FORWARD. During the first company example referred to above, I had many “no’s” before my first “yes” for funding. One of the first “no’s” came from a large venture firm that told us we were not “management” material and had no business starting this venture. If I had believed them and not pursued the funding (which by the way I first got $7 million, and then the next round was $10.5 million), the first nanoemulsion technology would not have entered the world.
- Patience. Be patient with YOURSELF as well as with others. If you rush things you’ll likely miss an important opportunity or detail in what you are trying to accomplish. At times, during the first company I pushed others to be interested in our venture too aggressively. This was especially true regarding our getting the healthcare registration for the disinfectant from the EPA. The agency went at a snail’s pace and I was the hare!! But we got it done and I kept taking deep breaths so that I would not “blow” the relationship with the EPA examiners.
- And last, but certainly not least: Sense of Humor. Yes, don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself or circumstances that would otherwise cause you stress. One of the mechanisms to keep a cohesive staff or employees is to not take everything so seriously. Admit your own foibles to the staff so they cannot be afraid to try new things. Try to laugh with them when the opportunity arises and all will be glad to be part of the team.
Apply this acronym to your own career, and you might just find yourself both with a more positive attitude as well as more success.
Diana Hoffman, J.D., B.A. has significant business, law, and education experience. She has led a number of companies at various stages as well as worked with the US government on trade missions and coordinating with the US Commerce Department and Western Hemisphere forum to forge economic partnerships. Ms. Hoffman was chosen by Governor Sandoval, of Nevada, to attend the trade mission to Israel in 2013. Ms. Hoffman’s initial career (twenty years) was in law, founding a firm in Silicon Valley, which specialized in early- and middle-stage companies (both transaction and litigation). She led several stage-two companies into commercialization and obtained financing for a number of start-up and early-stage companies, taking them from concept through R&D into commercialization. Ms. Hoffman was an adjunct Professor at the University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management, teaching New Product Development and the University of Nevada, Reno teaching Legal Environment in Business. She has been the principal speaker at international conferences (e.g., IEEE Convention in Brazil, new technologies for the twenty-first century at Sigmaringen University in Germany, Incubators for Entrepreneurship in Santiago, Chile). Ms. Hoffman was also on the corporate responsibility panel at the 2002 Economic Summit. She has won many business and leadership awards.