7 things successful entrepreneurs do differently

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What is it that successful entrepreneurs do differently? It's the million — or even billion — dollar question; and if the answer were obvious, we'd perhaps all be a lot richer.

According to Annette Kimmitt, EY's global growth markets leader, it all comes down to seven key factors.

Kimmitt has spent the past 30 years helping to grow start-ups into billion-dollar businesses. Her findings are based on feedback from some 250 of the most successful companies set up by EY's Entrepreneur of the Year alumni, and insights from the advisers who work with them.

"We found that the best high growth entrepreneurs were very deliberate in building out their capabilities across these seven drivers."

The 7 factors top entrepreneurs focus on:

EY's 7 drivers of growth
EY's 7 drivers of growth

A conventional MBA program teaches that business leaders should concentrate on "people, systems and processes," as well as, of course, the customer, noted Kimmitt.

Those core areas correspond to the drivers on the left of the chart: people, digital tech and analytics, and operations. But Kimmitt said that focusing solely on those factors at the expense of the other three — funding, transactions and risk — is where businesses often fall short.

"Any decent business focuses on those four, but the additional three are the differentiators," Kimmitt told CNBC Make It at YPO Edge in Singapore.

That is especially true for entrepreneurs targeting high growth, she said. By having a broader perspective, businesses can reduce the volatility typically associated with rapid growth, and therefore achieve more sustainable development.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kimmitt said there are some common mistakes that typically afflict failed companies. These include compromising on recruitment for the sake of growth, and losing autonomy in making way for funding. In both cases, this boils down to insufficient planning for the long term.

"For me, it all comes down to compromising their focus on one of those seven pillars," Kimmitt noted.

Kimmitt's tips for embracing the 7 factors:


Focus not on the product itself, but on how it improves the customer experience.

"For the best companies, the customer is the central focus of everything they do."

People, behaviors and culture

To grow successfully, make sure your staff believes in the end goal.

"It's about bringing in staff who are the right cultural fit. Then, it's about investing in those people to make sure they evolve as the company develops."

Digital, technology and analytics

Continuously invest in intelligent innovation to keep up with competition.

"Think about the power of data in driving innovation."


Don't just think about processes, but have a focus on broader operations.

"(The best entrepreneurs) think about that end to end operating model; one that aligns with the business."

Funding and finance

Make sure funding is at the center of your growth strategy, rather than a side note.

"The companies that have done well in scaling put the deliberate pathway in early on."

Transactions and alliances

Acquisitions and partnership should be deliberate and respond to specific gaps. Do not use them purely for growth's sake.

"Early on, the top companies had a good understanding of the gaps they had in their business."


Be aware of the risks that could hurt your business.

"The best entrepreneurs are not scared of them, but they minimize the impact of them."

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