Entrepreneurs Who Don’t Pass the Grade

Can an entrepreneur be graded? What would the assessment look like? Jason Nazar, the founder of Docstoc, created a 55 question assessment to do just that. He posted it on Forbes yesterday and invited the reader to begin with the end in mind. The questions are listed below:

Checklist man

1. See opportunity where others see issues 

2. Have a discipline for making decisions among various opportunity costs

3. Rapidly double down on something when it starts to work and blow it out to its full potential 

4. Balance “gut decisions” with of a love of data-driven decisions

5. Focus on 

6. Stay attached to the problem they are trying to solve, but be flexible in the solutions to solve it 

7. Know when to apply a 

8. Protect their downside and prevent the organization from being put at risk

9. Communicate expectations clearly, build buy-in and hold everyone accountable (most of all themselves)

10. Encourage open feedback on what they can improve

11. Put others in positions to make critical decisions and drive key initiatives forward 

12. Prefer to give credit than to take credit

13. Do, or have done, what they ask others to do

14. Remain organized and disciplined in any work habits that affect others

15. Seek out and follow the council of advisors in and outside of the business 

16. Balance “Coaching and Cheerleading” vs. “Doing and Directing” 

17. Know when to set unrealistic goals

18. Regularly thank and appreciate others for a job well done (thanks to my co-founder Alon Shwartz for reminding me)

19. Make themselves consistently accessible to their team

20. Are honest and ethical in all their dealings

21. At least 20% of their time goes towards recruiting top talent (tip: some say 50% via Vinod Khosla)

22. Build a team of A vs. B players

23. Define the most important qualities for hiring 

24. Counter-balance their weaknesses by hiring people better than them

25. Hire Fast & Fire Fast 

26. Define what the culture should be

27. Create an ingrained culture, not one of platitudes 

28. Make the culture about something bigger than business 

29. Build ownership and accountability across the entire organization

30. Put in their own capital before they ask others to put in theirs

31. They sell ether, sell the dream

32. Have mastered the investor pitch process

33. They first sell themself

34. Understand “People, Product, Progress, Passion, Persistence” 

35. Always ensure the business is properly capitalized 

36. Treat investor’s capital like a borrowed treasure to be protected and returned

37. Know their product better than anyone else

38. Regularly talk with customers to see what can be improved

39. Have a vision for the product that gets translated across the organization

40. Make their product different and better than the competition

41. Build lean products iteratively and ship expeditiously

42. Genuinely care about the interests of the customer more than their personal financial gain

43. Focus on execution over ideas

44. Participate in key sales functions and deals 

45. Spend enough time courting key relationships that move the business forward

46. Great at generating PR and buzz for the company 

47. Listen more than they talk 

48. Stay scrappy as they grow 

49. Have a strong sense of demand and how to extract it 

50. Self aware, willing to admit mistakes and take responsibility

51. Fierce competitiveness, hate to lose

52. Extreme sense of urgency and intense work ethic

53. Have a big WHY 

54. Can sell the dream


55.) Do they get results with integrity?  That is the only standard by which entrepreneurs are eventually judged.  Everything else is just a test; grades don’t matter, but results do.


What a great and wise summary of what’s most important! When Nazar sums it all up in the phrase “results with integrity,” he eliminates all doubt as to what is really the key driver in successful leaders–be they entrepreneurial, intrapreneurial, or otherwise! 

Locating the Buyer Need

Is your organization in the habit of finding unresolved problems? If not, chances are high that you are currently–or will be soon–losing market share to more nimble competitors who are “tuned in” to buyer habits and frustrations. Many industries suffer from the slow and steady move to products and services that have largely become commoditized. Once your offering is viewed as a commodity, you are no longer competing on value; the playing field is reduced to price only (or at least as a primary decision criteria.)

One of the categories that suffered this fate about 15 to 20 years ago was televisions. Appliance stores (as opposed to the modern day consumer electronics big box specialty retailer or boutique provider) were where people shopped. When looking for a TV, most consumers would walk down the aisles of sets in their beautiful shades of grey or black. Sales staff may follow or approach and offer to explain or demonstrate features of a model you may have paused near. Most buyers, however, came in to the store armed with some knowledge about prices or consumer ratings and were planning to buy a certain model…until they came across a TV with a sticker that asked the simple question, “Ever lose your remote control?”

How did Magnavox determine that the Remote Locator function (in which pressing the power button causes the lost remote to beep several times) was a missing ingredient in the TV viewing experience of many viewers? Did they simply ask, “What problems do you have with your current TV?” No; instead, they asked penetrating questions about how the TV fit into the lives of consumers. They looked at family dynamics and how TV viewing paralleled relationships with other daily activities. What they discovered was that 80 percent of Americans admitted to losing the remote control; over half of the viewers lost their remote more than five times per week. Inanimate objects like sofas, pantries, and refrigerators swallowed up the devices when the owner wasn’t watching!

The typical consumer may never have offered up that losing the remote was a problem associated with TV viewing. The TV manufacturers were not responsible for the loss of the remote (though family members and friends were certainly thought to be culprits!) Yet, when asked if the loss of remote was a problem, most readily agreed that it was.

Note that the technology used in the Locator was not novel or cutting edge. But, Magnavox had created a temporary competitive advantage among buyers of TVs for whom keeping track of the remote control was now seen as a problem that technology could solve. While some may argue that the company was fortuitous in “stumbling upon” this idea, in fact, it was very deliberately planned.

Magnavox published survey data to validate the problem. Some of the key findings included:

  • 55 percent of respondents admitted losing the remote control 5+ times/week.
  • Of those who lost the remotes, 63% said that their average search to regain the device was about 5 minutes.
  • The remote was most likely to show up in/under a piece of furniture (38 percent), in the kitchen or bathroom (20 percent), or in the refrigerator (6%)

What was the process of discovery and meeting a previously unstated need?

  1. Magnavox tuned in to a problem that TV buyers really had.
  2. They created a product experience to solve it.
  3. They shared the powerful idea with the market. (Through survey results)
  4. They communicated to the market in ways the target audience wanted to hear.

Instead of taking a traditional, worn-out R&D approach, consider changing how your company develops and commercializes product ideas. Send team members out to collect data that can drive design, packaging, messaging and other aspects of product positioning. You will be better off for the new approach!