You must have the courage to be irrational if you want to change the world.
The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What should budding entrepreneurs know about building a business?” is written by Dheeraj Pandey, founder, CEO, and chairman of Nutanix.
Two of the most important pieces of advice I can provide to entrepreneurs are to not be afraid to be irrational when you set your goals, and that if you hope to realize these goals you need to focus on, you need to listen to and respect your team.
Regarding the first piece of advice, history shows that the entrepreneurs who fundamentally changed how people work, play, and live were the ones who acted irrationally. It was irrational for Steve Jobs to introduce a new Apple AAPL phone to compete with the powerful, established players in the mobile phone market. It was irrational for Jeff Bezos to move Amazon AMZN beyond online book sales and build a complete e-commerce platform designed to take on Walmart WMT and transform the world of retail. It was irrational for Reed Hastings to move Netflix NFLX beyond renting DVDs and challenge the established cable and satellite TV companies with streaming movies and TV shows. All of these decisions involved uncertainty, where the worst-case scenario—the possible destruction of their existing businesses—was more likely than success. You must have the courage to be irrational if you want to change the world.
Of course, it is one thing to be willing to set out to achieve a seemingly irrational, impossible goal. It is another thing to actually achieve this goal. On a tactical level, the saying I have found to be the most helpful is one I have used for a long time: Focus. Listen. Respect.
Just as a child needs to focus on, listen to, and respect others if he or she is going to learn in school, build friendships, and achieve other childhood goals—be they earning more screen time or building a tree house—so does an entrepreneur. In particular, you need to focus on, listen to, and respect your employees, customers, and partners—in that order—if you hope to translate your seemingly “crazy” dreams into reality. No entrepreneur can change the world, or realize irrational goals, by themselves. And you will not be able to convince others to help you accomplish your crazy vision if you neglect them, ignore them, or disrespect them. In the end, your success depends on these other people—not just you.
While this saying can be easy to remember when you are launching a small company, it can be easy to forget as your company grows. The complexity and difficulty that comes with running a business increases as you hire more employees, gain more customers, and expand your partner network. When you get big and are growing rapidly, it’s easy to begin treating each employee, customer, and partner as another number or name in a database, rather than a crucial team member helping you realize your goal.
Entrepreneurs need to be willing—eager, even—to be irrational, to court uncertainty, and to embrace seemingly impossible goals. And for them to achieve those goals, they need to focus on, listen to, and respect their employees, customers, and partners, because in the world of business, at least, no entrepreneur has realized their crazy goal without a team that was willing to work and sacrifice to realize that goal with them.