Why a Good Business Idea Does Not Make a Good Entrepreneur

Ercan Demiralay, Partner at Wellers, a UK-based small business accountants, discusses why just having a good business idea isn’t enough to ensure a business-savvy leader.

All businesses stem from an idea. Amazon began as a virtual bookstore working out of Jeff Bezos’ garage. Facebook began as a website to connect people around Harvard University. Apple was created by two college dropouts with a ‘hair-brained’ idea to make computers small enough to fit in domestic homes. The list goes on.

All of these businesses started from a simple concept that over time evolved into something bigger. Facebook (or Meta Platforms) is now worth $770 billion. Amazon is worth $1.4 trillion. Apple is worth double, sitting at almost $3 trillion. These numbers are staggering.

Beyond their ideas, these three companies were driven by great entrepreneurs. The same cannot be said for all CEOs or founders.  

Let’s look at the case of Elon Musk. Whilst he has become synonymous with Tesla and SpaceX, he hasn’t founded a business. He started with millions in the bank before he began referring to himself as an entrepreneur. Could this have contributed to the adversity he has experienced in recent months? Musk acquired Twitter back in October 2022, after pulling out and then being sued for walking away from the deal. Then he dismissed thousands of the platform’s staff, rebranded to X (despite Meta and Microsoft already owning trademarks for the letter), and started charging people to read more than 600 Tweets a day. There have been other bumps along the way, but the crux of the story is that Musk’s unwillingness to learn has highlighted why he may not be the great entrepreneur people thought him to be.

So, what makes a good entrepreneur?

There are three fundamental qualities that entrepreneurs must have to turn a great idea into a great business.

#1. Communication

To be an effective leader, an entrepreneur must be an effective communicator. It’s imperative that employees, investors, customers, creditors, peers, and mentors all believe in an entrepreneur's vision for where the business will head in the future. Without buy-in, it’s incredibly hard to get a business off the ground.

#2. Business strategy

Whilst entrepreneurs are often pinned as ideas people, they must have the ability to structure a business and plan for growth to build a successful company. One of the leading reasons businesses fail is due to poor cash flow, but entrepreneurs adept at business strategy will review, consider and consult these areas at all times.

#3. Willingness to learn

Having the ability to learn (and adapt) is one of life’s most important skills, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not. However, entrepreneurs can suffer from tunnel vision, and instead of adapting to what they are learning along the way, can have a reputation for ignoring signs in favour of believing they know best. The truth is ups and downs are unavoidable. But having the desire to learn from them is what moulds a successful entrepreneur.

For example, Apple wasn’t an overnight success. In fact, there are several Apple products that have flopped over the years. But Steve Jobs’ ability to put his ego to one side and learn from the failures is what led him to build one of the most successful organisations in history.

Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Steve Jobs all had not just the idea, but the ability to communicate, willingness to learn, and business strategy skills (or at least hired people who did), to make great successes of their ideas.

Whilst, just having the idea is not enough, it doesn’t mean that entrepreneurs are all on their own. You can learn softer skills like how to become a good communicator and business strategy by working with trusted mentors or third-party professionals like accountants, lawyers, and business and life coaches. The key is having a willingness to listen and learn from those willing to help you.