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In November, Steve Wozniak, famous Apple co-founder and sidekick of Steve Jobs, had a fireside chat with Nextiva co-founder and CEO Tomas Gorny at the final session of NextCon in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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During that conversation, Wozniak shared some impactful tips for business owners from all industries, tech and otherwise. Here are four key lessons every entrepreneur can take away from his speech.
1. You can make a difference without the spotlight.
Jobs has often been portrayed by the media as a god-like visionary. Yet while Jobs was usually the one in the spotlight, Wozniak was busy working behind the scenes. He built the foundation in the background while Jobs sold the vision to the public.
Wozniak portrayed himself as completely okay with this, a position that highlights his first lesson: Success doesn’t always happen in the spotlight. If both Apple co-founders had striven for the fame Jobs attained, neither would have gotten it. In fact, it was their differing skill sets that allowed the entire vision to unfold.
Takeaway: This is not an easy lesson to learn. Founders are encouraged to dream of being on the cover of Entrepreneur or having a Social Network–like movie made chronicling their story. But when you really think about why you’re building your business, fame shouldn’t be the main driving factor. Instead, avoid leading with your ego and risking making the wrong decisions for the business.
Wozniak always put Apple before his ego. As a result, he helped create some of the best products in the world.
2. You must have passion for your work.
Wozniak conveyed passion and happiness throughout his entire NextCon presentation. His ever-present smile was especially sunny when he talked about technology. There was no doubt that his passion was what helped build such disruptive and impressive products.
Wozniak didn’t co-found Apple for the money and he didn’t have a grand vision for Apple at the outset. He just got involved for the love of the craft. He wanted to build products he loved.
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Takeaway: When starting a new business, it is important to focus on what you enjoy. Then find a customer to buy your product. Don’t worry about the size of the market. As you test your business and refine your strategy, you’ll find a way to expand.
Said Wozniak: “My goal wasn’t to make a ton of money. It was to build good computers.” The greatest companies in the world start with just that simple a vision.
3. Find somebody willing to build in his garage.
Listening to Wozniak speak at NexCon gave audience members the sense that he is the epitome of someone who does what he loves, regardless of the limitations involved.
Too many aspiring entrepreneurs get into business for the wrong reasons. A would-be entrepreneur would rather be seen as an expert or a thought leader than devote hours to studying his craft and letting his reputation blossom organically.
As Wozniak put it: “Find somebody who has been building things in their garage. That’s the person you’ll want to work with.” The reason: Such people are problem-solvers, Wozniak said. They do what they do regardless of the incentive, regardless of the title, regardless of the acclaim or the attention.
Takeaway: Garage builders do what they do even when no one is watching. And, as Wozniak explained, they are usually much more capable of figuring things out than someone with a fancy degree.
4. Build a team that wants to use your product.
“Create solutions to your own problems,” Wozniak said clearly and simply. There is a clear difference between people who set out to become trendy tech innovators with no clear problem to solve and whose who are extremely aware of a particular pain point and do everything in their power to fix it.
You always want to be the latter, Wozniak said. You want to be building something you and your entire team will actually use. Something that you all believe in and would be excited to have in the world.
Takeaway: That something you create as an entrepreneur should solve a personal issue, and deliver value to your life first. Because, if you and your team want to use it, then chances are others will, as well.
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All first-time entrepreneurs should take a page from Wozniak and his lessons. After all, he was a key player in creating one of the greatest companies in the world and some of the most innovative products of his generation.