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The "Self-Aware" Entrepreneur
What distinguishes your business from other businesses in the same field? What unique characteristic, service or angle do you offer? More importantly, are you able to identify this feature and capitalize on it?

Surprisingly, many successful entrepreneurs may not develop this "self-awareness" until they encounter failure. The reason is simple: it's easy to think that you have uncovered the secret of success until you realize that what you thought was working was a fluke, or more likely, that the core of your success is due to a more subtle factor. As an example, Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines relates how, after launching a successful airline, he assumed that the same tactics would work for a line of soda, Virgin Cola.

However, the second venture was a failure, primarily because Virgin Cola didn't offer consumers anything new or inventive. Virgin Airlines was a success in part because it revolutionized air travel, making it fun and stylish. Virgin Cola was simply another choice among other popular soda brands: intrinsically, it had nothing that would compel consumers to choose it over other brands.

The same principle applies to your business. Although the basic quality of your product is undoubtedly high, the amount of success you have in the marketplace is directly related to how you present and position yourself. Taking the time to become fully self-aware of your business and its qualities will enable you to move forward and realize your greatest successes. Developing this self-awareness is not always a straightforward proposition, of course.

Sometimes, comparing your business model to less successful ventures can help you pinpoint how your company succeeds where another fails. Similarly, analyzing the operations of a tremendously successful company in your field can shed new light on your own decisions and practices.

Unfortunately, there may be no way to completely avoid failure. Success often springs directly from the ash of our failures. With this said, when you do discover that a business practice isn't working, or that a sure-fire venture has resulted in a professional catastrophe, try to take heart. Know that your business and sense of entrepreneurship is not to blame, exactly.

It's more that you must refine your approach, learn about and invest in your unique characteristics, and go forward with confidence and intelligence. Becoming self-aware is perhaps the greatest business strategy of all.

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As Founder and CEO, Chris lives and breathes the paradigm that OPIN was founded on: Open Innovation. This mantra has helped our founder grow OPIN from its roots to Canada's fastest-growing digital agency. Chris is considered a thought leader in the entrepreneurship, open-source and government communities.