In his book, Outrageous Optimism — Wisdom for the Entrepreneurial Journey, Jack Roseman offered what he considers the most important traits for successful entrepreneurs — and their businesses — based on his many years of mentoring start-ups throughout the region. More recently, he recaptured these characteristics in his autobiography, “Jump! How I Rose from Poverty and Anti-Semitism to Become a Tech Sector Pioneer and a Mensch” (Amazon). Clip these. Tape them to your refrigerator. Consult them frequently as a reminder of what it takes.
Leadership: “ . . . you can’t lead or motivate people until you understand yourself. Many people are born, live their whole lives fooling themselves, then die. An entrepreneur cannot afford to do that . . . If you understand yourself, you will be able to trust yourself — and that’s a big part of being a successful entrepreneur. You need to be able to trust your instincts. But not to the exclusion of what the smart people around you are saying.”
Competition: “If you say there is no one doing what you want to do, no one solving that problem, the first thing I have to ask is whether it’s a problem worth solving.”
Persistence: “Push yourself over the pest-line. It’s probably further out than you think.”
Ugly Babies: “Entrepreneurs are more like parents. They always tend to think their baby is beautiful . . . The advice I give to entrepreneurs is, if they really want an opinion on how beautiful their baby is, go to the top venture capitalists who invest in their type of venture and ask them for money . . . that’s where you’ll get the best judgments on just how beautiful your baby actually is.”
Walking Away: “It takes both a passionate entrepreneur and a receptive marketplace to succeed. Walk away only when one or the other is missing.”
Boards of Directors: “At many of the larger corporations, boards become rubber stamps for management. This isn’t good for those companies, but for a start-up, a board without backbone can be fatal. You genuinely need smart advisors, savvy in your industry, who are willing to share their candid opinions and ask you hard questions.”
Decision Making: “The worst thing a leader or manager can demonstrate to the people around him or her is that he or she can’t make a decision. So sometimes even a wrong decision is better than no decision or a delayed decision.”
This, Too Shall Pass: “When things are going great, don’t be too happy because things will go lousy again. And when things are going lousy, don’t be too sad because things will go great again. That’s life and that’s entrepreneurship . . .”
Hiring: “A major issue in a company is: Do people enjoy working with the people around them? One of the first questions you should be asking when you hire people is, “Would this person be fun to work with?’”
Work-Life Balance: “Who you are to an organization is only a part of who you are. Who you are as a parent, a citizen, a neighbor or a friend is also important. It’s all these things together that determine who you are as a human being. That is the judgment that counts.”
Negotiating: “A cardinal rule of negotiating is that the first one who blinks loses. That’s why you always have to be willing to walk away. It’s also why you have to mean what you say and be willing to stand by it, and you cannot blink.”
Optimism: “They say an optimist sees a glass of water half-full instead of half-empty. An entrepreneur looks at that same glass of water and, because he or she is an outrageous optimist, sees a crystal goblet of wine.”
Business founder and operator, math professor, author — Jack Roseman is all these. In his adopted home of Pittsburgh, however, he’s best known as one of the most influential mentors of tech sector entrepreneurs. Along with co-author Evan Pattak, he’s captured those experiences in an autobiography titled “Jump! — How I Rose from Poverty and Anti-Semitism to Become a Tech Sector Pioneer and a Mensch” (Amazon).