Be a fox and not a rabbit

When I meet a new client who wants to start a business for the first time, I can get a pretty good sense of their potential for success depending on the kind of questions they ask me. Based on their questions, I mentally group them into either rabbits or foxes. When it comes to being a small business owner, it is far better to be a fox and not a rabbit.

I believe that a person’s approach to starting a new business says a lot about their character, and by extension, their ability to succeed in business. Are their first thoughts coming from a perspective of loss prevention (Defense) or are they coming from a perspective of facilitating gains (Offense)? Additionally, when they share their motivations for wanting to start a business, it helps me to determine if they are internally or externally motivated.

The Rabbit

When it comes to mentoring, rabbits are interested in getting defensive wisdom and ask questions like:

  • How do I get maximum liability protection if something were to go wrong?
  • How do I make sure I’m compliant with all of the small business rules and regulations?
  • How do I create a rock-solid confidentiality agreement or obtain a patent or trademark protection for my idea?

Like the rabbit that wakes up every morning, they want to make sure that they are not eaten.

Rabbits spend their days running away from things. Their actions are guided by external influences and they have an external locus of control. When something goes wrong, they are quick to blame others and fail to see what role they may have played in the events, often bailing on efforts if they do not see immediate success.

Rabbits focus on the “how”. They are like the home cook, looking for the recipe so they can copy what others have done.

Rabbits buy expensive courses, watch videos, and read books to see how others did it. Rabbits are afraid to show their ignorance and prefer to figure out things on their own.

Rabbits are afraid of making mistakes, viewing them as failure.

When the rabbit learns a new skill, they guard that knowledge because they think knowledge gives them power. They make it a point not to share their knowledge unless they get paid for it.

Rabbits are very concerned with following the rules.

Rabbits resist launching a product or service until everything is perfect and subscribe to copious amounts of planning before they think about executing ideas.

The Fox

When it comes to mentoring, foxes are interested in getting offensive wisdom and ask questions like:

  • How do I get my first client?
  • What marketing channel will work best for my audience and market?
  • How can I attract an investor?

Like the fox that wakes up in the morning, they are looking for something to attack and eat.

Foxes spend their days running toward something. Their actions are guided by ways to influence events and they have an internal locus of control. When something goes wrong, they look at themselves first to learn from the situation, and make plans to correct their mistakes and try again.

Foxes focus on the “why”. They are like the chef that continues to add to their culinary knowledge so they can create new dishes.

Foxes know that they don’t know what they don’t know, and engage mentors to teach them. They put what they’ve learned directly into practice.

Foxes are not afraid of making lots of mistakes. Foxes know that they learn from their mistakes and fail small and often. As Elon Musk once famously said to his employees at SpaceX:

“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating”

Elon Musk

When the fox learns a new skill they create a blog post or produce a video to share their knowledge with the world. Foxes know that sharing their knowledge freely will not only show confidence, but also demonstrate their mastery.

Foxes would rather ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.

Foxes test many ideas to see which ones have legs. Once they discover something that looks promising, they are not afraid to go to market with a prototype offering and improve upon it over time.

If you want business success, it is better to be a fox and not a rabbit.

When it comes to business, are you a fox or a rabbit?