3 Questions AOL Co-Founder Steve Case Asks To Keep Ideas Moving Forward
Today, we’re so connected that we often take the internet for granted. But that wasn’t the case a few decades ago before there was widespread access. Steve Case helped change that by creating America Online.
Steve is co-founder of America Online, current chairman and CEO of Revolution LLC, and author of the new book, The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places are Building the New American Dream. His companies have changed the world and made the internet and entrepreneurship accessible to people across the globe.
But with big ideas come big challenges and criticism. Especially when creating AOL, Steve faced roadblocks and naysayers. But he knew the potential of the internet and the impact that would come from what he was creating. Then and now, he constantly checks in and reassesses his ideas to ensure he is on the right track.
That check-in covers three key questions:
- Is it the right idea? Start with the basics: are you following the right idea? The first decade of AOL was filled with skeptics and challenges, but Steve reassessed to realize that AOL and the internet were the right ideas. He knew he was onto something revolutionary. Reaffirming his commitment and passion for the idea kept him moving forward. Affirming if something is the right idea means considering its potential impact and the demand for the solution in your target markets.
- Is it the right strategy? Are you following the best strategy to differentiate yourself from the competition? When Steve launched Rise of the Rest, he initially focused on passing policies supporting entrepreneurs through Congress and the White House. But a few years ago, he evolved the strategy to add venture capital investment funds to back entrepreneurs. The overall goal stayed the same, but pivoting the strategy helped him reach that goal in new ways.
- Is it the right team? Do you have the right people in place not only for your current challenge but for the challenges you’ll face down the road? The people on your team are crucial to a company’s success. Constantly evaluating where people are positioned and their responsibilities helps you maximize everyone’s talents and use them strategically.
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Growth requires agility and evolution, and continually asking yourself these three questions keeps your ideas on track and helps you push through hard days and challenges.
Steve believes that passion is critical to success. Understanding the mission behind his work, from expanding the availability of the internet to backing more entrepreneurs in more places, gives him the ability to work hard and be resilient in the face of criticism and challenges. You have to know your idea is a mountain worth climbing. It’s not just a business, it’s a movement, and as a leader or an entrepreneur, you are the evangelist for it.
Companies aren’t just about the companies. Steve says they’re about their impact on people’s lives, both in the products and services they offer and the ripple effect they have on communities. Today, Steve and his wife see those impacts firsthand as they travel the country in an RV and work to expand the mission and outreach of Rise of the Rest. Steve says that all leaders and entrepreneurs need to spend time with people, listening to their stories and learning about their lives.
Being a successful leader or entrepreneur requires passion. But it also takes continual evaluation and willingness to change and adjust to stay on the right path. Finding a fight worth fighting and an idea worth supporting can have an incredible impact.
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