Business entrepreneurs are special people. They see opportunity in every slow service, poor product, and unmet need. But here’s the secret of the successfully self-employed: Great business owners are made, not born. The entrepreneurs that make headlines put in years of work before their businesses become “overnight successes.”
You had to learn how to be great at what you do; entrepreneurship is just another skill set to add to your repertoire. If you are considering setting up shop — or have already taken the plunge — these personality traits will give you an edge. If the stars didn’t grant them to you, you can cultivate these characteristics and set yourself up for success.
7 essential characteristics to become a successful entrepreneur:
Every venture starts with a vision. What are your dreams for the business you’re building? How will the world be different because of your product, service, or organization? A vision statement is a great tool to help you communicate your hopes to your audience, and it can keep you and your employees focused on the essentials.
Once you have wrapped your grand vision into a tidy package, spell out your plan to achieve that lofty ideal. Convert that pie in the sky to practical steps by laying out your business goals. It’s OK to challenge yourself here, but your business goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound) and clearly tied to your vision statement.
Both these foundational tools will be critical as you start to build your brand.
The term is overused and often abused, but passion is a characteristic trait of the entrepreneur. You have to care about what you’re doing. The sweet lure of filthy lucre will not get you through the tough times. If making money is the only reason you have to go into business for yourself, dig deeper. Not every new venture will cure cancer or end world hunger, but you need a truly human “why” behind your efforts.
Your business should be aligned with something that resonates with you. That doesn’t mean you’ll be getting paid to do your favorite activity all day long, sadly, but having a business related to something you’d do for free is a real advantage.
If classic cars rev your engine, auto repair or car detailing might not be 9-to-5 drudgery. If you love gardening, opening up a plant shop or florist service makes sense — and with time, it may just make dollars as well.
Let’s be clear: It’s almost always easier to be an employee. Sure, there’s a certain cachet in being your own boss, but glamour won’t pay the bills, and the work won’t do itself.
No one will shove you out of bed early every day or give you brownie points for burning the midnight oil. Running a business is hard work, and it may be a while before your efforts bear fruit. The odds of your enterprise surviving its first five years in business are about 50/50 — and that’s not because half of all business owners simply give up.
One way to boost your success rate is by controlling costs. Home-based businesses and infopreneurs typically have lower expenses and turn a profit quicker. And starting an online business can trim risk and overhead, too. No matter what approach you take, though, you’ll have to have something extra in your motivational gas tank to keep going when the inevitable challenges arise.
Are you comfortable with risk? Being your own boss rates high on the reward spectrum, but the flip side of that coin is risk, and you have to be comfortable with it. That risk-embracing, venturesome attitude is a quintessential aspect of the entrepreneurial mindset.
Whether you’re launching a massive enterprise or dipping a toe in the water as a solopreneur, you’ll have setbacks. Be prepared for cash flow issues, supplier glitches, employee meltdowns, economic turndowns, and yes, even global pandemics.
And be prepared to fail. If your business doesn’t stay afloat, that doesn’t mean your entrepreneurial dreams are dashed. Maybe it was the wrong idea, the wrong approach, or merely the wrong time. Do a thorough postmortem on your dearly departed and learn how to fail better next time. As Winston Churchill famously quipped, “Success is just stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Do you think you know everything there is to know about your business area? If you said yes, you may be shortchanging yourself.
An essential trait of successful entrepreneurs is to always do more, and do it better. Even if you’re world-renowned in your area of expertise, you’ll always find something more to learn about managing your business effectively. A superior product can still fall short if your marketing isn’t effective (Betamax, anyone?). And how confident are you when it comes to keeping your accounts straight and your taxes in order?
Knowing you don’t know it all is a great starting point. You can always hire the expertise that you lack or let your accountant or business software tackle some of the bookkeeping. Meanwhile, keep learning.
The entrepreneur's personality is creative. In 1985, when Steve Jobs was forced out of the company he co-founded, he didn’t give up. Instead, he tried something different: animation. With a $10 million investment, he shifted the movie landscape and made Pixar a household name, pocketing a nice $7.5 billion in profits along the way.
Creativity helps you spot business opportunities in everyday life. Don’t simply try to incrementally edge out the competition. Instead, always ask how your product or service could be better. Make sure creativity is built into your workflow. And reward team members willing to break a few rules in the name of innovation.
Pride goeth before a fall, but you can never have too much confidence. If you’ve laid the groundwork by establishing your vision statement and business goals, you have a soft place to land when the going gets rough.
You’ll have days (or weeks, or months) when things don’t go smoothly, problems seem overwhelming, and your work just isn’t “fun” anymore. But remind yourself why you took on this challenge in the first place and don’t undervalue your best asset: You!
Simply starting your own business puts you in an elite cadre of the daring and capable. You have spotted an opportunity and seized it. Confidence is one personal characteristic that can be cultivated. If you have times when you’re feeling out of your league, fall back on your core strengths and build from there. You already know plenty about your business, and you can learn any skills you might be lacking.
Break down obstacles into bite-size chunks and tackle them one at a time. Better yet, see the opportunity hidden behind every obstacle. For example, women entrepreneurs often face additional hurdles in getting established, but this can create a climate where successful women will share their secrets and mentor those just starting out.
Do you have what it takes?
All you need to get started in business is the desire to make it happen. If you’re missing a few — or all — of these traits, don’t be discouraged. Start where you are and commit to getting a little better every day. One day, you’ll be an overnight success too.