To become a successful entrepreneur a person has to have many character traits that are not common among the general population and he must also be able to withstand some of the feelings and behaviours that society in general consider signs of success. The below character traits are very common among successful entrepreneurs and some are not common among the population in general while some are. It’s the combination of having enough of an entrepreneurial personality that makes you successful. Most likely you have some of the traits listed below, but not all and with certainty some of them are stronger in you than others.
Please don’t look at the list in a fatalistic way as if “either you have them or you don’t”, many of the personality traits are functions of choices, training or experience and not given by genetics.
Do you need special skills and education to become a successful entrepreneur? Not necessarily – and a formal higher education is not a necessity at all – as a key characteristic of an entrepreneur is curiosity and capacity to learn which will make it possible to learn by doing and take on skill requirements on the go.
Trust me here, I have a major in both entrepreneurship and business and while those are nice to have I have seen many people around me who have only high school diplomas outperform me time and time again. It’s all about being able to learn on the spot and learning from mistakes made, some people embrace that while others refuse to accept they have made mistakes or have gaps in their knowledge.
It has been said that as long as you have just a bit over average intelligence it will no longer have an impact on your success which instead will depend on determination, will to learn and hard work. Being intelligent enough to make thousands of correct micro-decisions as the start-up matures is what is required. Those micro decisions is what set the company culture, define your products and make your company special.
You can practise and maintain intelligence on the job by constantly confronting yourself with equations of sorts, business model puzzles, system challenges. Again, it is not so much about genetics as the will to improve over time – all the time.
Experience from business and start-ups in particular are of course an extremely good asset to posses when you pursue your own start-up. You don’t have it? Then join another start-up as a partner or employee and get it. It’s as simple as that.
An entrepreneur must be willing to take risks, after all 50 percent of all start-ups fail. If you need safety – get a job.
When you decide on becoming an entrepreneur you should keep in mind that the risks you must take to succeed should all be calculated risks, entrepreneurship is not a black-jack table where you might win big but the odds are always in favour of the house. Make a solid analysis of the market you are about to enter and your capacity to succeed on that market to lower the risk.
As with much else concerning entrepreneurship it is not so much about talent and having the perfect business idea but about your capacity to execute the idea and – foremost – to have the energy and endurance to do so. The major risks are all associated with your competence and capacity.
Can you learn about handling pressure related to risks? Yes you can. Try smaller risks at first and you will grow used to the risk as a part of your life and will then be able to take on more and more.
If you are afraid to put yourself in front of your potential clients by bringing your goods to the market you have already failed and if you need investors but are afraid they will reject you it will hamper your business’ potential growth and development.
You must have the guts to get out there and put yourself in front of your stakeholders, be it the bank, clients, business partners, potential employees, investors or others. If you don’t have the guts to do so you should get a normal job.
Can you practise how to handle rejection? Absolutely, get a sales job in any sphere and you will have all the opportunities to practise both sales processes and the emotions of being rejected.
It takes an enormous effort and usually much longer time than initially expected to build a successful business. The stories about immediate success that have become urban legends are based on cases so rare that there is a greater chance of becoming rich by buying a lottery ticket. Entrepreneurs who are unwilling or unable to work hard for a long time even when it feels like the business is about to go under are not likely to become successful but rather likely to lose speed and succumb due to inactivity and exhaustion. How do you build the strength needed to work hard over longer periods of time? Join the military, practise demanding sports like triathlon or mountaineering – both are not only physically challenging but it takes time to pass the goalposts too – or get a job in any prestigious investment bank or management consulting firm with a reputation for working their employees until they break down.
Determination is also an absolute requirement for success as the opposite – giving up – will lead to immediate business failure. Can you train and develop determination? Absolutely, put yourself to the test as often as you can and you will gain willpower and become better at resisting the urge to give in to pressure. Willpower and determination also increase with age as both are related to patience, which we all know is not a typical trait among younger people.
The perception which makes it possible for an entrepreneur to see opportunities where others see problems is a key personality trait of a successful entrepreneur and might be one that comes not only with curiosity but also with a generally positive mindset, something that is harder to train and develop than many other traits of the successful entrepreneur.
Being able to see opportunities, have the creativity to come up with business ideas from the perceived opportunity, to structure the idea into a plan and have the management capacity to transform that business plan into a real business is a rare combination of personality traits and that make entrepreneurs a very special breed in society.
People skills are essential for an entrepreneur. Being able to sell the business idea and plan to company stakeholders, being able to manage staff, being able to attract clients all require people skills, and that goes for online businesses too as understanding human behaviour is key to online marketing.
Can people skills be trained? Of course they can, just put yourself among people, interact with them and pay attention to their feelings and responses and you will get there even if it might take you time, especially if you are an introvert like me.
Analysing something is to examine something methodically and in detail, typically in order to explain and interpret it. Being able to analyse the business idea and the business plan are important for an entrepreneur, analysing the business and its continuous challenges is essential and being able to analyse oneself is critical. Many great analysts master to analyse something outside them but don’t even consider, let alone try, analysing their own behaviour. Analysing yourself can be a burden if it slows you down and make you doubt your own capacity but it’s critical for the learning process and the adaptation needed to be successful entrepreneur.
Can you train and develop an analytical mind? Yes, it’s all about learning by doing while having somebody or, preferably, a group of people commenting on your thinking. In time you will improve.
Procrastination is an enemy to all kinds of success. Even with endurance and physical capacity you need to get to work and get the work done. If you walk around in circles, sit down staring at the wall or play computer games all morning you have a problem because you are extremely unproductive and is wasting your most precious resource – your time.
Just get to it, start with writing one email, adjust one string of code, pack one box or whatever you need to do – just do something and then continue with something else. Shifting from one task to another can be a solution if you get bored but stopping altogether is a path to failure.
Being effective and efficient is to be able to decide what is needed to do and do it in the smartest possible way. The opposite is to do the wrong things in a great way – or even worse, to do the wrong things in a bad way - which is of course a total waste of all sorts of resources and a path to failure.
Strategy and tactics are related to effectiveness and efficiency. Strategy is what to do, tactics is how to do it and there is a huge difference between the two.
Developing effectiveness require that you prioritise and continuously ask yourself if what you are doing is the most important thing to do for success right now? By continuing to ask yourself that question and answering it truthfully you will develop a good sense for what is effective and what is efficient.
If you have to show off and express your success through luxuries and other symbols of status it will cost you resources you could have and probably should have invested in meeting the needs of your clients and this can cause your business to fail.
If you feel you are too important to deal with and work with the simpler tasks of your business operation and therefore hire people to do this work for you it will consume resources you could have and should have used to build the foundation of your business. You will also miss out on important knowledge about your business, which increase the likelihood of you making mistakes and these mistakes can cost you clients, effectiveness and efficiency.
Entrepreneurs who cannot decide on what to focus on but have side jobs, continuously start new projects and launch new products and services despite not yet making money on any of them will likely burn the capital they have before having operational profits and therefore they might risk bankruptcy due to a very bad cash flow. Doing everything half good is exactly the same as doing nothing really good at all.
If you want to become a successful entrepreneur you can forget about social balance and should not feel bad about forgetting it. If long vacations, sleep-in mornings, weekends at the golf course, culture events with your partner, watching your children or other distractions are important for you to function as a person you are not an entrepreneur. All these joyful activities that makes a life complete are not for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs don’t live complete and balanced lives.
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