What traits does one need in order to be a successful entrepreneur, to choreograph employees, bankers, consultants, customers and others? What personal characteristics are needed to build a business created of vision, heart, desire, and good old blood, sweat and tears?
In order for this list to make the most sense it is important to define exactly what an entrepreneur is. An entrepreneur is someone who identifies a need and fills it by starting and running a business in order to meet that need. This person is generally willing to take greater financial risks than a non-entrepreneur (think employee or corporate manager). According to Forbes Magazine, an entrepreneur's largely unexplainable urge to fill a need “is primordial and is independent of product, service, industry, or market.”
The top ten traits of successful entrepreneurs are:
Passion: One successful entrepreneur after another will tell you that true heart-felt belief in what you are doing is as important to an entrepreneur as water is to the world and blood is to the body. If an entrepreneur lacks enthusiasm, hunger, moxie and yearning the best-laid plans will fall to pieces. From Richard Branson to Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey to Galileo, true entrepreneurs are inspired from within to build something bigger than them.
Resilience: “Inside of a ring or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong.” Being able to bounce back, having grit, is a critical trait of an entrepreneur. While sometimes the battle of business feels like a boxing match, it is not just the big punches that need to be overcome. Just ask one of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time, Muhammad Ali. Every day issues large and small—from roundhouse uppercuts to little jabs—can derail your efforts. A key to thriving as an entrepreneur is getting up, every time.
Self-assurance: This trait is not cockiness. It is not bravado. It is quiet confidence that allows you to lead effectively. In order to sell what an entrepreneur makes or provides, they have to believe in it. No one is going to champion an entrepreneur’s cause better than him or herself. In a staff meeting or on a sales call, knowing yourself and believing in the benefits that your business brings to the world are qualities that enable success.
Decisiveness: Employees often prefer to remain employees and entrepreneurs often prefer to become something other than employees because they are comfortable with and like to make decisions. Many a business was started by a frustrated employee who just wanted to get more done and felt constrained by the lack of decisiveness around him or her. This is the mother of direction. It takes knowing how and when to act to give things course and to make things happen.
Courage: An entrepreneur must be inherently brave or learn to be courageous. While timidity has its place here and there, having the guts to make things happen even in the face of doubters or critics is vital for one to be a successful entrepreneur.
Flexibility: Knowing when you don’t know what you should and being eager to learn or adjust is critical to being a successful entrepreneur. Being willing to listen, learn, and change based on conversations, data interpretation, new technologies, or other inputs allows successful entrepreneurs to adapt and grow rather than die adhering to old styles or ideas.
Empathy: There is no greater tool for an entrepreneur to keep employees and clients happy than empathy. Hard driving, heartless and uncaring business owners will miss voices quiet or loud, voices that can make or break a business. Truly understanding others wants and needs helps businesses grow and prosper. Compassion manifests empathy. Empathy creates understanding. Understanding facilitates success.
Drive: The ability to keep going because of or in spite of challenges, successes, setbacks and achievement is a cornerstone to building and growing a business. Simply, entrepreneurs cannot give up. Yet, often, the only one who tells an entrepreneur to push forward is the entrepreneur her or himself, with a “don’t stop now” voice that can waiver at times but on balance never stops.
Financial Intelligence: Being naturally good with money is not a prerequisite to successful entrepreneurship. It helps but it is not critical. Becoming great at understanding money—the finances of a business, the grasping of market pulls, the awareness of economic strengths and weaknesses—is a critical skill to have in order to be a great business owner. People can learn how to be better with money. Financial intelligence can be grown. Flourishing entrepreneurs who are not naturally adept at this hire those who are, to learn from and prosper by. If the company does not financially prosper then the power of a dream, the purpose of a leader, and the good of a business is no more.
Vision: All things start with a thought. The light bulb, Federal Express, Cheerios, and the internet were conceived in the mind and hatched through the heart. Good entrepreneurs are dreamers—visionaries—who put ideas into action. Great entrepreneurs are those who look into the guts of the idea and understand why it matters. The top entrepreneurs never stop imagining “what if” and “why not” and then implementing those ideas that change the world.
Creativity: Are you surprised to see 11 items on a list of ten characteristics? Then I invite you to think like successful entrepreneurs think: outside the box. In fact, in this day and age, discard the box altogether as any relationship to it could hamper creativity. Successful entrepreneurs are bold, bright, and creative as they make things, serve clients, and develop the best work culture possible. Great businesspeople think as if there is no box and render unique products and services, such as a top ten list with twelve items.
Heart-Driven: The cornerstone to any successful business is this granddaddy of them all. When one combines passion with persistence, decisiveness with drive, and courage with creativity there is only one place this can all come from...the heart. Add to this empathy for those who surround them and you will find that the most sought after and successful businesses are run by people who lead with their heart, at play, at peace, and at the workplace.