Traits Of Successful Entrepreneurs
America’s long standing economic success is fueled by the inspiration of its entrepreneurs. Although we are experiencing challenges that most generations alive today have previously only read about in history class, we will once again emerge stronger, wiser, and even more prosperous. It is time for all of us entrepreneurs to contribute to the rebirth of the American economy.
Over the years I have discovered numerous principles and attributes common in successful entrepreneurs. They are diligent in the practice of these traits rather than the fruitless pursuit of the mythical get-rich-quick idea. Let’s examine these traits individually.
Education minded: Successful entrepreneurs are relentless in their drive to continually expand their knowledge of the business. No one should ever consider entering into a new venture without first gaining a clear understanding of the basic fundamentals and operation. This is a sure road to disaster. And education should not end here. Be constantly seeking new ideas, new techniques; new methods that colleagues an competitors are using to increase profits; decrease expenses; automate delivery; or improve customer satisfaction. This doesn’t mean become a seminar junkie or a professional student. Instead, follow this simple formula: Learn. Implement. Critique. Repeat.
Action oriented: The lack of this trait is what often prevents aspiring entrepreneurs from transitioning from the classroom to the field. They become paralyzed by fear and justify their procrastination with the need for further study. There is a point at which additional training or analysis is worthless and only experience adds value. Entrepreneurs learn to balance the desire for additional information with the need to progress.
Risk taking: It is difficult to have a conversation about taking action without also discussing the inherent risks. At the very heart of every entrepreneur is the willingness to take what they consider to be acceptable risks. Each has a different tolerance level, but risk taking is a common denominator among entrepreneurs. Along with risk comes reward and the greater the risk the greater the reward. Learn to evaluate the risk vs. reward proposition and quickly react to opportunities. Another tool is to examine the worst case and best case scenarios and the probability of each. The higher the probability of success and the lower the possible negative impacts on the business, the more acceptable the risk. I recently coached a student through decision in which he was completely stymied by the perceived risk. After we studied the worst case scenario, he realized it was improbable and he could easily live with any potential backlash. The cost, however, of not moving forward was both considerable and definitive. This analysis propelled him into action.
Passion: The life blood of the business is the passion that the leader infuses into the organization. It is passion that transforms obstacles into mere bumps in the road; inspires creativity; and adds the enthusiasm that obliterates procrastination and rallies action. A passionate leader will motivate others to pull together and achieve more than was previously thought possible. No entrepreneur should enter into a new venture for which there is no passion. It will be starved of the energy that creates success.
Creativity: Passion for the business leads to creativity. It is the creativity blended into the business that separates it from the competition, creates new products and services which meet and anticipate customer demand, and propels the organization forward. Entrepreneurs need to be education focused and follow successful models which their mentors provide and then improve upon those models with their creativity. Just like the individuals in the organization businesses have their own distinct personalities, challenges, and set of circumstances. A successful entrepreneur molds the initial model using his own creativity to create a new masterpiece. Regardless of the strength of the information in any course, program, mentorship or apprenticeship, it is ultimately the creativity of the business owner that will decide its fate. This is a mammoth weakness in many new ventures. The leaders are not able to adapt what they have learned to face their unique challenges. Practice thinking outside the box. Challenge every “rule”. Ask the purpose of the rule and determine if it is still valid or can be accomplished another way. Accept no precept as absolute; instead look for opportunities for improvement.
Forward thinking: In this modern age of technology business happens at the speed of light. It is not enough to think about how the operation should react to the current challenges. Leaders must look forward and anticipate the changing environment. Once again, education minded entrepreneurs tend to be the most proactive. They study the marketplace, attend courses to seek new opportunities, read the newspapers and trade journals; and trade information with others in the business to remain ahead of change. Contemplate current affairs to predict how today’s events will affect the business. Identify emerging opportunities created by the dynamics of the marketplace.
Strength of conviction: Leading an organization can be a very lonely vocation. Entrepreneurs operate ahead of their time to prepare for the upcoming challenges without the benefit of history for validation. It is easy to abandon the vision in favor of the more generally accepted approaches. It is the strength of conviction that sustains the business owner. Entrepreneurs learn to trust their inner guidance. Their judgment is based on both a conscious and subconscious evaluation of the facts which should not be second guessed.
Flexibility: While strength of conviction is like the engine that provides forward motion, the pilot must still be able to alter course as required. Never allow the process to become so rigid as to prevent swift adjustments in response to changes in the environment.
Tenacity and focus: Successful entrepreneurs never give up – they never quit. They pursue their ideas and their goals with relentless fervor and stimulate those around them to mirror their activities. They don’t delay waiting for 100% assurance, but rather proceed expediently to learn from their experience. As one of my friends and mentors said to me: “You don’t have to get it right as much as you have to get it going”. Stay focused on the goal and remain tenacious towards their accomplishment. Avoid the temptation to waste time, energy, and money on the easy yet mundane tasks. Prioritize according to contribution to the goals rather than level of difficulty.
Networking: Although many experience the urge to succeed alone, entrepreneurs recognize the value of networking with other successful business people. They derive tremendous value from the contacts, resources, ideas and assistance. A network of like-minded individuals can accelerate success exponentially. Become involved in trade associations. Establish relationships with competitors in other markets. Join local business associations. Trade business cards at training events. Join social networks with similar interests. Provide and request assistance. Grow and nurture your network – it is never too large.
Belief in self: Entrepreneurs are a special breed of people. They are a sponge absorbing as much information and knowledge from others while at the same time remaining highly reliant on themselves and their own ability. They never abdicate ownership of their success understanding that responsibility lies solely with them. They do not focus on “if” – they focus on “how” and “when”. There is no problem that has no solution. No obstacle that can not be overcome. Part of the excitement of leading a venture is the challenge of operating outside one’s own comfort zone resulting in personal as well as business growth.
This list of attributes probably appears as though many contradict the other. In some cases they are opposite sides of a coin. Have strength of conviction yet be flexible and able to change quickly. Learn from others to replicate their success yet become original and diverse through creativity. Remain focused yet adapt to the changing environment. Rely on yourself yet network with others. What is actually reflected here is the need for the last trait: balance. Any of these qualities exercised in excess become a hindrance. Employ all in moderation and in balance with the other.
Entrepreneurship is exciting, challenging, grueling, inspirational, and probably another fifty adjectives. It is the foundation of the American lifestyle and for those that relish conquering a challenge: it provides the perfect outlet. Develop and hone these characteristics and enjoy your success.