There is a great debate on whether entrepreneurs are born or made. Does a successful businessperson inherit their love and acumen for entrepreneurship. Multiple studies have been conducted coming down on both sides of the issue and scholars are torn on whether entrepreneurship is passed down from your parent, inherent in your personality, or is a sum of experiences, learnable and teachable.
I suppose I am partial in this debate. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father and his brothers owned, landscaping, construction and restaurant enterprises and from an early age it seemed I had inherited that yen to be my own boss. To me it seems that entrepreneurs are raised, and while they may not be born with it, it seems like a calling that is difficult to learn once you are already an adult. And the science backs me: The Inaugural Global Entrepreneurship report released by BNP Paribas shows that 60% of successful entrepreneurs come from entrepreneurial families.
However, whether you believe they are learnt or inherited there are some personality traits that all successful entrepreneurs seem to have in common. I recognise them in my own journey and in the personalities of my successful friends and colleagues along the way. There is no fool proof map to entrepreneurial success, but if you have the following nine traits, you are off to a great start.
Tenacity – Learn from failures
You will fail as entrepreneur. That is the nature of the beast. As you build experience, you will stumble and make mistakes but to be successful you cannot let them stop you. A failure is not a defeat it is a learning opportunity.
It is no doubt that, if you allow it, failure makes you stronger. You learn more from your mistakes than you from successes. Every time that I have had a slowdown in business due to mistakes, I have always come back stronger because I learn what not to do. But if you didn’t fail, there is so much you wouldn’t learn.
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin said it best, “Few first ventures work out. It is how a beginning entrepreneur deals with failure that sets that person apart. In fact, failure is one of the secrets to success, since some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shuttered business.”
Don’t let the failure beat you down. Dig deep into your resilience and find the lesson in every experience. Entrepreneurship is an ultramarathon, without tenacity and endurance you cannot make it to the finish line.
Constantly Learning and Improving
Whether it is your customer service, your bill paying method, marketing, your software development your company should be in a constant state of improvement, and you should constantly be learning. This is especially important for e-businesses like my firms SureTrader, SpeedTrader, and Guest Managers which are in an industry that is changing so rapidly.
A successful businessperson has a certain mind frame where he looks at his ideas and companies and says “how do I make this better.” Whether its streamlining processes to make things easier for consumers or tweaking a product or organisation structure to eliminate waste, a good entrepreneur is constantly propelling themselves forward and doesn’t believe in complacency.
Industries are constantly changing and evolving. The only way to stay ahead is to grow as well, through constant learning and improvement. There will always be competitors at your heels and new products claiming to be the next greatest thing.
In my experience, most business that fail weren’t “minding their business.” They weren’t following their competitors, staying on top of things, and they weren’t in a constant state of improvement. A perfect example is Blockbuster, a multi-billion dollar company and leader in its industry. Today, they don’t exist because they weren’t following the trends of digital media and customer service, allowing Netflix to come in and crush them.
If you get complacent in your business, you are doomed.
As previously mentioned, owning a business has a lot of ups and downs. In order to be successful you have to have the passion and drive to fuel you. You have to love it. When the hard times come, the long hours night after night, the obstacles that will inevitably come, you have to be sure you want this.
For me business was never felt like a job, it was more of a passionate hobby, a pleasure – that’s how much I enjoy doing what I do. Some people like to go out and play golf, I like going to the office and working on my business. If you can get to that point where you love it so much it doesn’t feel like work… well, you will work all the harder for it. That intrinsic drive, the work being its own reward, will sustain you between paydays.
Tolerance for Risk
One of the first traits persons will state about entrepreneurs is “risktaker.” An entrepreneur is most certainly, a risk taker. There are often times in start-up, when you don’t know how you will pay next month’s bills. If its security you want, get a nine-to-five. However if you don’t mind a little risk, for the chance of an ultimate reward, entrepreneurship may be for you.
This takes no small amount of emotional strength – constant uncertainty will mess with your mind. A large part of being an entrepreneur is managing your fears. You have to be the type of person that can deal with that pressure and make sound, productive decisions despite emotional stress. The ultimate entrepreneurial test takes place on the mental battlefield. If you can overcome fear in pursuit of your goals, if you see opportunity where others might feel powerless, you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
To be successful you must be confident in yourself and in your product. You must be sure that you have done enough research to put out the right product. And you must be confident that you have what it takes to make your dream a reality. This confidence will bolster you against risks and fear.
A part of building this confidence and delf-belief is surrounding yourself with people who believe in you. You can’t be discouraged by naysayers, and a good entrepreneur surrounds himself with people who encourage him, give honest and constructive advice, and believe in his dream. There will always be naysayers but you have to have faith and confidence in yourself.
If you are an entrepreneur, you are in the business of survival. And like any species in the wild, the key to survival is adaptation. A successful entrepreneur must be able to adapt and manoeuvre as the markets and circumstances change. You have to be honest enough to see that something isn’t working and flexible enough to change course.
Much of this will come from good and quick decision making. Often you only have an instant to make a decision, you have to be sure it is the right one. However, this trait often comes with experience.
At the time that I opened Suretrader, I already had 15 years’ experience running a similar business in NYC. Suretrader had near to none of the struggles that SpeedTrader did. With my new adaptations, SureTrader has grown every single year since opening, its slowest year at 30percent growth.
Great entrepreneurs can see what others can’t – opportunities, solutions, strategies. A successful entrepreneur has vision. It isn’t enough to just have great ideas, you have to know how to monetise them, market them, and make them happen. An idea by itself is not a business.
A Strategic focus and ability to envision what you want to build, is what takes good ideas to good businesses. Good entrepreneurs think an idea through, from inception to profit. What is it going to cost? I have started all of my businesses organically – I didn’t borrow – which meant that there was a lot of planning involved.
Forward projection, vision and planning will take an entrepreneur far. I believe one of the reasons entrepreneurs encounter so many nay-sayers, is that they see the future of a market before others can. The key to staying successful is being a few steps ahead.
Leadership and Delegation
When you start a business, you are captain of that ship. It goes without saying that you must be a good leader. Your employees when you have them will be looking to you to get them through. You have to be someone that people will follow or else you will have mutiny and anarchy on your ship.
One of the central keys to providing good leadership, in an entrepreneurial situation, is choosing the right team and delegating appropriately. No one person can build a successful business alone. It’s a task that requires a team that is as committed as you to the business and its success.
As your company grows, the entrepreneur’s job is not to do day to day functions,. Your job is to make decisions on the direction of the company. So you have to delegate and delegate well. Know your strengths and weaknesses and align your strategy and team in accordance with that.
Put persons you can trust in positions of responsibility, making sure they compliment your strengths and offset your weaknesses. Select your team to include persons with positive attitudes, good workers who believe in your vision. Remember, people can always learn skills, but no matter how smart someone is, if they have a bad attitude they are bad for business.
Dr. Chester Karass, expert negotiator, once state “In Business as in Life – You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate,” in fact he wrote a book or two on the subject. You can want anything, and work all the time, but if you aren’t willing to be assertive, get out there and ask, negotiate, and fight for your business it will not get off of the ground.
This can come in many forms. Going out and asking for the sale, assertive marketing, self-promotion, networking, or negotiating with landlords, suppliers, or investors. This is not to say don’t work hard toward your goals, but that hard work should be complimented by assertive and ambitious advocacy for your company on all fronts. If you aren’t willing to be assertive in the business space, all of your hard work could come to naught.
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor states that only 14% of Americans are engaged in entrepreneurship and only a fraction of those new ventures are successful. The path to success will always be difficult but if you can master the above nine qualities you are already well on your way. Do you have an entrepreneur in you?
Did I miss anything? What do you think are some important traits of successful entrepreneurs? Share your favorites in the comments section below.