I’ve written in the past about how “cool” it is to be an entrepreneur. How entrepreneurial business leaders make a difference in their community, finding fulfillment and control of their personal destiny.
But is entrepreneurship for everyone? Do you have it in you to become a great entrepreneur?
Many people point to the success of entrepreneurs as having the “Midas Touch.” That’s all well and good, but undermines the fact that entrepreneurial success is hard work and requires a commitment and dedication that many don’t have.
Thousands of businesses enter and exit the marketplace every year. In 2013, more than 78,000 new small businesses in Canada hung out their shingles; however, more than 83,000 closed up shop.1 Running a successful small business requires more than good timing, talent and some elusive X-factor.
The Internet is filled with lists and opinions on the top traits shared by effective entrepreneurs. In my experience, though, I’ve seen a few common characteristics really shine through. Great news for the ambitious: while many of these are personality traits, I believe these “soft skills” can be honed and trained. As mentioned in the past, practice and effort ultimately beat raw talent alone.
Let’s look at the traits that foster entrepreneurial success:
- Genuineness – In today’s increasingly marketing-saturated world, it is hard for consumers, partners and even investors to find truly genuine people. But, think about it… don’t you seek out genuine people to buy things from or work with? According to author and management consultant Steve Tobak, genuine people are self-aware and consistent; they practice what they preach. “There’s not a lot of processing, manipulating, or controlling going on between what’s in their head and what people see and hear,” he writes in Entrepreneur magazine.2
- Passion – Successful entrepreneurs aren’t driven by money. Open up a biography on any great business leader or ask any young up-and-comer and you’ll find a drive to make a difference or change the world. This passion carries them through the dreaded start-up “death valley days,” the period of negative cash flow before the business is bringing in revenue from customers. Passion sustains these brave future business leaders across the valley, often at great expense in terms of their own time and money. That said…
- Fearlessness – Great rewards are accompanied by great risk, but it’s important to remember fearlessness is not foolhardiness. As the maxim goes: courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. Successful entrepreneurs take confident, calculated risks, supported by their passion to see their business come to fruition. Never make uninformed decisions, and always test assumptions, advises angel investor Angela Lee, founder of 37 Angels.3
- High-energy – Perhaps the hardest soft skill to train. A start-up is hard work, long hours and can be exhausting and demanding. High-energy “doers” have a number of behaviours in common: they tend to be cheerful and positive; where others see obstacles and challenges, they see opportunities and excitement. Find your inner optimist and “fake it until you make it.” High-energy behaviours quickly build momentum.
- Humbleness – Successful business leaders need a degree of emotional intelligence that allows them to connect with customers empathically. Business in the global marketplace requires partnership and collaboration, especially in the early stages. Before you discount the concept of humility, consider that a Catalyst study found being humble is critical in creating an inclusive environment4 and another study found it to be a source of competitive advantage.5Being confident is important, but be humble about it.
When you have the unique opportunity to work closely with these individuals, you quickly experience what makes them successful. The traits described above are not learned with a MBA or a business school degree. From what I’ve seen working with many entrepreneurs, success also includes determination, a good work ethic, accountability, reliability, family support and community involvement. Everything that’s required to go above and beyond.
Insights is committed to existing and budding entrepreneurs. You do make a difference! Rarely does the entrepreneur get a “pat on the back.” I believe it’s important that you understand the vital role you play in our economy, and every region and community across Canada.
These are my personal opinions on the important characteristics needed to become a successful entrepreneur. But what about you? If you’re going to risk the security of a steady paycheque to become “your own boss,” what do you think are the most important characteristics you need to succeed? Take a moment, think about successful people you admire. What makes them unique? What can you learn from their success and apply it to yours?