9 Essential Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

9 Essential Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, the main quality you must possess is the burning desire to start that dream business. Running a small business isn’t for the ambivalent, the indifferent, or the faint of heart. 

You have to really, really want to be your own boss, transform your dream into reality, or market your product or service. Look inside yourself and ask yourself if you have that drive.

In addition to that drive, there are some nine personality traits common to successful entrepreneurs. But before we look at those, let’s look at some of the statistics about what running businesses. According to Stats Canada, 23% of Canadian small businesses fail in their first year; 22% more fail in their second year (which means that 45% of all small businesses started don't survive more than two years). 

Given those sobering statistics on small business start-up and failure, it becomes clear why that burning desire to start your dream business is so critical to its success.

Let’s look at those traits of success:

1. Clear Vision

Successful entrepreneurs can visualize how they want their future to unfold. They hold a clear picture of what direction they want their company to take and possess a plan to guide it from conception to realization.

The late Steve Jobs is widely considered to have been one of the foremost entrepreneurs of our time; what was unique about him was ability to set the trends of the future. A vital step in determining whether you are suitable to an entrepreneurial lifestyle is your ability to clearly communicate the dreams and aspirations you have for your company. 

2. Determination

It is absolutely imperative that every entrepreneur demonstrate the determination and resolve to stick with an idea when they believe in it. Undoubtedly, all business ventures will suffer setbacks and, like the team captain, the entrepreneur is expected to push on to victory.

After writing Chicken Soup for the Soul, the authors were ready to approach publishers. In the first month, 33 publishing houses turned them down and all together they were rejected by 140 publishers. But, they eventually found a publisher who shared their dream, and the Chicken Soup series has become a phenomenon in publishing history, with more than 100 million copies sold to date, in 170 titles and 41 languages. 

3. Ambition

The daughter of immigrants, Estee Lauder is the embodiment of the American Dream. She started out selling skin creams created by her uncle, but with persistence and personality, she worked her way into the cosmetics counters of department stores. She developed a personalized selling style that put her brand at the top of the industry, with a 45% share of the cosmetics market in US department stores. 

4. Self-confidence

Investors, venture capitalists and business partners require that entrepreneurs be supremely confident about their prospects.

The best entrepreneurs believe they can define their own future and use this self-assurance to persuade people to tie their fortunes to theirs. Virgin Group's Richard Branson ties together a diverse range of businesses – including airlines, beverage companies and music stores – with a powerful personality. 

5. Good Health

A series of interviews were conducted with distinguished entrepreneurs and they were asked what characteristics they felt were essential to success as an entrepreneur. Good health was a characteristic mentioned by every entrepreneur interviewed.

Entrepreneurs are physically resilient and in good health. They can work for extended periods of time, and while they are in the process of building their business, they refuse to get sick. 

6. Realistic

Expectations of a quick buck or rapid ascension to the top of a market are usually misguided. While there is nothing wrong with having grand aspirations for your company (yes. entrepreneurs should be visionaries), a good entrepreneur can distinguish between dreams and reality.

After all, a marketing forecast based on whims and fantasies does not form the backbone of a strong business plan. Keep a level head because any good banker, venture capitalist or prudent family member will check the rationality of your business plan before handing you their money.

7. Problem-solver

Entrepreneurs need to be either very capable people or have the know-how to find the right help (at the right price). They should be ingenious problem solvers, individuals who can resolve issues quickly and efficiently. Unless they have a lot of money to start off with, most entrepreneurs will find themselves a "wearer of many hats." That is, they are likely the secretary, accountant and salesperson all at one time, and they get things done!

8. Okay with No Pay!

There is always a degree of ambiguity about how things will unfold for a new business. No level of preparedness or planning can account for the innumerable variables that will define the future of a venture.

Entrepreneurial opportunities carry more risks than the conventional corporate job. And, for most, there is no regular paycheck (at least not in the early days), and the matter of finding customers and financing are also of concern. If you're not prepared to live with uncertainty, this is probably not the right career choice. 

9. Unique Skill

At age 20, Debbi Fields was a housewife with no business experience, but a great chocolate chip cookie recipe and a dream. In mid 1977, Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chippery opened its doors as a single outlet; since then it has grown to 650 retail bakeries in the United States and over 80 in 11 different countries.

She sold the company in the early 1990s, but remains as the company's spokesperson. Her special recipe and her philosophy of excellence were key to her success. 

Innate or Acquirable?

Are these traits something that entrepreneurs are born with or can they be learned or acquired? They can certainly be cultivated – if you don’t see each of the nine traits above in your own personality today, you can learn from successful entrepreneurs how to build these traits. Knowing where you are already strong and where you need to build strength is key to your success as an entrepreneur. 


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