Nine personal attributes of successful entrepreneurs

The dictionary definition of an entrepreneur is “an individual who sets up a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” Whilst that is certainly one aspect of an entrepreneur, the definition is a tad dated.

Rather than being driven by profit, we’ve come to see entrepreneurs as determined and creative, searching for better solutions to problems we face or didn’t even know we had. A lot of modern day entrepreneurs are also forward thinking, with a focus on developing products and services to help others.

You might automatically think of entrepreneurs as industry leaders and global powerhouses but the dreams of challenging the status quo and taking destiny in their own hands are also in evidence in the thousands of startups and small business owners who strike out on their own every year.

If it was easy be your own boss and run your own business then everyone would be doing it. Clearly that isn’t the case, so what does it take to succeed? Here are nine personal attributes of successful entrepreneurs.

1) They are 100% focused on their goal

To be successful at anything you have to take it seriously. Lots of people have natural talent, which can certainly get you far, but to be successful, you have to work hard at it and nurture your talent. The same applies to entrepreneurs.

Anyone can have an idea, but not everyone has the motivation or desire to see it through to the end. Successful entrepreneurs are extremely disciplined; able to block out distractions and focus on the needs of the business. Whether it’s learning a new skill, dealing with investors, hiring staff or managing day to day operations, they are willing to put in the time and energy to achieve their goal. And once that goal is complete, to re-focus and set another target.

2) They are creative and innovative

One of the defining qualities of a successful entrepreneur is having a vision for a new way of doing things. It could be an improvement on a current product or finding a solution to a problem we didn’t even know existed. The technological advancement in the last 200 years is remarkable, driven on by people who saw an opportunity to make something better than what came before.

Likewise, once a business is established, there needs to be ways of sustaining its appeal. Coming up with new ideas, pivoting in a different direction or finding ways to stay connected to your customer are all examples of why you need a creative approach. When asking the question, ‘why will people choose my business?’, successful entrepreneurs tend to have the answer. If not, they are willing to think outside the box in order to find it.

As Reed Hasting, CEO of Netflix says:

“As an entrepreneur, you have to feel like you can jump out of an aeroplane because you’re confident you’ll catch a bird flying by. It’s an act of stupidity, and most entrepreneurs go play because the bird doesn’t come by, but a few times it does.”

3) They have a strong work ethic

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple.

Running a business isn’t easy, especially if most of what you are doing is new to you. There will be bumps along the road and steep learning curves – usually straight after realising you’ve done something wrong.

Successful entrepreneurs have a willingness to get stuck in and do everything they can to make their business a success. They are usually the first ones to arrive at work and the last to leave, working on weekends to fill backlogs and satisfy orders. They are prepared to commit a lot of effort, sometimes with very little monetary reward at the start, knowing that the ultimate goal is to see their vision fulfilled.

As well as motivating themselves they also have to make sure they instil a strong work ethic in their staff. From sourcing the right technology, dealing with demanding customers and researching what competitors are up to, they need to set a leading example for the rest of the business.

4) They are passionate and inspiring

Setting up a business purely for the purpose of making money might work in the short-term, but we don’t think it can be sustained in the long-term.

If things go wrong, will you have the drive to turn it around? Will you have the commitment to research new techniques, inspire others around you or work all hours to get the business off the ground? If you don’t believe in your business, then how will anyone else?

To make a business grow you need to appeal to customers, hire the right staff, attract investors and garner positive publicity. Essentially all of these different groups are asking: “why should we choose you?”. Successful entrepreneurs love what they do. They inspire. They motivate. They attract attention. Customers buy their products because they don’t want to miss out; staff want to work for them because of their positive attitude; investors are happy to hand over their money because they buy into the vision.

They are so passionate about what they do; they bring everyone else along with them. As Leah Busque, founder and CEO of TaskRabbit says, “I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?”

5) They are willing to collaborate and harness technology

“Your ability to attract, evaluate, and forge strong working relationships with co-founders, early employees, and investors often mean the difference between failure and success.” Clara Shih, co-founder of Hearsay Systems

If you are running your own company it’s almost impossible that you’ll be able to fulfil all the roles required by the business. You might be a jack of all trades, happy to turn your hand to anything that needs your attention, but sometimes you need the help of others

Successful entrepreneurs know when they have reached the limits of their expertise and when to rely on assistance. This might be in the way a business is structured, passing responsibility further down the chain of command, meeting with like-minded individuals to bounce ideas around, or using technology to help a business grow.

If you are looking for software or tools to help your business thrive then you could use Monday or Trello for managing projects, Harvest for tracking project time, Mailchimp for e-mail marketing and Ember if you are a start-up or small business seeking accounting support.

It might be tempting to do it all yourself but without collaboration you are limiting what you can achieve.

6) They’re not afraid of taking risks

When we talk about risk we don’t mean being reckless. There is a big difference between taking a chance and throwing all of your chips on red.

Start-ups and new businesses are always risky; no amount of preparation and considered planning can lead to guaranteed success. The willingness to take a risk is what sets a lot of successful entrepreneurs apart. Seeing a gap in the market or coming up with a solution to a problem is the start of the journey; not the end. They are willing to take a risk that other people will share in their journey.

There are lots of pinch points running your own business. Putting up the initial investment, getting investors onboard, hiring staff and being responsible for their wages can all be stressful. Having the conviction to back yourself because you believe in what you are doing is vital in achieving success – as Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post clearly has:

“Fearlessness is like a muscle. I know from my own life that the more I exercise it the more natural it becomes to not let my fears run me.”

7) They are robust

We’ll be honest with you: a lot of new businesses fail. According to figures from Fundsquire, 20% of businesses fail in their first year of launch and around 60% will cease operating within their first three years.

That means the entrepreneurs have failed too, right? Wrong. Not everyone can get it right all the time. Lots of successful entrepreneurs are still getting things wrong now. Running a business is a process of refinement, working out what works and what doesn’t.

To be successful, you have to have the ability to learn from your mistakes; use it, harness it and know what to do better next time. Then, even if it doesn’t work out again, you are simply one step closer to getting it right.

Advancements in technology, changes in society and economic trends mean that even the biggest global brands and businesses have to adapt and move with the times. Sometimes they get things wrong, but they don’t let those mistake define them. They re-focus, evaluate and aim to get it right next time.

8) They are confident

“An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.” Roy Ash, co-founder of Litton Industries

Confidence doesn’t mean being extroverted or introverted. There are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs with both personality types being highly successful in business. What we are referring to instead is the innate confidence they have in themselves, their product and their business.

Whether it’s launching a new service, meeting with investors, or simply making a yes or no decision, successful entrepreneurs don’t show any level of doubt. They back their choices to succeed.

This is regardless of whether every decision they have ever made has been successful (we doubt this applies to anyone). They take confidence from mistakes as well, viewing it as a lesson in what not to do next time.

9) They can market their product and themselves

“Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker

Your product or service might be the best thing anyone has ever seen, but if no one knows about then how will they know they need it?

Successful entrepreneurs are able to stand fully behind their business and promote it, as well as themselves. They present their passion and confidence, attracting interest in what are usually extremely crowded marketplaces.

This might not be easy to achieve. If often takes lots of work, thoroughly researching the correct audience and investors, practicing pitches and building a trusted network of colleagues and advisors. But it is more than worth it when the opportunity arises to get that key person on board who can change the direction of your business from an idea to a reality.

You might have all of these attributes already, but if not, there is no reason to worry. These are all skills that can be learnt and honed over time; ready to put in to use when your have that flash of entrepreneurial inspiration