As a kid, having a lemonade stand set up on the side of the road wasn’t just for fun. It was a business, and you worked hard to earn those quarters. Years later, you still have that entrepreneurial streak and are maybe thinking of setting out on an all-new business venture of your own.
While the allure of being your own boss is strong, starting your own business can be pretty intimidating. There’s a ton of information that needs to be taken into consideration. You’ve heard plenty of stories of start-ups and small businesses that have either succeeded or failed—but it’s not always clear what caused their success (or lack thereof). There have been plenty of business ideas backed with resources and plans that just never seemed to work out—and some of that failure to take off rests on the traits and the personalities of the people in charge.
Before jumping head-first into a new venture, consider your strengths and ask yourself how they compare to the traits of successful entrepreneurs. We talked to entrepreneurship experts to find out what traits successful entrepreneurs have.
10 Traits of successful entrepreneurs
Without ambition, entrepreneurs would never pursue their dreams. Not only that, but also that the world’s too competitive for entrepreneurs to settle for “good enough”— as that can quickly slide into failure. Ambition keeps entrepreneurs pushing for ways to improve, and it is an essential trait for anyone aspiring to own their own business.
“Skills can be learned and experience can be acquired, but there’s no replacement for ambition,” Jimmy Chan, photographer of Pixelicious, says. “Students need to understand that they will only reach as far as their ambition will allow.”
2. Clarity of purpose
Before embarking on your entrepreneurship journey, think about your goals and purpose. You will need to know your purpose and goals before diving into a new business. “You need a clear vision about what you want and why you want it. Answer those, and you will be able to realize pretty much anything,” says Kevin Huhn, business growth strategist and consultant.
Entrepreneurs need to have the courage to take risks and put themselves out there. Many entrepreneurs quit their old jobs to pursue their dream, which is a big leap of faith. Can you stomach risk? While you certainly have some control over how your business will fare, sometimes success or failure really can come down to luck—and that’s something you’ll need to be comfortable with.
Entrepreneurs who are hoping to start and run a business will be responsible for managing employees and running client relations. “You need to have the ability to relate to your employees, customers and partners and be able to put yourself in the soul of other people. Without empathy, it’s very hard to rally your troops around your vision or sell your product or service,” says Gene Caballero, co-founder of GreenPal.
As an aspiring business owner, you need to have integrity in order for investors and clients to trust you and feel comfortable working with you. Your employees and investors—especially as you’re just getting started—are also taking a risk when signing on to work with you. It’s incredibly important to “walk the walk” and hold yourself to a high standard of accountability. As the saying goes, “Breaking trust is easy, but building trust is not”—your integrity goes a long way in maintaining a healthy, trustworthy business relationship for all parties involved.
Entrepreneurs need passion to fuel their ideas. Getting established is likely going to take long hours and a ton of hard work. That level of work is not sustainable if you’re not all-in on your business concept.
“Starting a small business means you have to be passionate,” says Sean Hopwood, CEO and founder of Day Translations Inc. “Small businesses are hard work, and your passion is what keeps you going every day. So build a business around something you really care about.”
This trait is essential in entrepreneurs, as businesses and ideas take time to come to fruition. You may not succeed as quickly as you think, but don’t let that discourage you. Have patience and persistence in your quest to make your dream a reality. Sooner or later your hard work will pay off, even if you have to wait out some rough patches first.
Being an entrepreneur means you’re going to make a lot of decisions. Big, intimidating, “We-might-fail-if-I-choose-wrong” decisions. While it’s certainly important to research information and weigh options carefully, there’s also the potential for “paralysis by analysis,” resulting in missed opportunities—sometimes businesses succeed by being the first to do it, not necessarily by being the best at it. Whatever your choice is when making a decision, you’ll need to be firm and confident.
There’s no doubt that you will face challenges and obstacles on your way to becoming a successful business owner. You might even need to completely change course with a new business opportunity—entrepreneurship can take multiple tries before things click.
“It's unlikely you'll achieve your goals the first time around, or in the time frame you think it can be done. But that's part of the challenge. If you want it bad enough, you'll get knocked down and keep getting back up, ready to try again,” says Jase Rodley, principal at Otium Boutique.
“Having your own business is a ton of responsibility—you are steering the ship yourself, directing everything that happens,” Alexandria Broytman, founder of EvaDane says. Entrepreneurs need to be responsible in staying on top of what needs to be done. Starting your own business is a big undertaking, but if you know how to prioritize and work hard, you will have a leg up.
Do you have what it takes?
Now you know some of the traits successful entrepreneurs share. If you find yourself shaking your head, then don’t worry! These skills are only part of what makes a successful entrepreneur. This list is not exhaustive and some of these traits can be learned over time.
Whether you decide to start out on your own right away or first build some business experience, an education plus these entrepreneurial traits is a key to success. If you’d like to develop a well-rounded set of business skills for entrepreneurship, a degree in Business Management specializing in Entrepreneurship is an excellent option.