Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneur with newspaper and coffee

Are there specific characteristics successful entrepreneurs share that others do not? Definitely. An entrepreneur reveals him/herself by actions. It's takes character to succeed. The experience of starting and running a business is based on and builds character.

"That Which Does Not Kill Me Makes Me Stronger."

Every entrepreneur knows Friedrich Nietzsche's quotation from experience. Business can be hard. Running a one-person shop or a 50-employee firm builds character fast. Ninety percent of businesses fail within the first five years, largely the result of a lack of capital, knowledge or the owner lacks the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. Capital you can find. Knowledge you can gain. Character is built-in. Once you are squeezed by business situations and face the world alone, what you are inside will be revealed. Here are some qualities entrepreneurs need to succeed.

Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs Include Knowledge

You need knowledge and skills of something you do well that you can develop into a business. Most of this you've gained from past employment. Other knowledge comes by reading. Start a personal library. Use your county library's interlibrary loan system or local college or university. Go online. Research your field. The time to research is now before you make the leap. After, time will be in short supply.

Self-confidence Is a Must

This is self-confidence on steroids, beyond how you feel about you and your abilities. It's a driving force that will help you to overcome many obstacles, especially those thrown up by well-meaning but misguided friends or relatives warning you that your idea won't work, or you won't make it because you lack the necessary qualities. These doubts are largely projections from those who can't or won't make the break. There's a story about crabs tossed in a bucket. As one crab seeks to get out, the others pull it back down. These friends and relatives are your crabs. You've got to make a decision to live your life on your own terms, not theirs.

Successful Entrepreneurs Stay Positive

Control your thoughts. Use affirmations. Read books or listen to tapes. Make your car a rolling university. Those who scoff at the benefits of this technique, never try it.

Be Willing to Deal with Hard Times

Most businesses fail because they are undercapitalized or the owner lacks knowledge and experience, By the time knowledge and experience are gained, the business may be gone. Running a business means working without a net. You're in control of your moves now. There's no longer a boss to report to give you accolades (some actually do) or chewing outs for screwing up. Making mistakes is costly in business. But 90% is learning from trial and error. The key is to limit the trials and minimize mistakes.

Be prepared for a pay cut and financial uncertainty. Your benefits will be gone. Your eight-hour days will be replaced by 12-15-hour days seven days a week. Free time will be a luxury. Family time a rarity.

Successful Entrepreneurs Deal with Dragons

In the days of explorations, mapmakers labeled uncharted waters with "There be dragons here!" Dragons still exist. They're called market and competition. Either can do you in without a qualm.

Your competitors won't like you entering the market and "stealing" their business. You can survive the attacks, battle changing market conditions and advancing technology if your pockets are deep enough. Technology advances relentlessly, impacting business every day. Costs can limit you to "old" tech while your competition buys the next best Widget. Technology requires a constant investment in the new. Anyone in business who hangs onto old tech in hopes that the market will change is soon left far behind, drifting into the areas where dragons be, waiting to pounce.

Cope with Failure

The characteristics of successful entrepreneurs includes the ability to deal with failure. You'll fail at something nearly every day, but hopefully each failure won't be catastrophic. Failure is a business fact of life. Plans go awry. Things won't work. Machinery breaks. Personnel get sick. Sales fluctuate. Failure places emotional, psychological and financial pressure upon you. You've got to learn how to bend or you'll break. Acceptance of failures is the first major step. If something goes haywire, fix it, or abandon it and move on. Learn from what you did and didn't do.

Successful Entrepreneurs Delay Gratification

Financial fluctuations means that you'll have to put things you want on the back burner. Delayed gratification is a major character builder. A way to deal with this is to post goals where you can see them often. Work towards a goal. As you achieve them, replace that goal immediately with a new, bigger one. Human beings work best as strivers, constantly moving forward towards a goal. We're not built to remain stagnant.

Self Discipline

This quality will separate you from the herd. Most folks give up all too easily when faced with adversity. A job lay off, a fender dent, a raise in rent and they fall down and wet all over themselves. They don't have the drive nor discipline to realize that these are just everyday obstacles to be overcome. As a business owner, adversity happens every day, sometimes several times. Expect it. It takes mental toughness to survive and discipline will get you there. You've got to remain focused on the goal and ignore the small stuff happening around you. Keep things in perspective. When a mountain appears, go over it, dig under it, bore through it or blast it out of your way. Go the extra mile, put additional effort into everything that you do. You'll be paid back.

Be Consistent and Persistent

All goals are achieved a little bit at a time. Consistent effort will get you there. Never allow yourself to become overwhelmed by the enormity of an undertaking or goal. Goals should be made nearly impossible to achieve. It's better to aim your bow and let your arrow fly at the sun and miss, than to shoot at tree 20 feet away and watch your arrow strike the ground.

Determine those things that you must do everyday to succeed and do them. Read 15 minutes a day to gain knowledge. Get a mentor to tap into his/her experience. Keep aware of market trends, technology, politics and how it will affect your business.

Remember You're Not Alone

You'll soon have a family of employees or a network of vendors. They're part of the deal too. Without them, where would you be? Pay attention to them. Be courteous, not a bully. That's not to say don't make corrections. When someone screws up, tell em, but in a way that doesn't leave them bleeding and resentful. Learn people skills if you lack them. Review people skill books if you have.

Lead and Delegate

Know when to do either and why. Your employees and family will look to you for leadership. Give it to them. Delegate the things you don't have time to do. Your time is valuable. Don't cheapen it by insisting you sharpen your own pencils or other tasks easily handled by hourly employees. Respect your time and others will too. That includes clients, customers and members of local business social groups. Maintain your contacts but don't let your contacts dictate unreasonable demands upon your time. Focus on your business.

Be Accountable

Take full responsibility for what you do and the decisions you make. Pointing a finger at other's means you've got three pointed back at you. It's your business. You make the decisions. Do so based on facts, not fantasy or wishful thinking. Resist the impulse to shoot from the hip. Listen to others' input, than go with your gut. Use Benjamin Franklin's method of decision making using pros and cons listed in two columns on paper and go with the longest column. If you're wrong, blame yourself. If you're right, spread the congratulations to members of your team. Remember the buck starts, and stops, with you.

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Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs