What does it really take to be a successful entrepreneur? We are likely to see more young successful entrepreneurs launch start-ups in the upcoming years, according to various independent studies. For example, a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that more than 7% of its 2013 Wharton b-school graduates started their own companies right after leaving school – five times as many as in 2007!
Not long ago, Eric Worre put together a documentary titled “The Rise of the Entrepreneur”; although his target audience are Network Marketers, you will see from the trailer below that a shift in the economy does make it more conducive for entrepreneurs.
Since the world needs more successful entrepreneurs, in this post, I want to highlight ‘8 Qualities’ that every successful entrepreneur should constantly be striving for in their personal development. In his book, “The Entrepreneur’s Solution”, Mel Abraham does an excellent job breaking down some of these essential unique characteristics of effective and successful entrepreneurs. I have also added my own perspective, giving a brief description of each one.
Successful entrepreneurs are clear on where they want to go and put a lot of work around ‘how’ they are going to get there. In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of putting a vision and mission statement together. Although when you read stories of some successful entrepreneurs, they might share that they didn’t really see how the business was going to evolve, however, what you will consistently find is that this person had clarity about making a difference or having some sort of impact. Verne Harnish from Gazelle teaches his entrepreneurs that they must first have clarity in their personal life before thinking about having clarity on their business.
Being an entrepreneur is such a challenge and some stats reveal that 90% of businesses fail while others say around 50% over the first four to five years fail. As a result, clarity starts with asking some very important questions – Who are you? What is your identity? What unique gifts do you bring to the world? Not having answers to these questions can cause you to doubt your vision as entrepreneurship in many situations means making decisions that are more risky than the average person would.
Another area that needs much clarity on are your values and what you stand for. What most often happens is that a business will naturally take on the values of its leader(s). If you haven’t got clarity on what these are, then as you expand your business, you are most likely going to drift.
You naturally want to do business with people of good character. Being a person of integrity, sincerity and reliability is an essential part which enables the entrepreneur to build trust and high value relationships with others. Being an entrepreneur demands that you possess character qualities such as courage, integrity, self-discipline, empathy and humility, amongst others.
This is what builds trust among staff, customers, business associates and clients. A quality like courage is essential when it comes to making certain decisions about the business or standing for your core values. Many entrepreneurs share stories of how they had to make courageous decisions to persevere despite things not working the way they had anticipated. The co-founder of Air bnb demonstrates this perseverance quality in this interview below: (forward interview to 2:20 mins).
Humility is also another aspect that is not immediately thought about. This was one of the surprises that Jim Collins and his research team found and couldn’t ignore. They found that all the great companies had what they ended up calling level 5 leaders. The key character quality of these leaders was humility. The reason why this was essential was because these leaders were secure in who they were and were therefore willing to give praise to other leaders, have other leaders take on responsibilities, take credit when they were successful, and they didn’t feel like they had to do and know everything.
John Maxwell, in his book, “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect” highlights the importance of this skill. The main point is distinguishing communication from connection. The aim of communication should be to connect, but sometimes you might forget and think “well, I sent the email out to the staff, why didn’t anybody respond”! Having the ability to connect with others is a skill that can be learned and when it is seen, you know the impact it has. Steve Jobs was a master at not only having the ability to present great products but to make a connection beyond the product. If you take time to watch the video clip below, you will find that Apple were not just selling a product, they connected it to something greater. This is the skill that successful entrepreneurs have.
Entrepreneurs in today’s social media age are realizing that your ability to create a loyal following will significantly help you grow your business. Gary Vaynerchuk shares that today, people want to deal with a person, not just a brand. What helps Gary create a very loyal following is his ability to either call or directly tweet a person following him unexpectedly. Some business leaders see it as a high priority to talk to various staff members as they walk through the office. We live in a connected world. Reid Hoffman in his book “The Start Up of You”, shares about the importance of your network connection and that your strongest area of potential connection are your 3rd degree friends.
If you’ve ever subscribed to a few well known internet marketers, you will eventually find how much collaboration is done on the internet. You are most likely going to get a bunch of emails saying …..”My friend is launching a new product and I want you to check it out”. What is happening here? It’s obviously a lot of collaboration, entrepreneurs that collaborate with others are far more likely to be successful because they leverage the strengths, network and ideas from other fellow entrepreneurs.
Jeff Bezos’ biggest breakthrough occurred when he decided to collaborate with popular retail companies such as Toys R Us, Target etc. This transformed the company into a billion dollar company.
Capitalizing on a trend, wave or season is having the ability to see opportunities before many others. The ability to see the next big thing or even just the big thing for your local market or industry is a quality that entrepreneurs exhibit in a unique way. They have foresight and can capitalize on this ability.
Entrepreneurs who are effective understand that their success is part of a bigger picture. Eventually, our legacy goal should be to leave this world in a better shape than we found it. Giving back becomes the end goal of successful entrepreneurs even though some didn’t initially have that on their agenda. Many entrepreneurs of old, as I wrote about in my E-book “7 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Can Help Change the World”, understood that having the privilege of wealth and influence must be used to benefit other people and causes. Today, we are seeing a huge number of entrepreneurs building their business models around contributing e.g. The Honest Company owned by Jessica Alba give and contribute extensively to charities and TOM gives a shoe to an under privileged kid for every shoe you purchase and Sthree regularly gives towards SOS.
Many entrepreneurs are sincerely doing this and have a passion to want to contribute to a greater cause. The irony is that this kind of attitude attracts even more loyal staff, clients and customers as people want to be associated with a company that is making a difference in the world.
Our ability to create is what fundamentally makes us the most unique species on the planet. Although all of us have the ability to create, it is usually entrepreneurs that have the ability and capacity to turn that opportunity into a venture. Creativity is what helps an entrepreneur see solutions to problems that others ignore. Airbnb’s story is that of relentless creativity. The founders saw an opportunity of being able to build a business model trusting that many people around the world find it a joy to be hospitable. Although at times having lots of ideas can be an entrepreneur’s problem (simply because you can’t implement all your ideas), creativity is definitely a key ingredient.
Entrepreneurs are highly creative species and have multiple ideas bouncing at them almost every day. What sets the most successful ones apart is their ability to focus and commit to seeing their ideas through. In an interview with Singer Will.I.Am’s mother, when asked what some of his strengths are, she said that one thing he does well is that he sees a project through to the end before starting another one. This is usually very difficult for many entrepreneurs, a phrase that Mel Abraham calls “Creative Saboteur” in his book “The Entrepreneur’s Solution”. If you find yourself struggling with this, he recommends putting more effort into committing and maybe putting yourself in situations where you can be held accountable.
So, these are the 8 essential qualities that we will find in almost all successful entrepreneurs. Do you have any more to add?