Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

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It is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to understand what exactly it means to be one.  Being an entrepreneur is more of a lifestyle than a career. No one stops being an entrepreneur at 5 PM when the work bell rings.  After all, as an entrepreneur you will likely set your own work schedule. This makes it even more important for young entrepreneurs to know what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.  Almost anyone can start their own business, so it is important to consider what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the rest.

There are two sides to a successful manager: business acumen and leadership.  Good managers are knowledgeable and proficient at their specialty, but they also must be good leaders.  Often, leadership is the more difficult part of a manager’s job. Machines, computers, and products are known quantities with relatively few variables.  People, however, are uniquely complex and exceptionally diverse. No two people are exactly the same, and a manager is likely to encounter vastly different types of people on a daily basis.  Being able to confidently and competently manage such a wide variety of people is no easy task, but it is essential to the success of any business. 


Leadership is perhaps the most important skill that a manager should possess. Effective leadership allows a manager to guide or direct peers and subordinates in an effort to achieve a goal.  In order to manage, one must be able to lead those working beneath and alongside him. Quality leadership motivates and encourages employees to both perform their best and to improve. Leadership is a skill that is developed over time, though it can come more naturally to some than others.


Entrepreneurs must be hard workers.  While having a strong work ethic does not come easy to everyone, it is a skill that can be developed like any other- one day at a time.  “Carpe Diem” is a great motto for entrepreneurs to have, as it means “seize the day.” No one will ever love your business in the same way that you do, and so it is up to you to ensure that your business meets its potential.  Only you can fully realize your vision for the business, and it will take remarkable effort on your part. There will be long days and long nights that must be worked, and if you cannot bring yourself to put in that time, then it is unlikely that your business will thrive.  Staying motivated will not always be easy. However, if you can power through the difficult times by working hard, then success is likely to follow.


This next quality of successful entrepreneurs is something that makes life easier for everyone, not just entrepreneurs, organization.  As an entrepreneur, an entire business is dependent on your organization skills. Businesses are complicated legal entities that require constant upkeep and management.  Without proper organization in both your personal and professional life, it is nearly impossible to keep up with the demands of being an entrepreneur. Staying organized means keeping yourself and your business in order, and actively working to eliminate those things that have the potential to disrupt your business. 


Unless you have a very generous angel investor, cash flow is likely to be limited at the beginning.  Bootstrapping is paramount for a new business to survive. Bootstrapping is the process of starting and running a business with as little outside investment as possible.  This means running the business off of your own money and the income of the business. It is a must be able to determine what is absolutely necessary to run the business and what things are simply luxuries.  A new desk and chair might be nice to have. However, if you already have these things, then you are wasting your money purchasing new ones. That money could be better spent purchasing truly necessary equipment or even paying your bills.  Cash flow is absolutely vital to new businesses, and any waste is damaging. For this reason it is also very important for entrepreneurs to be responsible financial managers.


An inevitable truth about successful entrepreneurs is that they make mistakes.  After all, everyone makes mistakes. It is how you respond to those mistakes that determines the result.  Mistakes are opportunities to learn and to become better at what you do. The ability to own up to a mistake, fix the problem, and avoid making the same mistake in the future is a defining trait of successful entrepreneurs.  Adversity is not an enemy, rather it is a test that every entrepreneur must pass from time to time.  


However, entrepreneurs do not learn solely through facing adversity.  In fact, the ability and willingness to learn is another defining trait of all entrepreneurs.  Life is a process of continuous learning, and that learning will only serve to make you a more successful entrepreneur and a better person.  By constantly seeking knowledge you can add to your business’s value and potential.


Entrepreneurs are natural problem solvers.  In fact, when an entrepreneur wants to start a new business the first step is to find a problem and innovate or invent a solution to it.  Beyond the initial problem, however, there will be countless others that occur throughout the life of a business. Being a good problem solver does not necessarily mean always having the solution.  More often, it means that you know how to find the right solution. Entrepreneurs must know how to use the resources that are available to find and implement solutions to any problem that arises. That could mean consulting with a mentor, doing research, or testing.  While there are some problems that simply cannot be solved, most problems can be managed or worked around if you are dedicated enough and know how to make use of your resources.


Successful entrepreneurs are also typically excellent communicators.  This does not necessarily mean that you have to be a social butterfly to be an entrepreneur, but it does mean that you have to be able to communicate effectively through a variety of means.  Entrepreneurs must communicate their ideas, plans, and orders to all kinds of unique people. Entrepreneurs will have to work with investors, employees, and customers on a daily basis, so they must know how to communicate with each of these groups.  Part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. After all, communication is a two-way street. A good listener keeps an open mind, hears what they are being told, and actively participates in the conversation. The people that entrepreneurs surround themselves with are valuable resources that are wasted if the entrepreneur never consults with them.  Being an effective communicator will help not only entrepreneurs and their businesses, but also the people they surround themselves with, whether they are employees, peers, mentors, or otherwise. 


Starting a business is a serious undertaking which involves taking many risks.  Not only does an entrepreneur risk the business failing, but they also risk their financial standing, their own confidence, and sometimes even their relationships.  Even so, it is vital that you be willing to take risks, even though it may take you out of your comfort zone. There are very few things about running a business that can be considered “easy.”  The difficult things, the risks that entrepreneurs take, have the biggest impact on a business. Taking risks is a difficult thing to do, but the rewards for taking risks are typically higher than for making the “safe” or “easy” decision.  That said, it is important to know the right risks to take. Some risks are simply not worth the reward. Being able to recognize the right risks to take is a vital skill for successful entrepreneurs.


Distractions are dangerous for entrepreneurs, as they can pull your focus from what is truly important.  Eliminating distractions can be challenging in a couple of ways. First, it can be tough to know what elements of your personal or professional life are truly important.  A good place to start is by asking if an activity or duty truly contributes to your goals, or if it takes away from your ability to reach your goals. Those things that do not help you to reach your goals are likely expendable.  The second way that eliminating distractions is a challenge for entrepreneurs is that it can be easy to go overboard. Sometimes entrepreneurs can become so focused on their work that they ignore their life outside of it, which leads into our final point.


Even the best entrepreneurs can struggle to balance their personal and professional lives.  Overworking oneself can lead to a resentment of the business, “crashing,” and even illness. So it is very important not to get too caught up in your work and to set aside time away from the business to be social and active.  In finding a way to balance your life as an entrepreneur, differentiating between a want and a need is an important skill that will benefit you both personally and professionally. To be a healthy, and well-rounded, entrepreneur it is essential to be able to separate yourself from your business and lead a balanced life.  


So what is it that sets entrepreneurs apart from the rest of the working world?  As you can now see, it is quite a few things. However, it ultimately comes down to what type of person you are.  Entrepreneurs are typically intelligent, dedicated people who strive to create solutions to the problems they see in the world.  Being an entrepreneur is more than a title. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, and that lifestyle is not for everyone. That is not to scare you away from entrepreneurship, but to ensure that you know what you are getting yourself into should you choose to pursue starting your own business.  There are few things more rewarding than seeing one of your ideas actualized into a fully-functional and profitable business.

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