The business of success: ten top traits every entrepreneur should have

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I’ve been in business for many, many years and set up many companies. Some have been successful, some less so – but one thing that has stayed constant is my love of business. I am always looking for the next opportunity and I love the energy and challenge of bringing new products to market. I have a strong entrepreneurial character, and through the years I have done much thinking on what actually makes an entrepreneur – is it an innate talent, is it learned through experience, can it be taught? I am still unsure, but I do know there are certain traits a person needs to be successful in business. Here are the ten traits I think are essential for an entrepreneur to have….

  1. Willingness to embrace risk. You can’t be an entrepreneur if you’re not prepared to take risks. You have to accept that risk is part of the process and importantly you have to be prepared to lose everything.
  2. Self belief. You need a very strong stomach to be an entrepreneur, to deal with the pain of the unknown. Often you’re looking into the future of your business and not know whether you’re looking into an abyss or at success.
  3. Energy. Working very hard makes you lucky. And to work harder than everyone else takes a lot of energy.
  4. Vision. Without vision you cannot be an entrepreneur. To succeed you have to be constantly trying to create, improve, extend or disrupt. Vision takes you forward.
  5. Obsession. Most of the entrepreneurs I know have this quality, plus a certain paranoia. You need it because the guy you’re competing with in the market is definitely paranoid. And if you are in search of excellence it’s not enough to be good, you have to be the best and to do that in such a competitive world you’ve got to be single-minded.
  6. Hunger/passion. This also equates to a need for success. It can also be a need for money, but they are definitely different things. Someone with money might still have a hunger for recognition and a need to feel successful in that way. Money as a motivator is not the big driver for most entrepreneurs. I think they want to express their creative juices and have a powerful need to build in the world. Plus, I think feeding the ego is right up there somewhere. Which is a good thing, as you don’t have enough self belief (2) then you won’t carry through with your vision when it goes through hard times – as it will. For this you will also need….
  7. Inner strength. When things are going against you, as they will a lot of the time when you’re trying to get traction, you have to be able to keep going. You need tenacity to see your business through; to accept what didn’t work, to be able ask whether it was something you were doing wrong. Knowing when to stop is probably a skill. But a real entrepreneur will not stop. They are always committed and always working on the next idea.
  8. Leadership. You need to know your business from top-to-bottom and be able to do most people’s jobs in it (apart from specialist roles). You should be able to lead any department and importantly you cannot be afraid to show the way and tell people what to do when you need to.
  9. Empathy. To appreciate the market and all the different elements that need to be joined together to effect success you have to have empathy and personal skills. You have to be able to cajole and inspire people with your enthusiasm – you’re a salesman for your product. Empathy allows you to connect with people, your customers. Which is vital, because ultimately business is human – someone is always using it, benefiting from it. It’s what every person does all around you, everyday.
  10. Optimism. If you’re taking a risk you have to accept you could lose. But ultimately you also have to be optimistic to be an entrepreneur. Otherwise you would be a madman to do what you do!

How many of the above have you got? I’d love to hear your thoughts and also whether you’d add any others to the list….say hello in the comments, tweet me at @NormanPeires or find me on Facebook.