Big ideas, hard work, luck and good market timing. All these are successful ingredients of a successful business. However, only a successful businessman can put all these together to materialise the dream. Here are five main traits that entrepreneurs and experts believe are the key strengths of a great entrepreneur.
Successful entrepreneurs demonstrate flexibility in any number of ways. A willingness to collaborate, for example, shows an ability to accept the ideas of other team members. Pivoting is another way to exhibit flexibility. Forbes describes no less than nine types of pivots, and lists them all as key to entrepreneurial success.
Cheesemaker and animal sanctuary owner Sheila Flanagan can attest to the need for flexibility. The award-winning artisan cheeses she crafts at Nettle Meadow Farm in Thurman, New York, have been featured in Esquire, New York Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. The actual making of cheese, however, is just one aspect of Flanagan’s business. There are animals to care for, buildings to maintain, customers to court and orders to fulfill. Whether it’s something as big as a pandemic or as small as an out-of-commission label printer, Flanagan thrives on dealing with the unexpected and considers flexibility critical to her company’s long-term survival. “As your company grows,” Flanagan says, “you are guaranteed to need to dig deep into your flexibility store.”
By any other name—curiosity, ingenuity, imagination or vision—creativity is key to the success of an entrepreneur. Just ask Simon Sinek, who believes that, ultimately, entrepreneurs are problem solvers.
Stanford University’s Tina Seelig agrees and advocates teaching business students creative problem-solving. Imagination, she posits, is the ability to envision things that don’t exist while creativity is about the ability to apply that imagination to address a challenge. Entrepreneurship, Seelig says, is about applying innovation at a scale that inspires the imaginations of others—problem-solving writ large.
Digital media consultant John Boitnott, a member of Entrepreneur’s Leadership Network, has creativity at the very top of his entrepreneurial attributes list. He believes the more you use your creativity—specifically to make useful connections—the more creative and productive you will become.
Both Monster and Indeed top their lists of entrepreneurial personality traits with self-motivation, and it’s hard to argue with that placement. The ability to jump into the fray and remain there day after day without prodding from another person is what we think of when we picture an entrepreneurial spirit.
While Scott Galloway, author, professor and entrepreneur behind L2 Inc. and Red Envelope, agrees self-motivation is requirement one, he phrases it a little differently. “Can you sign the front and not the back of checks?” Galloway asks. Reminding would-be entrepreneurs that not only will they need their own motor, at least in the short-term, it will have to be something besides money that keeps it running.
Whether you call it persistence, determination or doggedness, successful entrepreneurs push forward in spite of obstacles and setbacks. To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, nothing is worth doing unless it comes with difficulties.
Kathy Miller would certainly agree. She launched her gift business, Love is on Lake George, nearly ten years ago—a lifetime in the small business arena. Miller ships the Adirondack-themed gifts she designs to customers all across the country and attributes her long-term success to hard work and tenacity. “We strive never to lose sight of our goals, both short- and long-term,” Miller says, despite the obstacles that come up daily.
What necessity is to the inventor, passion must be to the entrepreneur, and it should be on every list of entrepreneurial attributes. If you’re not passionate about your idea, how can you envision it solving a problem, or sell it to an investor? How can you pivot on a dime without losing your focus? Without passion, how could you motivate yourself over the long haul?
According to a psychological study of entrepreneurship within organizations, passion isn’t simply another personality trait. It’s the fuel that powers all of the others. The same is true for individuals. Passion fuels the creativity, the tenacity, the salesmanship. Show me a successful entrepreneur and I’ll show you a person with a passion for business.five