Nearly everyone dreams of being an entrepreneur.
You can set your own hours, do the work that you love, and directly reap the profits of your labor.
But, being an entrepreneur isn’t all perks.
It’s hard work.
Many startup myths hold entrepreneurs back.
And, it’s risky, as statistics show: 20% of new companies fail in their first year, while only 50% survive through their fifth year.
So, why do some startups fail while others survive?
While leadership can’t account for everything, it does account for a lot.
The choices you make as a leader steer the overall direction of your business. You set the goals, the company culture, and the business practices that guide your business forward.
As an entrepreneur, you have a tremendous impact on how well your business venture fares.
And, possessing a certain set of entrepreneurial traits, tips the odds in your favor.
If you’re considering starting your own business, you owe it to yourself – and your future employees – to ask yourself if you’re cut out to be an entrepreneur.
Do you have these seven essential entrepreneurial traits?
• Let’s look at each of these seven traits in detail.
Trait #1: Visionary
It’s hard to pursue a dream if you don’t have a clear vision of that dream.
An entrepreneur must have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish.
Being a visionary is perhaps the single most important entrepreneurial trait.
Without the ability to envision an outcome or goal, there is no business.
Small Business BC, a support organization for the small businesses of British Columbia, points out:
Successful entrepreneurs can visualize how they want their future to unfold. They hold a clear picture of what direction they want their company to take and possess a plan to guide it from conception to realization….
A vital step in determining whether you are suitable to an entrepreneurial lifestyle is your ability to clearly communicate the dreams and aspirations you have for your company.
Your vision serves as a guiding star to help you navigate all of your business decisions. And, there are many decisions to be made.
So, ask yourself, “What is my vision?”
Define your ultimate goal. And, plan out the steps necessary to carry you to that goal.
Trait #2: Passionate
Passion provides the motivation you will need to make it through the tough, lean days.
Entrepreneurs are often responsible for… well, everything in the early days.
If it’s your business, the buck stops with you.
So, when the billing needs to be done – you do the billing. And, when it’s time to market your business – you do that, too. Need to find vendors? That’s your job.
If you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing, you will burn out quickly.
Sujan Patel, entrepreneur, marketer, and co-founder of Web Profits reflects:
Building a business takes a lot of time and effort. It means putting in longer hours and doing extra work. If you don’t love what you do, you’re not going to want to do what it takes to achieve success.
So, ask yourself if you are passionate about your business idea.
And, I don’t mean one-night-stand passionate. I mean, put-a-ring-on-it-and-spend-the-rest-of-your-life-with-it passionate.
If you’re not ready to make that commitment, consider another business idea.
Or, consider working for somebody else.
Trait #3: Realistic
Good decisions are nearly always grounded in reality.
Without a clear view of the landscape (and appropriately informed actions), businesses fail.
As we pointed out previously:
Faulty facts, incorrect assumptions or simple lack of information all open up the possibility that you will make choices that are counter to the objective reality and, as such, may harm your business.
Whether we like it or not, an objective reality exists. And your business is going to be a part of it. You can’t afford to ignore the financial, political or social landscape that surrounds your business.
So, take a good hard look at what’s really going on around you and how that might impact your new business idea.
What do your customers want?
What do your employees need to get the job done?
Can you deliver these things in a cost-effective manner?
Is there a market for your product or service?
Can you afford to fund your venture?
These questions – and so many more – need to be both posed and answered if you’re going to succeed.
These questions are relevant not just when you begin your business, but can make a difference when you look to scale and add new products or services.
Let me illustrate with an example.
Crowdspring was founded ten years ago and initially focused on graphic design services, including logo design, web design, and print design. Over time, we’ve added many other categories of services, largely driven by looking closely at the needs of our customers.
When we learned that many of our customers were struggling to name their businesses, we studied how we could help them, the tools our team would need for us to offer business naming services, and how we could deliver those services at a fraction of the price people were paying.
Even though we were already successful in offering graphic design services for many years, we still had to run tests to assess whether there was a market for new services, including naming. We’ve done this many times since as we’ve launched affordable and unique services to help businesses with packaging design (the design of the packaging for products), package graphics (the design of the graphics on product packaging), and even product design (the industrial design of physical products).
Get real about your business, ask the right questions, and you’ll see your business become a reality.
Trait #4: Problem-Solver
If an obstacle makes you want to pack up your toys and go home, you have no business becoming an entrepreneur.
Starting your own business will present you with constant challenges.
If you’re a natural problem-solver, you have a clear advantage.
Job search hub CareerBuilder points out in “What are problem-solving skills and why are they important?“:
Problem-solving skills are important in every industry. There’s no business that’s immune to the regular onslaught of problems. Business managers and office managers may find that nearly every aspect of their daily routine centers around some type of problem-solving.
And the further up the ladder you go, the more time you spend solving problems. Employees always look to their leadership for guidance and answers.
Creative problem-solving is a crucial leadership skill in and out of business. Dr. Paul Schempp, author, and professional speaker explains:
Leaders, it seems, play a crucial role in the creative problem-solving process. The leadership skills they possess can significantly affect the quality of the innovative outcome. Consequently, as organizations increasingly depend on new products and processes to fuel their future, creative problem-solving stands as a critical leadership skill.
People who turn out to be unsuccessful in entrepreneurship tend to push problems to another day. But procrastination is the enemy of entrepreneurs.
Being in charge often means that people assume you have all the answers. And, while that may sound flattering, it’s also a big responsibility.
Are you up to the challenge?
Trait #5: Flexibility
If your only plan falls through and you give up, your business has already failed.
Flexibility allows an entrepreneur to adjust their course and try new solutions when one plan fails.
Adjusting course is the essence of what it means to do business. Nothing is perfect on the first try. If success was easy, everyone would be a successful entrepreneur.
The reality is that no matter how well you prepare, or how great your idea is, there’s always room for improvement.
Flexibility allows you the space to make those improvements.
Author and marketing expert Jim Joseph advocates strongly for flexibility:
Gone are the days where we can create business and marketing plans a year ahead of time and expect them to be etched in stone. Sure, planning is a necessity, particularly for long-term vision, positioning and innovation, but just as important is short-term activity.
Joseph explains that new data, shifts in consumer audience, and evolving business models all drive the need to be as flexible as possible:
It’s more important to be flexible now than it ever has been. It’s a way of making the right decisions on a daily basis to keep your business prosperous as you gather new information, attract new customers and refresh your business model for continued success.
So, ask yourself: How do you respond to unexpected change?
If you can roll with the punches and land on your feet, you just may have a future as a successful entrepreneur.
Trait #6: Bravery
Starting your own business is risky. It’s baked right into the entrepreneurship experience.
Entrepreneurs often use their own money as start-up funds. Their own future rests on the success of their business. And, the financial well-being and job security of their employees do as well.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be brave enough to accept these risks and proceed anyway.
Web Profits’ Patel points out:
Risk taking is par for the course when you’re starting a new business. But taking risks shouldn’t scare you. It’s necessary to achieve your goals, and successful entrepreneurs understand this.
But remember that brave doesn’t mean reckless. You also have to make smart choices about which risks to take.
Former entrepreneur and freelance writer Larry Alton shares:
…most successful people will tell you they got to where they are because they were willing to take risks no one else was — whether that was developing a product nobody else thought would work or investing a sum of money everyone else thought was crazy.
It’s up to you to decide which risks will gain your business the biggest pay-offs. But once you’ve found a gamble worth taking, you’ve got to be brave and commit to it.
Can you take that plunge?
Trait #7: Self-Discipline
I wish I could tell you that every day as your own boss is a magical, perfect day.
But, I can’t.
Because it’s not true.
You will encounter hardships.
You will deal with cranky customers, vendors, or clients.
You’ll even run into some good old-fashioned boredom, dealing with repetitive tasks that you don’t enjoy doing.
Being an entrepreneur doesn’t absolve you from having to deal with the negative aspects of work.
In fact, it virtually guarantees that you’ll see even more of those things.
Because, until you build a team you can rely on, every issue and responsibility will come back to you.
This is why self-discipline is vital to your success as an entrepreneur.
We explained in a prior article:
Self-discipline has the power to transform your life for the better. Imagine how much you would accomplish if you completed every task you set out to do; or if you established healthy, productive habits and actually followed through. Self-discipline very well may be the key to unlocking your untapped potential.
Without self-discipline to carry you through, you won’t actually do the things that need to be done to make your business run.
In fact, self-discipline and the ability to say no to things is key to being able to focus on what’s most important in your business. As we wrote previously:
While it might seem counterproductive for an entrepreneur to say no to people or opportunities, it’s actually one of the most important characteristics of being a successful entrepreneur.
The things you say no to are often the catalysts that give you the time and focus to succeed.
The more entrepreneurs say yes, the less time they have to dedicate to what is actually important.
Pretty soon, you can find yourself so busy that business strategy and a balanced work-life schedule fall to the side.
When strategy and work/life balance deteriorate, so does your business.
Be prepared for long hours, difficult conversations and tedium along with the pride, satisfaction, and profits.
It’s time to self-reflect. Do you have the willpower to keep moving forward even when you just don’t feel like it?
If not, check out How Self-Discipline Can Unlock Your Business Success to strengthen your self-discipline skills.
Have You Got What it Takes?
Starting a business, while incredibly rewarding, is also very hard work.
And, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of starting your own business, start by taking a look at one of the most important factors in your business’s success – you.
Answer these seven questions honestly and you’ll have a pretty good idea if you’re destined to be a successful entrepreneur:
Do you have a specific vision for your new business?
Are you passionate enough about your business idea to dedicate your life’s work to it?
Can you see the world as it is and make decisions based on reality?
Are you a creative problem-solver?
Can you change course mid-plan and adapt quickly when a situation changes?
Are you brave enough to take the necessary risks?
Do you have the will-power to do what needs to get done? Even when you’re not in the mood?
Katie Lundin is on the customer support team at crowdspring, one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services. She helps entrepreneurs, small businesses and agencies with branding, design, and naming, and regularly writes about entrepreneurship, small business and design on crowdspring’s award-winning small business blog.