Thursday, February 28, 2013

10 Personality Traits Every Successful Entrepreneur Has

Whether I'm out on the speaking circuit, working with startups, back in Ann Arbor teaching MBAs, or just socializing in a coffee shop, I'd say there's one question I'm hit with more than any other.

It comes in different forms, but the essence of the question is the same: "What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?”

Over the years, my answer has evolved. But I’ve found myself settling on ten traits that are shared in common by virtually every truly successful entrepreneur I’ve met, observed or studied. The true rock stars are all:

1. Passionate

You need to be driven by a clear sense of purpose and passion. Typically, that passion comes from one of two sources: the topic of the business, or the game of business-building itself.
Why do you need passion? Simply because you’re likely to be working too hard, for too long, for too little pay with no guarantee that it’ll work out… so you need to be motivated by something intrinsic and not money-related.

2. Resilient

If you’re going to build a startup, you’ll need a spirit of determination coupled with a high pain tolerance. You’ll need to be willing and able to learn from your mistakes – to get knocked down repeatedly, get up, dust yourself off, and move forward with renewed motivation.
People will constantly tell you your baby’s ugly, that your business won’t work. Now, you should listen carefully and be open to constructive criticism. But after a while, having the door slammed in your face repeatedly can be withering, and the best entrepreneurs learn to feed off the negativity and actually gain strength from it.

3. Self-Possessed

You need a strong sense of self. You can’t be threatened by being surrounded by talented, driven people. To truly succeed, you’ll need the self-confidence to surround yourself with people “who don’t look like you”… that is, people with skills, background and domain knowledge that complement your own. And check your ego at the door: you shouldn’t be too proud to make coffee for the team, empty the waste baskets, or do the bank runs.

4. Decisive

You’ll need to develop a comfort-level with uncertainly and ambiguity. Entrepreneurs gather as much information as they can in a short period of time, and then MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!! The attitude is that it’s not going to be perfect… We only have 9% or so of the data from which to base our decision… but if we wait to have all the information, we’ll never get moving… and be mired in indecision. (Big organizations are really good at this – the mired thing – saying, We don’t have enough information, so let’s continue to study… form a committee or a task force)

5. Fearless

On the sliding scale from “risk-averse” to “risk-seeking,” it shouldn't surprise anyone that entrepreneurs tend to be closer to the latter. But you don’t need to be a nut-case, the sort who bungee-jumps without a helmet. Smart entrepreneurs develop an intuitive ability to sniff out and mitigate startup business risk. But you know you’re going to fall down, and feel comfortable with that fact and that you’re going to learn from your failures and adjust as you go.

6. Financially Prepared