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10 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Author: Matthew Jackson

Do you have the qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

Although there is no "one size, fits all" theory for entrepreneurship, a few guidelines may help those with a good idea become successful entrepreneurs. The following insights can help you embark on your next entrepreneurial venture with due diligence.

1. Passion & Motivation

The one word that describes the basic requirement for an entrepreneurship venture is Passion.

  • Is there something that you can work on over and over again, without getting bored?
  • Is there something that keeps you awake because you have not finished it yet?
  • Is there something that you have built and want to continue to improve upon, again and again?
  • Is there something that you enjoy the most and want to continue doing for the rest of your life?

Your demonstration of passion and motivation will determine your success in any entrepreneurial venture. From building and implementing a prototype, to pitching your idea to venture capitalists, success is a function of passion and determination. (For more, see: Turn Your Passion into a Profitable Side Business.)

2. Risk Taking

Entrepreneurs are risk takers ready to dive deep into a future of uncertainty. But not all risk takers are successful entrepreneurs. What differentiates a successful entrepreneur from the rest in terms of risk? Successful entrepreneurs are will to risk time and money on unknowns, but they also keep res, plans and bandwidth for dealing with "unknown unknowns" in reserve. When evaluating risk, a successful entrepreneur will ask herself, is this risk worth the cost of my career, time and money? And, what will I do if this venture doesn't pay off?

3. Self-belief, Hard work & Disciplined Dedication

Entrepreneurs enjoy what they do. They believe in themselves and are confident and dedicated to their project. Occasionally, they may show stubbornness in their intense focus on and faith in their idea. But the flip side is their demonstrated discipline and dedication.

4. Adaptability & Flexibility

It's good to be passionate or even stubborn about what you do. But being inflexible about client or market needs will lead to failure. Remember, an entrepreneurial venture is not simply about doing what you believe is good, but also making successful business out of it. Market needs are dynamic: changes are a recurring phenomenon. Successful entrepreneurs welcome all suggestions for optimization or customization that enhances their offering and satisfies client and market needs. A product you develop for yourself alone may qualify as a hobby, but a product for the market should satisfy market needs.

5. Understand Your Offering – And Its Market

Entrepreneurs know their product offering inside and out. They also know the marketplace and its dynamics inside and out. Remaining unaware of changing market needs, competitor moves and other external factors can bring even great products to failure (for example, Blockbuster).

6. Money Management

It takes time to get to profitability for any entrepreneurial venture. Till then, capital is limited and needs to be utilized wisely. Successful entrepreneurs realize this mandatory money management requirement and plan for present and future financial obligations (with some additional buffer). Even after securing funding or going fully operational, a successful businessman keeps a complete handle on cash flows, as it is the most important aspect of any business.

7. Planning (But not Over-planning)

Entrepreneurship is about building a business from scratch while managing limited res (including time, money and personal relationships). It is a long-term commitment, and attempting to plan as much as possible at the beginning is a noble impulse. In reality, however, planning for everything and having a ready solution for all possible risks may prevent you from even taking the first step. Successful entrepreneurs do keep some dry powder in reserve, but more importantly they maintain a mindset and temperament to capable of dealing with unforeseen possibilities.

Do a feasibility analysis; identify time and capital thresholds; take the deep dive with your limited res. If your thresholds are crossed, look for alternatives and be prepared to take the next exit.

8. Networking Abilities

How do you tap your network for solutions? Many people seek comfort in commiseration: friends, colleagues and neighbors are happy to complain with you about "the global slowdown, poor demand, or unfair competition; but that won't improve the bottom line. What do successful entrepreneurs do? They reach out to mentors with more experience and extensive networks to seek valuable advice.

Having such networking abilities, including more experienced mentors, is a key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

9. Being Prepared to Take the Exit

Not every attempt will result in success. The failure rate of entrepreneurial ventures is very high. At times, it is absolutely fine to take the practical exit route and try something new, instead of continuing to make sunk cost investments in the same venture. Many famous entrepreneurs weren't successful the first time around. But they had the serenity and foresight to know when to cut their losses.

10. Entrepreneurs Doubt Themselves – But Not Too Much

You may ask yourself, am I an entrepreneur? And the very question may put you in doubt about the answer. Even if you don't have the flair of Steve Jobs or the hair of Elon Musk, if you have the courage to ask yourself intimidating questions – Can I do this? Do I want to do this? – you have the stuff to be an entrepreneur.

Instead of worrying about fitting the image of the perfect entrepreneur, check in with your gut. Is it on board?

The Bottom Line

Personal qualities and their correct demonstration with the right stakeholders are the determining factors for success or failure as an entrepreneur. A realistic self-assessment checklist against these suggested guidelines will ensure you take the right steps in the right direction to succeed.

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