While a great idea and some capital may be essential for a successful business, the most critical ingredient for a successful venture remains the entrepreneur. This is why many successful venture capitalists give more importance to the people behind the company than the product or idea. After all, the entrepreneur is the one who turns a concept into a living, breathing enterprise. Not surprisingly, successful entrepreneurs share many traits in common. Our TAB members work closely with many business owners, and we asked them to identify the most critical qualities a successful entrepreneur must possess.
Great entrepreneurs are customer-focused and flexible. The product or service features you believe to be essential don't matter. What the customer believes and wants is what matters. Do everything to understand your customers and their needs. Then, do everything to be flexible enough to meet those needs. In the end, your product or service may be barely recognizable from where it started. However, while it's flying off the shelves and your customers are happy, you can reflect on how the first model or prototype of your product got you to the present situation.
Intuition is our ability to understand something immediately without the need to know how or why. Those questions get answered once you explore where your intuition is leading you. Intuition is essential for an entrepreneur because:
- Your intuition knows every aspect of you better than anyone and anything, even better than your rational mind.
- Everyone has intuition; it just comes down to giving it the time to lead you to the answers you need.
- Intuition is multi-perspective versus your comfort zone, which is single-perspective.
- Intuition isn't fearful, scared, or controlled by society. It lacks emotions that will hold you back and give you answers in pure form. It knows the next best step.
- Leveraging your intuition keeps you within integrity.
- The more you listen to and trust your intuition, your confidence goes up, and the speed and ability to make decisions improves.
- When leveraged as a superpower, intuition will be your unique and personal competitive advantage.
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#3 The ability to separate the business from self.
Success or failure is not personal; it is an outcome of a decision for the company. That business outcome never defines the person as an entrepreneur either way.
One of the most challenging things for business owners to do is delegate. However, it is one of the top things that allows a business to scale and reach its full potential. One of the worst things that can happen in a company is when the leader becomes the bottleneck to getting business done. And yet, it is one of the most challenging things to learn and master. Here are a few tips:
- List every task you do for at least two weeks.
- Mark the tasks that only you can do (this should be a concise list).
- For all of the others, list who else could do the task.
- Create a program for yourself to delegate at least three tasks a week for the next three weeks.
- Evaluate your progress after three weeks. How many tasks have you successfully delegated?
- Check-in with the person doing the task to be sure they understand all of the ins and outs of what's essential about the task.
- Ensure you have good reporting in place to know what you need to know about the task.
- Take a step back and let them determine the how.
- Learn to let go. Address escalations if they occur. Acknowledge and reward success.
- Congratulate yourself for your accomplishment and commit to the next set of tasks to be delegated.
Delegation is one of the essential traits of an entrepreneur. Delegation involves building processes so when you delegate, you know it will get done correctly. It also consists of giving the right task to the right person and the resources and authority to act.
Why delegate? It frees up your time to focus on the most critical aspects of your business.
#5 The ability to celebrate failure.
I watched a TED talk titled "The Unexpected Benefit of Celebrating Failure" by Astro Teller, head of Google X (or what is now called X).
All entrepreneurs are okay with failure; in fact, all entrepreneurs have failed at some point. However, they don't make a big event out of the failure; instead, they learn from it.
Astro's angle was to illustrate how failure leads to success and innovation. While we do not have a budget like Google to process failure as an achievement, we can respect the concept and fail in other ways.
I like to say that failing forward is always beneficial. That is an essential trait of a successful entrepreneur.
The more subtle lesson that is woven into this paradigm is not to make an event of failure. In fact, "not making an event" is an essential trait of a successful entrepreneur. Anyone would feel pressure if you attach extreme gravity to a process, as gravity is created by giving too much importance to a task.
Winning the client and creating a long-term relationship or completing a project that has an end — is the event. If you make the tasks leading up to the finish line a series of events, it will likely collapse the project under its weight.
Two essential traits of a successful entrepreneur:
- Fail – but fail forward
- Don't make an event out of a task —it's too distracting.
#6 Optimism and innovation
An entrepreneur is an individual who applies innovative solutions to opportunities in new or existing organizations.
Therefore, their main traits are:
- The ability to see what's not there
- Optimism, and sometimes even over-optimism
- A dreamer who does things
- Create the new and replace or destroy the old
And the most important thing to remember is that entrepreneurs manage opportunities while managers manage resources. Therefore, entrepreneurs should focus on innovating and leave the management of the venture to a manager.
The life of an entrepreneur is fast-paced, intense, filled with highs and lows, and sometimes the weight of all the responsibilities and demands can feel very heavy indeed. An essential trait that every entrepreneur should possess is the ability to rebound. The grit and tenacity to fail and try again, not lose sight of your vision or belief in yourself, is critical for an entrepreneur in any industry. Keeping steady and in balance when the world is rocking and rolling requires a level of mental fitness, leading you to be resilient and propels you forward to even more notable successes.
Some owners will allow those setbacks to overwhelm them, especially when they endlessly wonder what they could have done differently. The most successful owners I've worked with are resilient. When they have a setback, they look to themselves first and question what they can do better. They have a learning mindset, where they seek to learn from their setbacks. However, rather than letting the past overwhelm them, they pick themselves up, dust themselves off and look to a brighter future.