The Entrepreneur Characteristics You Absolutely Need
Are you willing to fight tooth and nail for a cause?
Can you envision your future with the aim of an archer?
When you get knocked down over and over, do you keep getting back up?
Do you have what it takes to be…
… an entrepreneur?
It’s true –– business starters and owners need to have a lot of different qualities and skills under their belts in order to go far.
So, what are they?
Lots of self-proclaimed business gurus will gladly teach you (for a fee) about an entrepreneur’s necessary characteristics and how to get them.
They probably have lots of graphs, charts, and even a personality test or two. I’ll admit, I take those.
Whole books, websites, courses, articles, and even academic research have explored the topic.
But as complicated as it may seem on the surface, an entrepreneur’s core qualities are actually pretty simple.
What You Need to Have, or Get
Good news –– you don’t have to be born with the DNA of a Jobs, Winfrey, or Ben & Jerry (does anyone actually know their last names?) to become a successful entrepreneur.
In fact, if you’re reading this post and you find yourself saying, “Shoot, I’m not like that…”, I’m gonna suggest you tack a “yet” onto that statement and keep your head up. You can grow these qualities within yourself.
But first, you must decide: are you up for the challenge?
1) Love, Not Passion
Let me tell you a secret: I hate the word passion, especially when it comes to talking about something you do for a living or are interested in.
Well, despite what Nicholas Sparks-esque romance movies tell you, passion fades. While the heat of discovery (be it person or topic) will fuel you for a few months (or even years), at some point that feeling wanes.
If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship, you know that once passion fades, things go one of two ways: Pleasantville or Lean Cuisine for One Land. In other words, you either find that you and your (perhaps ex-)partner have a deeper bond, or you actually don’t have much of anything.
Let me steer away from the feels for a minute. I know we just passed Valentine’s Day, so we’re already sick of everything pink and red and love related.
The point is, if you are an entrepreneur you have to LOVE building a business. Morning, noon, and night, that’s your baby.
How you know if you’re in love with your business (or business idea):
- You wake up thinking about it and go to sleep dreaming of it.
- When your mind wanders, that’s what you think of.
- You are wildly protective and kind of crazy about it.
- It has you canceling plans to be with it, and you have trouble keeping your hands off it.
- When you envision your future, your business is a major part.
What you can do to find such love:
This might seems like a tough one. I mean, when was the last time you told a lonely friend to just go out and start loving someone? Probably didn’t fix their relationship woes.
Lucky for you, finding entrepreneurial love can be a bit simpler.
You probably already have stuff that you love but just haven’t figured out how to turn into a business yet.
- Call your Mom. Or whoever you were close to growing up. Ask them what you were like as a child. Your personality traits, your interests, what you babbled about incessantly.
- Analyze your bookshelf and bookmarks. Pay special attention to the books you devoured or read more than once. Or the sites you visit all the time / are subscribed to.
- Ask your friends what they consider your strengths or best qualities. People may also come to you for advice and help about certain things. That’s usually a good indication of some things you love.
Andy, a sometimes-accidentally-wise character from the television show The Office, once said, “I’m always thinking one step ahead. Like a carpenter… that makes stairs.”
To be a successful entrepreneur, maybe you don’t have to think exactly one step ahead, but you do need to be able to look into the future to some degree.
Unless you are shooting for your business to be a stagnant entity (which is a poor business plan), you’ve probably got some ideas about how you would like it to grow and evolve in the future.
You should be able to see the big picture: where your company is at today, but also where it will be going tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now.
Obviously, no one can know the future, but if you haven’t given thought to the direction of your company (or your own life for that matter), you may be doomed for business Death Valley.
How you know if you’re a visionary:
- You enjoy plotting events and ideas out on a calendar or task list.
- You like to imagine how your life might be different in the future.
- You value possibilities over past achievements.
- You make and achieve goals regularly.
- People tell you that you are very ambitious.
Ways to grow your futurevision:
For entrepreneurs, a balance must be struck between the past, present, and future. Too much focus on one can cause laziness, short-sightedness, or anxiety.
So, find ways to cultivate your futurevision without losing sight completely of what else matters.
Let’s look at some fast ways to start incorporating the future into your present:
- Start using Google Calendar, or buy a planner. Chances are, you’re already using Gmail, which is basically begging you to integrate with the calendar already (anytime you get a date/time sent to you in an email, they give you the option to throw that into your calendar). Start to intentionally plan your time.
- Use a bullet journal. This incredibly simple system of using a good old-fashioned notebook with grids instead of lines can help you separate out your day-to-day activities from weekly and monthly tasks. Laying out your plans in a more organized way can help you naturally start to think about the future more consistently.
- Daydream. Make it a habit when you are bored to actively not pull out your phone and start playing around. Use boredom while in the shower, standing in line, or driving, to allow your neurons to dash around with abandon. Who knows what ideas for the future will surface? Don’t forget to write them down in your journal when they do.
3) A Yogi’s Flexibility
If you haven’t already picked up on this fact, the lifestyle of an entrepreneur is pretty different from that of your typical desk dweller in many ways.
Perhaps one of the biggest difference is the need to bend, morph, adjust, and not break.
In a traditional job, maybe you get tired of the hours, the type of work, or your boss’ management style. At some point, you throw up your hands, say, “I’ve had it!” (in the form of a two-week’s notice resignation letter, unless you’re a badass and just storm out one day). Then you set about finding a new job.
But leaving a company that you have started is not so simple. It would feel akin to purposefully leaving your fussy child behind at the grocery store (with fewer legal punishments).
You are invested in the success of your company, so you must be willing to roll with more punches than if you were working for The Man.
Flexibility for entrepreneurs comes in many different forms, but the qualities listed below may be a few of the most common.
How you know you’re flexible:
- You don’t mind working on something that’s fun or exciting to you for extra hours if needed.
- When people cancel or need to change scheduled appointments, you’re generally pretty willing to make adjustments on your end.
- Even if only 75% of the materials you need to do something are present, you’re able to make it work.
- Generally, you prefer to compromise rather than insisting upon your way or argument.
- Teamwork and collaboration with many different personalities isn’t a chore to you, but actually a fun challenge.
How to become more nimble:
Admittedly, flexibility can be a hard skill to learn, as many entrepreneurs might be stubborn or individualistic (aka, why they left the traditional workforce and became entrepreneurs in the first place).
Even if you find yourself among this group, never fear –– with some practice, you can indeed learn to cultivate more flexibility. Here are a few options:
- Give the remote to someone else. Or the driver’s seat, or the grocery shopping duties, or whatever other things you are normally in charge of in your personal life. Take a deep breath, and allow someone to be in control for a little while. Pay attention to how that feels, and lean into it.
- Set yourself up for rejection. Practice asking people for things that they will probably say “no” to. Get used to how it feels for someone to completely reject you. It sounds harsh, but the faster you get accustomed to that feeling, the easier it will be to deal with.
- Practice mindfulness. Intentional attention to the present moment paired with meditation and breathing exercises can help you get more in touch with your true purpose and priorities. Note that this does not mean avoiding thinking about the future, but instead balancing those thoughts with the fact that you’re living here, now, in the present.
Additionally, practicing mindfulness can help you be calmer, less stressed, and more open overall –– qualities that make flexibility all the more possible.
4) Hard-Headed, Go-Getting Attitude
Resilience. Tenacity. Perseverance. Resolve. Determination.
However you refer to being the kind of person who gets back on the horse time and time again, you have to have it.
The road of an entrepreneur is paved with potholes, roadblocks, traps, and detours. Try as you might to avoid these obstacles, you will likely encounter some, if not all, of them at some point.
The gatekeepers who don’t let you in the door. The secretary who tells you the boss is out to lunch at 10 a.m. The ordinance you forgot to check. The payment that never came through. The angry customer. The botched launch.
Plenty of moments will come that might make you consider scrapping the business altogether. To be successful, you cannot let any setback get in your way.
How you know you’re a little stubborn tenacious:
- You don’t tend to take “no” for an answer, at least not without a fight.
- You often challenge the traditional way of doing things.
- Rejection doesn’t faze you, as you will just look for another path to your goal.
- People have perhaps described you as “annoyingly persistent” or “optimistically realistic.”
What you can do to cultivate resilience:
- Have you ever heard people refer to the School of Hard Knocks? Generally, this is said by older folks who walked to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. But the sentiment applies to everyone, really. Most people develop thick skin by simply passing through life’s trials. As an entrepreneur, you will naturally find yourself creating the circumstances to develop this skill.
- Read the stories of famous entrepreneurs. You’ve probably got some business heroes in mind already. Their lives and business creation stories are filled with setbacks that they had to push through, well-documented in their biographies. Use them as your inspiration.
- Get support from fellow business owners. Join the club, literally. There are plenty of websites, Facebook groups, apps, and real-life communities where you can share in the ups and downs of the entrepreneurial journey. Draw from the help and support of others to continue onward.
5) Patience, the Ultimate Virtue
Our last characteristic may be one of the most important, but least discussed, of the typical entrepreneurial traits.
Patience, or the ability to wait for something without freaking out, does in fact play a major role in the beginnings and evolution of a business.
This might fly in the face of the traditional image we have of the hungry, coffee-addled entrepreneur, bent over a Macbook until the wee hours of the morning.
Make no mistake –– as we mentioned in our last point, entrepreneurs have to be willing to bust major ass in order to make their businesses successful.
However, due to the fact that entrepreneurs literally create something from nothing, some parts are just gonna be slow, plain and simple. Whether it’s educating clients about a project, waiting on work from freelancers and contractors, fussing with technology woes, or one of the thousands of other random things that could possibly get in the way of an entrepreneur’s journey, patience is key.
How you know you’re patient:
- Deep breaths (not to be confused with deep sighs) and saying, “No problem” are regular parts of your day.
- You dare to choose Standard over 2-Day Shipping.
- You have an ornery child.
- Waiting in line doesn’t automatically deter you from whatever you need to do.
- Your name is the Dalai Lama.
Ways to cultivate patience:
- Practice, practice, practice. Anytime you are in a situation where you are tempted to flip out over something taking so long, ask yourself if the task or problem really merits that level of urgency / getting yourself bent out of shape. Unless you work in an ER or on a space shuttle, 9 times out of 10, it’s not that serious.
- Try learning something that is difficult for you. By spending the time plodding through the process of teaching yourself something new, you can try having more patience with yourself, which will improve your empathy skills when waiting for things from others.
- Go to therapy –– not kidding. In actuality, this advice could apply for all of the qualities listed above. Cultivating patience and acceptance is a practice that starts within. It can be helpful to have someone else walking you back through the maze of your mind, and helping you conquer any monsters that are lurking in there.
Got All That?
It might seem intimidating to think that entrepreneurs absolutely must have certain characteristics in order to be successful.
After all, you can probably find some stoic, shortsighted, obstinate, wimpy, impatient entrepreneurs, who, by some grace of the universe, managed to find success.
While some personalities and characteristics are naturally more suited for or helpful to entrepreneurs, you actually only need to have or cultivate a few key ones.
Primarily, you need to have:
- Love that endures, not passion that fades –– you need to be able to stay the course for a long time.
- A clear vision for the future you seek for your company, so that each day you are making progress and tweaking as you go.
- The flexibility of knowing that not everything will go according to plan, with the ingenuity to make things happen with what you’ve got.
- A bold drive that helps you get back up after every fall, and stay the course.
- The ability to accept that sometimes things won’t happen at your pace, and most of the time, that’s ok.
As you embark on your own entrepreneurial journey, you may find these qualities waxing and waning, and others joining the mix here and there.
Over time, you may even find that you’ve become the guru you once sought for entrepreneurial wisdom.
You have become the type of entrepreneur you want to be.
Thanks to your hard work, you have what it takes.
Photo credit: monkeybusiness