Do you have these essential qualities to be a self-starter?
You’ve probably heard that many entrepreneurs fail or go into debt. And even if they do succeed, they find themselves burning the midnight oil and surviving on caffeine to get them through 18-hour days.
Of course, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes a certain tenacity — and a willingness to fail — to head down this path. It also takes a certain type of person to give up the security of a regular paycheque, paid vacation time and health benefits — especially if you have a mortgage and kids to consider.
But the rewards can be tremendous once you accomplish your goals and find the success you set out to achieve. So let's see what it takes to make this happen, with a list of 10 common traits of a successful entrepreneur.
1. Be ready to take a leap
Risk is simply part of entrepreneurship. In a recent survey, 58 per cent of successful entrepreneurs said they held a corporate position before they launched their own business. “It might be a leap of faith, but perhaps that’s exactly why it appeals to those who try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” says Xero’s Make or Break Report.
2. Be prepared to fall flat on your face
While it’s true entrepreneurs must be willing to take on a certain degree of risk, that doesn’t mean you need to be an extreme risk-taker — the type of person who’s willing to don a wingsuit and go BASE jumping off the edge of a cliff. After all, you really don’t want to fail when you BASE jump off a literal cliff. An entrepreneur, on the other hand, must be prepared to fail — perhaps multiple times — when taking a leap of faith off that theoretical cliff into the unknown.
3. And then learn when you do
Perhaps most importantly, an entrepreneur must be willing to learn from mistakes and failures, and to adapt and think in new ways. Trying to avoid mistakes is a waste of time; accept them, learn from them and keep moving forward.
4. Make time for what’s really important
But risk doesn’t mean giving up everything important in your life. In fact, the report found that — despite popular belief — the most successful entrepreneurs were those who made time for family and friends.
Nearly six in 10 respondents (58%) cited spending time with family in the evenings as crucial to their effectiveness as a business owner. But, for most entrepreneurs, it’s impossible to disconnect entirely. “Using automated tools to take care of simple tasks for you avoids letting work eat into family time,” says the report. “Perhaps you might use the latest tech tools to shoot off a quick invoice as you climb the stairs to read the kids a bedtime story.”
5. Always be learning
While some personality types are naturally suited to entrepreneurship, some skills can be learned, including networking skills. “The most important qualities of a good entrepreneur are energy and determination,” says entrepreneur Oliver Emberton in a blog post. “It doesn’t hurt to be persuasive, but this can be learned. I started as a shy uber-nerd aged 21; I soon learned how to sell when it was the only way to feed myself.”
6. Start with an idea
While you need an idea, it doesn’t have to be something mind-blowing. As Emberton says, even the most successful companies were not founded on wild or brilliant ideas: “Starbucks chose the brazen path of selling coffee in Seattle.”
7. Do it with passion
You also need passion — and that passion should be unwavering. After all, you need to convince team members, investors and customers of the value of your idea. But true passion is permeable, says Erika Andersen, an entrepreneur and founder of Proteus, in a blog post for Forbes.
“Truly passionate people aren’t dogmatic, but rather invite others’ input,” says Andersen. “If you care deeply about what you’re doing, you want to make sure that it will be valuable to customers, you’ll ask for feedback and dialogue about whether it’s working and how to make it better.”
8. Don’t be too rigid
One common mistake is thinking you can do everything yourself. “The most successful entrepreneurs I know never forget how much they can learn from others,” says Stephen Key, co-founder of inventRight, a business dedicated to helping entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition, in a blog post for Entrepreneur. “They ask for advice. They’re flexible. They soak up the best practices around them like a sponge. Fear of failure can make it easy to grip onto your vision with an iron fist, but rigidity won’t serve you.”
9. Be persistent
If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, never, ever give up. You will have doubts. You will have setbacks. And yes, you’ll even have failures. But, as the adage goes, success is 10 per cent talent and 90 per cent persistence.
10. Train your brain for success
According to entrepreneur Brian Tracy, one of the great secrets to persistence is to “program your subconscious mind for persistence well in advance of the setbacks and disappointments that you are going to have on your upward quest toward success,” he says in a blog post.
“Resolve in advance that you will never give up, no matter what happens. The courage to persist in the face of adversity and disappointment is the one quality that, more than anything, will guarantee your success.”
Up Next: See what it's like to get first-hand advice from a panel of top entrepreneurs in What's it really like to pitch on Dragons' Den?
About the Author
Vawn Himmelsbach is a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. She has covered technology and travel for 15 years, for media outlets such as CBCNews.ca, The Globe & Mail, Metro News, ITBusiness, PCworld Canada and Computerworld Canada. She also spent three years living abroad and working as an Asian correspondent.Follow on Twitter More Content by Vawn Himmelsbach