Almost every day some aspiring entrepreneur raises the question with me or on some question board along the lines of “what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur? “Well it takes certain talents – those innate characteristics that define you as an individual, which can and should be developed and honed. And, while there is no absolute recipe, there some key talents that every successful entrepreneur I’ve ever met or dealt with has, either all or a majority of them, some in great abundance. There are seven and if you don’t have at least four, in some form or fashion, you might think twice about whether entrepreneurship is for you.
Passion – Drives everything about becoming an entrepreneur. It’s the fervent belief in yourself and your business concept that simply cannot be dissuaded by skeptics or “bumps in the road.” It’s the single-mindedness that motivates you and your business each and every day. You are a zealot looking to create other “true believers!”
Courage – Being able to make that initial leap from the “steady pay check” security of a corporate position or even from an ugly job that is not satisfying. Whether you do it alone or with partners, it’s a scary proposition that takes a serious “gut check” because it involves risk. And the requirement for courage doesn’t end with the decision to begin. It’s a periodic requirement throughout the life of your small business, where it will be tested with the “hard decisions” you will have to make each day to keep the business moving ahead with integrity.
Perseverance – Webster’s defines perseverance as “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.” And you will have a bunch of those. It’s just the dogged determination that no matter how many times roadblocks are in your way, how many disappointments there are or how many little failures you have, you keep yourself and your business moving forward.
Flexibility – Ability to change and learn from your mistakes. As Winston Churchill noted, “all men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” The most common term that has evolved for entrepreneurs is “pivot.” That is realizing that the direction you have set out is flawed and needs to change, having the ability to both recognize that and change, as soon as you do.
Work Ethic – the ability to simply “outwork” the problem or the competition. But this is more than just working hard. It’s working hard AND working smart. It’s the ability and desire to “stay later,” or go that “extra mile” whether it be for a customer or a colleague; working while others are playing; awake when others are asleep. Gaining your edge through hard and smart work!
Desire to Grow – As a person and as a professional, in that order. You can’t grow professionally if your personal growth is stunted. A desire to grow means you continually leverage your talents, never stop honing your skills and never stop learning about your business. You are a sponge, gaining knowledge from wherever it is available – competition, books, customers, colleagues.
Life Balance – listed last because it is the most difficult characteristic to develop and hone over time (because it takes time, especially if you have strong passion, perseverance and work ethic), but it is also, one of the most important. It means keeping a balance between your personal and professional lives, keeping your family in the forefront, not only as the ultimate beneficiary of the potential returns from your endeavors, but as a necessary part of your daily life and growth. They are your support mechanism. Life balance also means having an outlet that’s completely outside your business life, whether that be running, yoga or simply a hobby, that is totally yours, that is your escape for a certain period every day.
Becoming an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It is for many, “life on the fault line.” It requires that you understand what will be required of you. If you really believe entrepreneurship is for you, assess your own talents and be sure that you have enough of them to build on. Then as you proceed, continue to develop and hone them.