There are many qualities that make a person suitable for one job and not another. Entrepreneurs are no different from you in that each one has his or her unique values, personality traits, interests, and skills. However, there are several characteristics that the more successful entrepreneurs seem to share. If you see yourself in this list, perhaps you have what it takes to become one.
Getting things done is the name of the game. As an entrepreneur, you may not have a staff or even one other person to whom you can hand projects. It's your name on the door, so you need to meet your deadlines. It's going to take planning, prioritizing, problem-solving, and proceeding. If these skills aren't your strong suits, you'll have to learn them or rethink your entrepreneurial plan.
Business and Personal Vision
It is very important that you have a vision for your business from startup to exit strategy. You may not yet know how you're going to build it, but you need to know clearly what business you want to create. Why are you embarking on this venture? Your personal vision provides the foundation upon which you will construct your business. Writing down a one-sentence statement that you can refer to periodically can help you refocus if your efforts get off track.
Drive and Determination
Being an entrepreneur is a lot of work. If you don't have the internal drive to make your vision a reality, you won't get it from anywhere else. The going will get tough — that's a given. Your dedication to your vision (look at that statement you wrote down and taped over your desk) and self-motivation will be the qualities that keep you working hard in the face of the inevitable obstacles. Setting and achieving goals will propel you forward, but drive will give you momentum. Expect to work long hours. Some entrepreneurs are workaholics, but not all. A 2004 survey, reported on
Entrepreneurship is no place for shrinking violets. Unshakable confidence in your abilities and vision will stand you in good stead in all manner of circumstances. Remember those core values you identified in Chapter 2? Here is one way you can put them to good use. Customers, employees, and even competitors will respond more positively to you when you exhibit authentic confidence. Think about walking into a roomful of strangers, staffing a booth at a business convention, or making cold calls. Do you have the self-confidence to sell the public on your ideas?
This quality harkens back to good decision-making and comes from a combination of originality, curiosity, and analysis. If you can troubleshoot, generate lots of ideas, change plans quickly, and stay open to learning new things, you'll be prepared for the unexpected. On occasion you must even be prepared to give up your pet ideas, or “murder your darlings,” as one pundit put it, in order to keep your eye on ultimate success. Entrepreneurs aren't usually just looking for that next hit-it-out-of-the-ballpark invention or breakthrough. What most of them come up with are tweaks and improvements.
As Jeff Cornwall of the Center for Entrepreneurship says, “Hit for average, not for home runs!”
It's highly unlikely that anyone would venture into the realm of the entrepreneur without a larger-than-healthy dose of optimism. The woe-is-me types aren't going to have much luck selling their ideas to willing customers. Most entrepreneurs are highly motivated to succeed before the ink is dry on their business plan. They can already envision their success and smell it in the air. The path to any worthwhile goal is going to encounter obstacles and setbacks — just like life. There won't be crowds of adoring fans tossing roses and accolades your way (although there might be a few of those). There may even be times when you doubt the wisdom of your decisions. Optimism will help you be patient and resilient. Many, if not most, successful entrepreneurs had at least one failed business before they made it big. In the culture of Silicon Valley, “failure” is worn as a badge of honor. Many people think that entrepreneurs worth their salt have to fail at something before they'll be taken seriously. Optimism means that you view mistakes not as failures but as steps in your learning process. Optimism also means that if you do fail, it was the strategy, product, or technique that failed, not you. If your idea didn't catch on, there is probably a better solution out there that you wouldn't have looked for otherwise.