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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on October 18, 2021

10 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur? We’ve gathered 10 of the top traits and entrepreneur tips you need to succeed.

Winning entrepreneurs share some key characteristics:

  1. Vision
  2. Work ethic
  3. Perseverance
  4. Positivity
  5. Passion
  6. Empathy
  7. Interpersonal skills
  8. Time management
  9. Planning and organizational skills
  10. Problem-solving skills

What Are the Traits of an Entrepreneur?

What separates famous entrepreneurs such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs from small business owners who fail to get their companies off the ground? While innovative ideas, technology trends, market conditions and good luck can all play a role, certain entrepreneur traits and behavior characterize successful business owners.

These traits enable entrepreneurs to pursue business goals that others see as out of reach, find solutions to problems that others fail to solve and succeed when others give up.

10 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

Successful entrepreneur personality traits can be divided into a couple of major groupings:

  • Skills that successful entrepreneurs have
  • Skills that are often lacking in business owners which can keep you from success

You stand the best chance of becoming an entrepreneur successfully if you have both categories of skills covered.

5 Top Skills Needed to Be an Entrepreneur

Some of the top skills characteristic of successful entrepreneurs include:

  • Vision
  • Work ethic
  • Perseverance
  • Positivity
  • Passion

1. Vision

To run a successful company, you need to be a visionary. You need to see the business as a realistic possibility. For example, Steve Jobs envisioned the iPod’s marketing possibilities before Apple had developed the technology to realize his vision and before there was a proven market for the product.

Your vision needs to be real enough to you that you’re willing to work long hours to achieve it, overcome obstacles to reach it and keep going until you make it. At first, you might be the only person who believes in your vision, and your closest family and friends may doubt the wisdom of your efforts. If you’re going to make your business happen despite the doubts of others, external barriers and internal self-doubts, you need to have a firm belief in the vision that guides your business plan.

An Apple iPod resting an Apple tablet.

2. Work Ethic

To succeed, you’ll need an exceptionally strong work ethic. Expect to work much longer hours than an average employee. Some weeks, you may end up putting in twice as many hours as a typical 40-hour workweek.

In the early stages of your company, you might find yourself responsible for not only running the business but promoting it, handling customer service issues and doing accounting, among other tasks. To put in the long hours necessary to handle all these responsibilities, you must be dedicated to making your business a priority.

3. Perseverance

A successful entrepreneur must be resilient enough to persevere in the face of adversity. Business success doesn’t come instantly. Of all U.S. businesses opened in the first quarter of 2015, 55.5% were still operating by the beginning of 2019, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Businesses may struggle during their first few years of operation. Some even stumble.

Indeed, many successful entrepreneurs fail at several business enterprises before achieving success. The experiences gained from those struggles can lay the foundation for success — provided you don’t give up. If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must commit to cultivating perseverance.

4. Positivity

To persevere through difficult times, you’ll need to have a positive outlook. Successful entrepreneurs see business challenges as temporary setbacks and learning experiences instead of failures.

Thomas Edison, when describing how he handled unsuccessful experiments along the way to inventing the light bulb, declared: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” A positive attitude enabled Edison to become one of the most prolific inventors and successful entrepreneurs of his time, successfully filing 1,093 patents during his career.

5. Passion

To persevere through obstacles and realize your business vision, you’ll need to be highly motivated. This makes passion another critical quality for successful entrepreneurship. If you don’t feel an urgency about making your business happen, you’ll be more likely to quit when the going gets rough.

On the other hand, if you believe in your vision, you’ll be more willing to put in the extra effort to achieve success. Before starting on a business enterprise, make sure you have the passion necessary to see your project through.

The 5 Skills Most Entrepreneurs Lack

Many would-be entrepreneurs have some or all of the success traits listed above, which are characteristic of the type of person likely to start their own business. However, other traits that are equally essential to success tend to be less prevalent among entrepreneurs. Having these additional qualities can make or break the success of your business. This crucial skillset includes:

  • Empathy
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Time management
  • Planning and organizational skills
  • Problem-solving skills

6. Empathy

Business owners can get so focused on achieving goals and executing tasks that they lose focus on the people side of their business. Keep in mind that business is all about relationships — including relationships with employees, contractors and customers.

Business owners who can empathize with their workers and customers have an advantage when it comes to the people side of the business. For instance, being sensitive to your employees’ needs can lead to better worker retention, while listening to your clients can improve your customer satisfaction rates.

Women entrepreneurs may have an edge here: According to a University of Cambridge study, women on average are more likely than men to intuitively recognize another person’s emotional state and respond with an appropriate emotion. Both female and male entrepreneurs who possess this skill can harness it for better relationships with workers and customers. Entrepreneurs who are weak on empathy may improve in this area by practicing skills such as listening more carefully and paying more attention to body language.

A successful entrepreneur effectively communicating with two employees.

7. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills come into play in a wide range of business situations, including meetings, telephone calls, emails, sales appointments and relationships with suppliers and contractors.

Entrepreneurs with strong interpersonal skills in areas such as communication and teamwork will enjoy an advantage in business. If you’re weak on these skills, you might consider improving them by attending seminars and reading books on the subject.

8. Time Management

Running a business involves a huge variety of tasks, including financial planning, bookkeeping, administration, marketing and customer service. As a new business owner, you may find yourself wearing many hats until you can afford to hire help. Handling all the tasks facing you requires effective time-management skills.

You can develop better time-management skills by budgeting your time the same way you budget money. Each week has 168 hours. After personal time is factored in, a certain number of these hours will be left for business activity. Allocate these hours to necessary business tasks, prioritizing your most important items. You may find it helpful to restrict the time spent on tasks such as answering emails and attending meetings by allocating a limited amount of time per day to such items. Time-management apps such as Timely can help you with planning your schedule.

9. Planning and Organizational Skills

Entrepreneurs must be skilled at planning and organization. You need to be able to plan an effective business strategy. You also need to organize your resources to execute that strategy, which can involve tasks such as financial planning, bookkeeping and project management.

To develop better planning and organizational skills, get in the habit of making lists of goals and to-do items to achieve those goals. Task-management apps such as Microsoft To Do can help you with this.

10. Problem-Solving Skills

To plan effectively, entrepreneurs need to be problem solvers. Business involves overcoming problems such as how to raise capital, how to reach target markets, how to improve customer satisfaction and how to increase efficiency. Entrepreneurs need creative solutions to solve these problems.

Business owners with strong analytical skills will have an advantage when it comes to solving problems. You can improve your problem-solving skills by practicing activities such as brainstorming and solving word and math puzzles.

3 Steps to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

If you’re exceptionally blessed, you may find you possess many or all of the skills above. But you’ll probably find that your skillset is lacking in one or more key categories. Fortunately, you can still succeed in business even if you’re not equally strong in all areas. Here are some entrepreneur success tips for running a business successfully, even if you find you’re missing some necessary skills.

1. Review Your Skillset

Start by assessing the skills you do have. What are you strong at? Where are you weak? What skills would you need to add for your business to succeed?

2. Acquire the Skills You Can

Next, develop a plan for improving the skills you’re capable of improving. While some skills come naturally, many can be learned through practice. Identify a skillset you’d like to develop and create a plan for building in that area. For instance, you might decide to improve your time-management skills by getting in the habit of budgeting your time.

3. Hire, Outsource and Automate to Bridge Your Skills Gap

Effective entrepreneurs know how to tap into resources beyond their own skillset to make up for skills they lack. The shortest path to bridging your skills gap may be hiring or outsourcing key tasks to someone who already has the requisite skillset.

Automated tools can also help compensate for missing skills. For example, if you aren’t good at organizing projects, a project-management app such as Trello might prove necessary. Use a combination of technology and human help to bridge your skills gap so your business can succeed.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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