7 Character Traits Every Entrepreneur Should Cultivate

July 1, 2015
Entrepreneurs are a tough breed. It's a necessity of the start-up life, in which:

  • We enjoy fewer safeguards and guideposts than exist in the traditional world of work.

  • We take big risks without a guarantee of reward.

  • We learn to become experts (or at least competent) in virtually every aspect of business management.

  • And we sometimes do it all with a crowd of naysayers whispering in our ears.

So how do we find the courage to start a business, and the abilities to keep it going? For starters, we cultivate these traits:


Pictured: A few individuals who have these traits in spades.

1. Grit
While some baseline of intelligence is necessary for starting a new business, never underestimate the power of perseverance. Cultivating a single-minded focus on business goals and aspirations -- aka passion -- is scientifically linked to success. It'll also make it easier to tolerate the ambiguities and self-doubt that are an inevitable result of building a business from the ground up. Hard work, resilience, and determination will take you far. Block out any noise that tries to convince you otherwise.

2. A business mentality that's always "on"
Ok, feel free to turn it off at the dinner table, at funerals, or while changing diapers. But the point here is that one never knows when a chance encounter might lead to new business opportunities. New and recurring customers only sign on when a brand is represented in a positive, professional, and confident way -- no matter the time, place, or circumstance. Given that most business stems from repeat customers, delivering an unbelievably good response to clients, customers, or potential business partners is critical to any company's bottom line.

3. Client-first focus
Personal growth is a natural extension of entrepreneurship, and that's great. But never lose sight of the fact that clients or customers are a company's bread and butter (as in, they literally allow you to buy bread and butter). Business policies, payment options, operating hours, advertising, websites, etc. should always be developed with the customer in mind. Take the time to learn what makes your customers tick and what their needs are in order to appeal to them in the most effective way.

4. Self-awareness
Nothing kills a website's conversion potential faster than thinking you're great at sales copy when you're... not. Owning up to personal strengths and weaknesses isn't a sign of failure; it's a requirement of leadership. Self-awareness will allow for proper delegation and can help you stay motivated if morale starts to wane; it can also boost discernment in business deals and prevent getting sidetracked by activities that aren't in the business' best interests.

A strong sense of self will also provide critical confidence in the entrepreneurial world, where talented, driven people are a dime a dozen. Know your own worth and affirm it every step of the way.

5. An "abundance mindset"
Here's what abundant thinking isn't: "There's only so much to go around." "It's too risky." "How can I extract as much as possible from this deal while giving as little as possible?" "Don't trust anybody." "It will never work out."

In contrast, a person with an abundance mindset believes:

  • There's enough to go around

  • It's safe to share ideas and contacts with the right people

  • A supportive peer network is golden

  • Competition can be healthy

  • It pays to over-deliver

  • Big risks, when approached with discernment, can have big rewards

  • Things have a way of working out

Pessimism and fearfulness breed more pessimism and more fear. Generosity, confidence, and positive relationships pay off in spades.

6. The ability to think big and small
Especially in the beginning, the leader of a company needs to be able to grasp both the tiny details of running a business -- e.g. trash and recycling pick-up -- and create a long-term vision for success. If it's difficult to zoom in and out, try delegating tasks or recruiting a mentor who can provide guidance for all the varied things you'll need to think about now that you're in charge of -- surprise! -- everything.

7. Adaptability and agility
The first business plan probably won't look the same as the one you craft six months or six years from now. Changes in the market, customer preferences, or your own thinking and capabilities will inevitably transform the framework for doing business. The ability to respond to these shifts with flexibility, creative thinking, and a solution-focused mindset distinguishes successful entrepreneurs from flash-in-the-pans.

Don't have all the traits on this list? Don't panic. Instead, channel that energy into personal growth. Most entrepreneurs grow these skills throughout the process of building a business. If you don't possess one or several of these traits, note their absence as a guidepost for what's left to learn. Entrepreneurship is a lifelong enterprise. You've got time to grow. But don't dawdle.

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