So you want to be a successful entrepreneur? Excellent! Successful entrepreneurs are well respected in our American society for their independence, go-get-'em work ethics, and the way that they drive the economic engine.
But what's the difference between a successful entrepreneur, and an unsuccessful one? Many people perceive entrepreneurs as real “type A” personalities, go-getters who were top in their class, work hard at everything, do it all themselves, and in the end, succeed through sheer work and commitment.
It's a good story, but when you start matching that story up against the reality of entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, college dropouts who transformed our world, you start to wonder: what's the real list of traits that are shared by successful entrepreneurs?
It's less about doing all the work on your own, although the successful entrepreneurs of our world certainly do not tend to be afraid of hard work. No, the kind of tenacity we're talking about here is the kind that lets you keep a slow and steady pace through a marathon that lets you climb a mountain, or makes competing in an Ironman triathlon sound like a fun way to spend a weekend. There are plenty of sprints in running a business—meeting a deadline, hitting a product launch window, or responding to a crisis—but even after the sprint is over, you're facing another marathon. Successful entrepreneurs view that as an exciting challenge, not an exhausting defeat. Take John Rampton as an example; John went from being a construction worker trying to pay for college to one of the top 50 most influential marketers in the World.
Willingness to Learn
Entrepreneurs are often portrayed as arrogant or above it all. In their fields, this may be true, although the most successful entrepreneurs have the understanding that no matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. They understand that no one person is a master of everything, and the better you get at anything, the more specialized your knowledge becomes. When a business is a one person venture, the entrepreneur may manage the social media accounts, build a brand, and create the YouTube videos, but as the business grows, a great entrepreneur delegates the parts at which they don't excel, and focuses on their expertise.
Many people believe that entrepreneurs are driven by their love of money, but when you start to talk to great businesspeople, you realize that while the money is an excellent benefit of living their dreams, their passion lies somewhere else. Sometimes it's a product; sometimes it’s a service; sometimes it's an idea. Steve Jobs, with the stories of his almost single-minded vision of the beauty that Apple products could embrace, along with their function, was the living embodiment of passion to his product and his ideal.
The Ability to Thrive in Uncertainty
This is where the myth of the Type A overachiever as the most successful entrepreneur breaks down the most. The best entrepreneurs understand that they can't ever know what's going to happen when the product ships, or the blog goes live, or the phones turn on. They can do everything possible to slant the scales in their favor by telling a compelling story, polishing and clarifying and distilling content until it's compelling and original, testing software and service functionality to make sure that there will be no hiccups—but they don't know what's going to happen until it does. The ability to wait through that period of unknowing, to see the challenge in the crisis instead of the defeat, and the willingness to brace and fall forward into the next impact instead of packing up and heading home is one of the most defining features of a successful entrepreneur.
For some people, these skills and abilities are inherent and natural; for others, they can be taught. By studying the greats in a field and outside of it, reading business people who’ve been successful for years, and have a proven track record of thought leadership, entrepreneurs can learn how to develop and expand their skills to make themselves more successful.
What do you consider to be the most important trait of a successful entrepreneur? Tell us in the comments!