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The 4 traits of great entrepreneurs
“Quality is not an act. It is a habit.” — Aristotle
Success is always simple in hindsight. How many times have you said to yourself, “I thought of that years ago? If only I had ________!” Before success can happen, you must fill in that blank space.
Entrepreneurs are recognized by their process and accomplishments, but rarely do they share identical traits, experiences or challenges along their journey. What defines an entrepreneur, in action, is the ability to fuse their unique X-factor with an unforeseen blank space in the marketplace. However, there are some common traits of an entrepreneur that many of these great innovators share.
What are the common traits of entrepreneurs?
There are those who are born to lead and think outside the box. These are the people who always seem to have a vision no one else has yet imagined and can either develop the right steps to get them there or find the people who can. Great entrepreneurs are often rebels who disregard what others say they can do to focus on what they know needs to be done. Though entrepreneurs come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds and personalities, they almost all share the following four traits.
These days, the most successful entrepreneurs are not only found in Silicon Valley, nor do they necessarily work in tech, but they do produce products and services that help provide greater meaning to people’s lives. One of the traits of an entrepreneur that makes a difference is hunger. The hunger to succeed destroys your fear of failure by giving you resolve and fastening you to an outcome. When you have the hunger to achieve, nothing will stand in your way.
One of the important traits of an entrepreneur is finding a way to persevere even when you want to quit. How do you align what people need and want with your own vision? A plan is a great start, but plans change. Develop a purpose and a vision that’s greater than yourself, then create a map to get you there – this is the essence of drive. When you have a motive greater than money, you’ll put in the work necessary to succeed without complaint.
You can have all the traits of successful entrepreneurs but still not succeed if you have not dedicated yourself to taking an active approach in creating a visionary business. When you develop a plan for a talkably different company and understand how it will impact people and make the world a better place, you become dedicated to a goal you can visualize and make a reality.
At one point or another, all business owners need to be salespeople, which is why persuasiveness is one of the important traits of successful entrepreneurs. When you’re trying to convince an executive to carry your new product or get through to someone to make them see your perspective on the market, being able to convince others that your vision is valid is a key to success.
Examples of successful entrepreneurs
What are the common traits of entrepreneurs? Sometimes the best way to answer that question is to take a look at some famous examples.
In 1993, J.K. Rowling was not simply another struggling author living in London; she was a single mother trying to survive on welfare, fighting poverty and profound depression. Barely able to afford heat in her home, she would take long bus rides and sit in cafés and, while her baby daughter slept, diligently write the fantasy story she’d conceived of seven years earlier. The manuscript for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone received so many consecutive rejections, Rowling even resorted to submitting under a male pen name, just for the chance to be considered more seriously. What kept her going was the hunger to succeed and provide a better life for her family – and that hunger paid off. Rowling is now a world-famous author and philanthropist who is doing her part to change the world.
Some brands become so fundamentally successful, they define their category in the minds of customers. Xerox, Kleenex and Starbucks have become colloquial shorthand for photocopies, facial tissues and coffee drinks. Now, as profiled in the WSJ, Sara Blakely’s Spanx has become the unlikely but unstoppable force redefining women’s undergarments.
Sara Blakely bounced from one entry-level job to another, working as a sales trainer during the day and performing stand-up comedy at night. By her own admission, Sara, “…didn’t know the first thing about the pantyhose industry.” While dressing for a party one night, she cut the feet from her pantyhose to smooth out her silhouette, but as the night wore on, she became obsessed with figuring out how to create a new form of undergarment that didn’t exist. With no background in fashion or retail, Blakely had only her idea and a singular drive to achieve – and little did she know that she was displaying one of the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs.
The initial concept burned through her $5,000 in savings over the next two years of research, planning and manufacturing as she simultaneously worked 9-5 at a day job to survive. From hawking her product at a folding table in the front of Neiman Marcus, to pitching live on QVC, to appearing on Richard Branson’s Rebel Billionaire reality show, Blakely battled her constant social anxiety to make brash, bold and industry-disrupting moves to get Spanx in front of potential customers and distributors. She even resorted to cold-calling hosiery mills directly, moving from one “no” to the next until landing on the one owner with daughters who immediately saw the brilliance in the idea. It was only drive, one of the traits of an entrepreneur, that kept her going.
Although she didn’t ultimately win on Rebel Billionaire, Branson was so impressed with Blakey’s remarkable, unstoppable spirit that he gifted her a personal check for $750,000 to fund a charitable foundation. Since exploding onto the marketplace into a billion-dollar business in over 60 countries, Blakely and her company have donated $17.5 million to empower young women in South Africa with educational scholarships.
In the summer of 1980, you would have found Ursula Burns bustling through the Xerox offices as an intern, eventually handling various roles in development and planning. She was making such consistent strides within the company that by 2000 she was not only named a Senior Vice President, but began a powerful partnership with then-present CEO Anne Mulcahy. This was a relationship that would blossom into a mentorship that would change Burns’ life forever.
Over the next decade, Burns dedicated herself to innovation and looked to Mulcahy as a role model for developing the traits of successful entrepreneurs. Burns not only reengineered the company’s supply chain and manufacturing, she also slashed operating costs by a third and overhauled product development – the very same department she interned in years before. By the time Burns made product her primary focus, Xerox was bringing up to 40 new releases to market each year.
Having come from such humble and hard-working beginnings, Burns understood the power of people and value of assembling, empowering and unleashing an amazing team. As the newly-appointed CEO, she developed and recruited a new generation of talent over the next decade and successfully transitioned Xerox away from a hardware-focused manufacturer to a more broadly-focused business services company. She embodied dedication – one of the most critical traits of an entrepreneur.
Not only was she dedicated to her vision, but she was also dedicated to her people and building a team that works. If you aren’t dedicated to those who help you achieve success, none of the other traits of an entrepreneur will matter. Successful entrepreneurs are not as concerned with what they get as they are with what they give – both to those who work for them and to the world as a whole. As Tony explains, “It’s not what we get, but who we become and what we contribute that gives meaning to our lives.”
What kind of entrepreneur are you?
Do you have these traits of successful entrepreneurs? Often, your greatest strength is ironically the foundation of your most difficult challenge. Discovering what you will do, provide or create better than anybody else before you to provide the ultimate customer experience gives you an unbeatable edge – if you can overcome the ultimate test it manifests for you.
The traits of an entrepreneur – hunger, drive, dedication and persuasiveness – place them above those who try and fail without aligning more deeply with what creates success. These traits of successful entrepreneurs help them master meaning and create fulfilling lives as well as successful endeavors.
The traits of successful entrepreneurs may be a little different for everyone, but the above four are very consistent when looking at the top entrepreneurs throughout history. When you are able to incorporate hunger, drive and dedication into your business map and use it to propel your success, you’ll supercharge your progress and become a true entrepreneur.
Ready to take the next step and become the entrepreneur you’ve always envisioned? Attend Business Mastery, a 5-day live event with Tony that will provide the tools you need to succeed.