The en-tre-pre-neur – 21 Traits Defined

We led with conviction rather than rational because rationale said it was impossible.

All successful entrepreneurs innovate. They come up with ideas and see things that others don’t, making a change before others even realise it needs to occur. They show the rest of their competitors how it’s done.


Definition: A person who organises and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.

The term ‘entrepreneur’ has existed since the 1700s and was coined by Irish-French economist Richard Cantilon. Since then, thousands of people have started out on their own and turned their small start-up into a success story. While their backgrounds and types of businesses differ vastly, all successful entrepreneurs share a number of characteristics and commonalities.

Every entrepreneurial initiative is born from an idea – turning the idea into a tangible product is set in motion when the wheels start rotating and goals are set. When a person has ambitious business goals to reach, going out to achieve them can be a consuming, 24/7 gig. With that much effort invested into something, they will seek a hefty payoff in return.

Most entrepreneurs think about the end result and achieving their final goal. This is not beyond the norm but is the X-factor that sets one successful person apart from the run of the mill entrepreneurs. This X-factor often comes down to a set of traits.

So what makes a successful business builder?

  1. Burning passion for what you do

Successful entrepreneurs are extremely dedicated and devoted to their work. They love what they do, which is clear to everyone around them. When it comes to discussing their business, a successful entrepreneur will emanate an inner glow and is not afraid to tell everyone and anyone just how bespoke their business really is.

  1. Set daring goals, even is they’re scary

Having a goal to strive for is paramount; not setting one is akin to walking in a circle with no direction or destination. Successful entrepreneurs set goals that most people would never even dare to dream of. They are usually highly ambitious and motivate the business person to a whole new level.

  1. Understanding and managing money

Money is king – that’s a fact. Understanding financial positions and boundaries allow entrepreneurs to come up with creative solutions, ensuring that their cash helps deliver on their goals.

  1. Love and serve the customer

Being customer service oriented goes beyond paying lip service. Understanding clients are key – not loving a customer means you will never be a successful entrepreneur. Innovative business thinkers believe in the people who believe in them. They all know who their customers are, what makes them tick and how they make decisions. And most importantly, they talk to their customers one-on-one.

  1. Mind your image

It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. The late Steve Jobs was always associated with his trademark outfit – spectacles, black turtleneck, faded blue jeans and runners. To be successful, entrepreneurs mist understand the image they are projecting to the world and manage it accordingly; their hair is combed a particular way, or they wear dry – cleaned trousers neatly pressed and never let their image slip. They think about what they say and how they say it. And the brand promise is always delivered via a tight control on their image and how that promotes their brand at every touch point.

  1. Remember to invest in yourself

For a business to evolve and grow, its owner has to self-improve and learn too. Being oneself will not lead to the upper echelons of success – a stagnant plateau is more likely to happen. Part of self-improvement is investing in yourself and your talent. Whether it’s gaining leadership skills, learning to have better intuition or improving on public speaking ability, continuing a steep learning curve is part and parcel in becoming the most successful entrepreneur you can be.

  1. Wear less hats

Work on the business, not in the business. By acting as an HR manager, accountant, salesperson, innovator and marketer rolled into one, an entrepreneur will never be able to give their business the focus it needs in order to grow and flourish. By wearing less hats, outsourcing areas of the business and trusting specialist to do it, you will be more productive and increasingly focused on achieving a stellar end result.

  1. Open your mind

A common trait in globally successful entrepreneurs is the curiosity and ability to open their mind to possibility and opportunity. Looking past the obvious and seeing opportunities that others have ignored can lead to the ability to capitalise on a situation and make decisions on the spot. Being open to the possibility in every aspect of your life and adopting the capability to change and adapt when needed will put you leaps and bounds about other business people.

  1. People power packs a punch

Your support team will make or break you. If you don’t invest in your employees and make the hard decisions fast – like finding a staff member when they are not working out – you will be left with a half-hearted business and brand kills on your payroll. Foster your employees and take time out every single day to inspire them and encourage them to be better. Then they’ll be on the same page in believing your brand and your business goal.

  1. Resist temptation

Heading a small business takes serious focus and self-regulation. Looking at Facebook can be entertaining, but wasting hours daily on it is a sign of weakness and poor self-control. Successful entrepreneurs possess self-discipline in every aspect of their lives, from what they eat to how they spend their leisure time. Being in the office and procrastinating does nothing but waste time and gets in the way of achieving something. You will rarely meet a truly successful entrepreneur who lacks self-discipline.

  1. Willingness to fail

Spotify founder Daniel Ek risked losing millions of dollars as he poured funds into his music streaming service. According to an interview in Forbes magazine, Ek and business partner Martin Lorentzon poured $7 million of their personal funds into the business, “We bet our personal fortunes, and sometimes we bet the entire company,’ he said. “We led with conviction rather than rationale, because rationale said it was impossible.”

Risk is part and parcel of being a business owner. There is always an element of danger when it comes to taking initiative. Most entrepreneurs have upheaved their entire lives and businesses with a firm willingness to accept that failure is not a bad thing. Failure is not equal with defeat – at the very least, it will be a learning experience, which makes you a stronger, more experienced entrepreneur. Using the lessons, you learn puts you on the way to reaching new heights in business.

  1. Strong work ethic

Start-up owners work long hours and that’s OK with them because they love their job. No one ever died having a strong work ethic, and countless people have become very successful by having one. Things don’t happen by themselves. People make their own luck and don’t become successful without putting in the hard yards.

  1. Ability to lead and manage 

Think about a successful person you admire. Chances are they were a strong, substantial leader. This is usually contrary to the popular saying, leaders are made, not born. Make a start on improving your management skills by getting a business coach, reading up on traits of successful leaders and speaking to people whose attributes you admire. This way, you get handy hints on areas you can improve on.

  1. A competitive streak

The tagline for the Facebook film The Social Network is: “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” While founding his multi-billion dollar social media empire, Mark Zuckerburg didn’t make many friends as he stormed his way to the top. Good entrepreneurs want to be the best and don’t want anyone else to be better than them. Simple.

  1. Interact with everyone and anyone

In 2013, there’s no time for you to be afraid of social media. Everyone from Barack Obama to your next-door neighbour is online. As a business person, it’s important that you are across what is happening in the world and how people are now interacting with each other. Whether it’s through a LinkedIn account, being on Twitter, writing a blog or Facebook, social awareness is highly important in the internet era. It truly is the door to the world.

  1. Suck it up and sacrifice

Behind every successful person is a string of things they sacrificed to get to where they are today. columnist and entrepreneur Alan E Hall juggled his job with raising a family of six children and said he missed numerous family occasions due to work. However, balancing work and life is also important. “The life of an entrepreneur is filled with many sacrifices,” Hall wrote in a column. “They are real – but with some care and practice, they are also manageable.”

  1. Positive persistence and self-belief

Failure rates in start-up businesses are high, but don’t let that stop you from knocking on the door. Ancient Japanese Samurai lived by a set of moral codes – the number one virtue was kenning, which translated to fortitude, resilience and the ability to confront any challenge. Never give up dreaming. In fact, never give up.

  1. Be a great salesperson

What you have to offer is great – now you just have to convince others to agree too. Whether you are promoting a product, service or even yourself, you have to be able to sell. Mastering the art of negotiating means you can often orchestrate a win-win situation for yourself and your customer. For extra help, hire a sales coach to improve your capabilities.

  1. See the forest through the trees

Too often, we get bogged up in the minor details and fail to see the bigger picture. This si where flexibility and adaptability come in. Focusing on short-term goals is a positive thing, but they are a part of reaching one’s long-term goals. Processing how the short-term goals help will assist as you make errors along the way. Don’t lose sight of the big plan.

  1. Think outside the square

At age 24, LightSail Energy co-founder Danielle Fong is a successful entrepreneur after quitting her Princeton PhD program, which she entered at 17. She decided to share up the status quo and set her sights on starting her own business. “I noticed that my professors, who were brilliant people, were spending most of their time applying for grants,” she told Forbes. “I thought it would be more efficient to make my fortune first and then invest it in energy research.”

All successful entrepreneurs innovate. They come up with ideas and see things that others don’t, making a change before others even realise it needs to occur, showing the rest of their competitors how it is done.

  1. Sweat on it

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead of letting pressure burden them, leading business builders embrace pressure and learn to use it to their advantage. They also manage their workloads and ensure that they put their health first.