Budding entrepreneurs often wonder if they have the right personality to succeed with a business of their own. The reality is that all types of people with all types of personalities can be successful to some degree, but there are a few specific traits that make the road easier to travel.
Perseverance is basically a balance of drive and commitment, and is a critical trait for anyone working through a startup. Having the commitment to stick with your business idea and the drive to keep working when the going gets tough is the primary difference between those who want to start a business and those who just do it. A strong dose of perseverance will not only keep your startup on track but will also help develop the other traits and business skills you need to succeed.
If you struggle with perseverance, start small. Set goals for one day or one week at a time. Use a time-management system and other organizational tools to keep yourself on track. Come up with a way to remind yourself of why you are starting a business. One entrepreneur was having trouble staying focused on the less interesting aspects of his startup and was easily distracted by things he’d rather be doing around the house. His solution was to post photos of his family over his workbench, on the TV, and at his work station to remind himself that building a successful business would make a better life for them. Every time he saw the pictures, he was motivated to get back to work.
To be successful in business requires a high level of drive and commitment. No startup is easy. To build a thriving company takes time, and yes, perseverance.
Competitiveness is a given in business. Like a professional athlete, business owners are always looking to improve their own performance and find the edge over the other guys. Entrepreneurship requires you to scout the competition and evaluate your own product against theirs — particularly from the perspective of your target market. Most successful entrepreneurs are not considered easy-going, at least not in competitive situations.
At the same time, there is no need to be extreme in your competitiveness. Successful entrepreneurs don’t need to win at any cost and usually get that a sure thing is better than everything being a challenge. But for the challenges that are inherent in any startup, the competitive entrepreneur is willing to step up to the plate and take calculated, reasonable risks to grow their company.
Most successful entrepreneurs truly believe that they are smarter, better, and faster than others, though in the best cases this confidence is balanced with a realistic perspective on their own strengths and weaknesses. Confidence is really the culmination of other traits working together. People with justifiable confidence in themselves tend to be fairly independent, in part because they are fairly certain they are right most of the time. They are also typically self-assured, comfortable with sharing their ideas with others and often pretty convincing. This confidence is what keeps some entrepreneurs going through the dark days of startups — they just know that once the world sees what the business has to offer, they will be beating down the doors.
Of course, it certainly helps if the confidence includes a healthy dose of realism and is driven by logic over emotion. True confidence is built on small victories and a realistic view of the circumstances. It does not mean they know all the answers already, but that they can listen to advice and opinions and accept or reject based on what they do know, not on emotion alone. If you struggle with confidence, take some time to examine your own strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of your business idea. Work through the weaknesses one at a time and brainstorm ways to work through or around them. Take as much emotion out of the task as you can. Building a successful business is a series of logical steps and calculated risks — neither of which should be driven by emotion.
Some people are definitely born leaders, with little or no apparent effort, these leaders draw people to them like paperclips to a magnet. For others, leadership skills develop over time. There are thousands of books, articles and seminars on the “right” way to lead, but most successful entrepreneurs will tell you that every personality develops its own leadership style. Reading biographies of business leaders will give you insight into not only their leadership style, but also to their approach to solving problems and the lessons they learned from those problems.
The most important trait of good leaders is genuineness. If you try to be someone you are not, no one will follow you. Take the lessons from leadership books and biographies, and make them your own. Don’t try to “be” someone else. Be honest in all your business dealings. Provide clear direction for your employees. It is far easier to follow a leader if you believe they know where the business is headed. When there is bad news, deliver it with compassion and truth. It may be difficult to hear, but shading the truth only delays the inevitable.
Separating personal issues from business is important, but you must retain empathy for those around you. Striking the right balance can be difficult, but successful entrepreneurs must develop an arsenal of tools that help them provide effective leadership without becoming a tyrant. Treat your employees with respect and they will return that respect.
In the age of Madoff and Enron, the public at large has had enough of unscrupulous business leaders. Customer service has declined practically into non-existence in many industries, and many new niche businesses that are focused on providing quality products and honest service are picking up disenchanted consumers. The proliferation of scammers out there have made consumers wary — new business owners need to display integrity in everything they do to be considered trustworthy.
Integrity matters in all of your business relationships — with vendors, suppliers, employees, and customers. Make honesty and sound (ethical) business practices the core of your company culture and expect the same from businesses you work with. Don’t let employees slide on minor infractions that involve integrity, or you will open the door to fraud and theft. Show integrity in everything you do, because your behavior guides the way work gets done in your business — for better or worse. Make sure that honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy.
Of course, there are other traits that can help or hinder your entrepreneurial success, but these five will get you off to a good start. Take an honest assessment of where you are with each and develop a plan for sharpening these traits.
K. MacKillop, a serial entrepreneur with a J.D. from Duke University, is co-founder of LaunchX LLC. The LaunchX System, a five Unit series of step-by-step startup procedures, key business software, and marketing reference books, is designed to assist entrepreneurs in developing a business idea into a successful company. Take the free Business Readiness Assessment and get on the road to business startup today.