Iconic figures such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs readily come to mind when thinking of successful entrepreneurs. These people not only inspire but also intimidate us, as they seem to be bursting with enterprise and have success embedded in their genes from birth.
The good news is that harnessing certain attributes is possible and it is possible for entrepreneurs to be shown the pathway to success at any period of life. You do not have to possess a certain type of academic reports and can be of any personality type. You do not necessarily need to be a type A personality with awesome organization and extroverted tendencies to be a successful entrepreneur.
The best entrepreneurs however, do share certain characteristics that are very vital for success.
If there is one key thing that would set apart those who are successful in business and those who give up, it would be this: the ability to just keep on going. Despite what it may look like from the outside, setting up a business is not easy. In fact, setting it up is just the start. It’s all that follows where problems tend to arise.
Problem solving is the key — particularly during those times when enthusiasm is low and you are under stress. You’ve got to try and keep making more good decisions than bad, which sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
The best thing you can do to achieve this is to take time to consider your options rather than shooting from the hip. Of course, there will be obvious good decisions that you can and should make quickly. However, when faced with strategic decisions and opportunities, do take the time to step back and look at the bigger picture. Steve Jobs was famous for this. He would take long walks and talk to someone he trusted, seeking their counsel before coming to a decision. You would be wise to emulate such good habits.
Resilience of financial insecurity
If you’ve come to entrepreneurialism after leaving a role in the corporate world, then you will have some adjusting to do in terms of your financial expectations. The simple truth is that the start-up life is anything but secure. Even though your business plan could be forensic in nature, with all the minutiae dealt with, life tends to throw in the occasional curveball that catches you off guard.
Financial insecurity is part of the deal of start-up life. There are some things you can do from the offset to mitigate your exposure to risk. For example, start a company so that any financial problems will not affect your personal finances. That segregation is crucial. Don’t go into business without savings, or access to cheap finance. That would mean applying for an online credit card that you can use for a rainy day, giving you access to a lender of last resort (of sorts). And build towards financial security. Don’t bleed your business dry of every penny of profit. Reinvest for the future so that growth can be achieved in a more sustainable and predictable way, thereby giving you at least some semblance of financial security.
If you look at many of the world’s top companies, you’ll notice they have one thing in common: they were started by more than one person. Apple was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. PayPal was founded by a team of five: Peter Thiel, Luke Nosek, Elon Musk, Ken Howery, and Max Levchin.
There are pros and cons to starting a business with someone else. If you choose the right person (someone with complementary skills and personality), you can pull together and get to the business to grow sooner. But, if you pick poorly (someone with a bad temper, or poor work ethic), you will run into problems even with the most basic of tasks. And then there’s the whole problem with ownership.
Nevertheless, you could have the best team and the problem could still be that you are the square peg in trying to fit into a circle. You need to be able to work with others, accept compromise, be under authority, led by example, etc. It isn’t easy.
Smart, hard work
Often in business, there’s one thing that simply cannot be replaced. Hard work and stubborn determination is what will separate one from the other. But it needs something else in order to be effective. Hard work by itself will only take you so far. It must be combined with a clever strategy. There is no point at all in working 18 hour days when you are putting your time and money into the wrong thing.
There are many ways you can work harder and more effectively. For a start, get a plan together so you know roughly where you are taking the business. In order to get things done, you and your team need to be organised. Use a project management tool like Trello or Asana to stay on target. And be prepared to change direction quickly. If you are in a fast moving industry, you too will need to be able to adapt quickly and often without warning.
There’s one more thing
Even if you have all the above characteristics, and more, there is no guarantee of success. And it’s that very uncertainty, which challenge that sprinkling of magic that keeps drawing people into business.