What Are Some Common Characteristics Of A Successful Entrepreneur?


Agreeing or not, have you ever heard the phrase “Entrepreneurs are born, not made?”. Well, years of research are proving that it might be right. Studies show that there are some leadership characteristics of a successful entrepreneur inherent only in some talented people that drive them towards success.

James V. Koch, an academic at Old Dominion University, has done years of research on entrepreneurs to find that the ability to become one can’t be taught. In an interview for Entrepreneur, he said:

“Some personalities are much more favorable for entrepreneurship. It is an important thing, and it constrains and influences outcomes. As a consequence, if you want to know who’s most likely to be an entrepreneur, don’t go to a business school and see who has taken entrepreneurship courses. The more important thing is to look at someone’s personality and ability to bear risks.”

Read on to know if you have the same traits possessed by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and other successful entrepreneurs in the world of business.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

1) Risk-taking

Taking risks is perhaps the most significant and dominant of the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. So much so that the term ‘risk-taking’ has become synonymous with entrepreneurship. However, it’s not in the dramatic sense you see in the movies, where the star bets every single thing he has, down to the clothes on his back plus the dog, to become an overnight success.

The chances of that happening are very rare. Instead, entrepreneurs take calculated risks. Leonard C. Green teaches at Babson College, the top school for teaching entrepreneurship, where he tells his students:

“Entrepreneurs are not risk-takers. They are calculated risk-takers.”

Entrepreneurs Are Risk Takers

Speaking from the experience of an entrepreneur himself, he says,

“The difference between risk-takers and calculated risk-takers is the difference between failure and success.”

In taking risks, they ironically follow the risk-averse behavior of non-entrepreneurs by figuring out the best way to reduce risk. They take small steps towards their goals, and before each step, look for ways to minimize the loss in investment and capital.

Along with their income, entrepreneurs stand to lose a lot in their personal lives if they fail. Becoming an entrepreneur means working at long and unpredictable hours, which can take a toll on your significant other and family.

Often, family members –especially children – find it challenging to understand the long absences and why work sometimes has to come before them. Taking on a venture not only means taking a risk on your and your investors’ financial resources but also the support of your family.


Entrepreneurs Are Risk Takers

Entrepreneurs Are Risk Takers

2) Passion

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines passion as:

“A strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something.”

Passion is that crazy rush that keeps you up the entire night. That indescribable feeling that you don’t want to lose, so you keep ongoing. The feel-good adrenaline blast that drives you no matter what your mood or circumstances.

Everybody is passionate about something. Whether it’s running marathons, volunteering at the soup kitchen, writing stories, or maybe just knitting sweaters for your niece. Also, if you just said, “not me,” that means you still haven’t discovered it yet. Some people are lucky to find it early in life, while others have to wait. I was of the latter, discovering my passion for writing after graduating from university.

Luckily, I could combine my business degree and experience with writing and start a career doing something I love. Every great entrepreneur has an idea they are passionate about. It’s what drives them through the ups and downs and keeps them moving forward.

Because when times get tough, only your passion for the thing you love to do will drive you. Like Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, rightly once said, “If you are working on something exciting that you care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”

3) Successful entrepreneurs are ready for failure

Entrepreneurs embrace failure. Because they are ready for failure, they readily accept it. They learn from their mistakes and move on. Entrepreneurs understand that failing is highly possible and think ahead on how to prepare for worst-case scenarios.

Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin group of companies, once said: “Few first ventures work out. It is how a beginning entrepreneur deals with failure that sets that person apart. In fact, failure is one of the secrets to success since some of the best ideas arise from the ashes of a shuttered business.”

4) Confidence

Entrepreneurs are very confident about their plans and decisions. This is one of the most common characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. It’s what enables them to drive forward in even the most stressful of conditions. Being sure of their idea and themselves attracts investors and derides those who say they can’t.

Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, says:

“As an entrepreneur, you have to feel like you can jump out of an airplane because you’re confident that you’ll catch a bird flying by. It’s an act of stupidity, and most entrepreneurs go splay because the bird doesn’t come by, but a few times it does.”

5) Discovering opportunities

While having all these qualities do count, they are useless until and unless you have a business idea you believe 110% in. Finding that idea is what distinguishes successful entrepreneurs. They can see a vision in an area where nobody else can.

Their innate curiosity impels them to innovate and create solutions, putting them at the forefront of new and emerging fields. For that reason, they were born to create and grow companies. A study by Robert Baron published in the Academy of Management Perspectives delves into how entrepreneurs “connect the dots” to identify new business opportunities. In his paper, he says,

” [entrepreneurs] do so by using cognitive frameworks they have acquired through experience to perceive connections between seemingly unrelated events or trends in the external world.”

In other words, they use the cognitive frameworks they possess to “connect the dots” between changes in technology, demographics, markets, government policies, and other factors. The patterns they then perceive in these events or trends suggest ideas for new products or services–ideas that can potentially serve as the basis for new ventures.”

Now that you know some of the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, why don’t you try to develop some of them and prepare yourself for your own startup?