Some traits you’re born with. Other traits you can acquire through practice, repetition and education. When it comes to successful business owners, they tend to have both types of traits, some from nature, others from nurture. The key to success is identifying the traits you already have, the traits you need to work on and harnessing them towards your ultimate business goal.
Whether it’s the ability to problem-solve well or lead fearlessly, successful entrepreneurs and business owners have a range of traits that had contributed to their accomplishments - also, trademarks for small entrepreneurs are mistakingly commonly overlooked.
Find out the top traits of successful business owners (see business plan tips here) so you can adopt them yourself, as told by 13 real entrepreneurs who were once in your shoes.
1. They Keep Their Cool
“You need to keep your composure. Creating something new is difficult, and scaling it globally is really difficult. In order to gracefully manage the endless road bumps that will pop up on your journey, you must stay cool,” said Dr. David Lenihan, co-founder of Tiber Health. “It’s important that you find a way to attain this Zen approach, because your team will be influenced by the positive or negative energy that you give off. With that in mind, be a rock and keep your eyes on the prize.”
2. They Delegate
“Starting a business is a completely different responsibility than working for an existing one, largely because of the sheer volume of diverse responsibilities an entrepreneur must confront,” said Lee McMillan, founder and CEO of PeakSeason. “Thus it becomes extremely important to discern which priorities require immediate attention, which can wait, and which can be handled by another member of the team.” Here's also a timely reminder that you can ask for legal assistance from some of the best formation services or registered agents, including the likes of Nolo, Rocket Lawyer, ZenBusiness, or IncFile.
3. They're Relentless
“Every successful entrepreneur will attest that their relentlessness," said Tiffiney Cornish, CEO of TC Creatives. "Relentlessness sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the rest. When you see successful entrepreneurs, it is easy to think that it is all delegation and benefits; multi-million-dollar paychecks and IPOs. However, running a business is hard work that takes a toll both physically and mentally. When an entrepreneur is relentless, no obstacle can keep them from reaching their goals. They continue to strive to reach their milestones, no matter how their confidence wavers. Sleepless nights, fighting through self-doubt, failure and setbacks won't affect people who are relentless in ways that it does others.”
4. They Can See the Forest for the Trees
“Successful business owners need to be able to see the forest through the trees. They can't get caught up and waste resources on inconsequential details that really don't affect the growth of their company,” said Matthew Ross, co-founder and COO at The Slumber Yard. “They need to be able to stay focused on the main drivers of the business and prioritize what's important and what's not. Too often business owners get lost in the small details that ultimately do not provide any value.”
5. They Treat Setbacks as Learning Experiences
“Successful entrepreneurs re-imagine the idea of ‘failure.’ Instead of stopping when an idea or product doesn't work, they re-think, re-assess and integrate their findings. This growth mindset and adaptability means setbacks are actually learning experiences — a chance to improve a product or service — rather than ‘the end,’” said Julia Wuench, founder of The Authenticity Guide. “I see this all the time in my coaching practice: individuals who over-personalize setbacks (i.e. when they see setbacks as an indictment on their character) are less likely to be successful. Individuals who demonstrate resilience and curiosity are far more likely to ‘stick it out’ for longer and to try enough new things to find success.”
6. They Have a Vision
“When the entrepreneur sets sail into unchartered waters to bring their vision to life, they will be tested. But in my personal experience, if one can craft a compelling vision around why their company exists, who it impacts, and how it’s going to solve some of the world’s problems, success in business is inevitable,” said Brian Fanale, CEO of MyLeadSystemPRO. “With the right vision, an entrepreneur will find all the resources required because they will become resourceful. With a big enough vision, the entrepreneur will not have a problem with consistently showing up on a daily basis because they will just do the work, period. Craft your vision and go put your dent in the universe.”
7. They're Team Players
“The most successful entrepreneurs can build the right team, retain them and empower the team to solve the countless problems any startup will encounter. The toughest business problems don’t get solved in a day, week, or even a month, so an optimistic mentality and keeping the team confident in its ability to execute is essential to continued forward progress,” said Ted Chan, founder and CEO of CareDash Health. “I have seen so many colleagues have their team lose faith because they panic, get down, or even worse, yell or scream and blame team members when the going gets tough. At the end of the day, as an entrepreneurial CEO and business owner, you are accountable for everything that happens and deciding whether or not problems can be solved at all.”
8. They Take Risks
“One thing that sets successful entrepreneurs apart from others is the willingness to risk. New business owners need to take chances in order to grow. This doesn’t mean that they should recklessly do random things but think strategically about steps that are necessary for them to position their business in the market,” said Tony Arevalo, founder of Carsurance. “Oftentimes, these steps will include getting out of one’s comfort zone and making a move that can either be a major success or a failure. However, failure isn’t something they should be afraid of — even the most successful entrepreneurs have failed many times until they’ve found the right model for their business.”
9. They Find Opportunity In the Mundane
“All of us have had an ‘aha!’ moment where we’ve said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if (insert idea here) existed to solve (insert problem here)?’ Most of the time we throw these ideas out in general conversation as we’re going through a specific problem, but never take it much further than that. Many of these ideas wouldn’t actually be profitable, or even possible, if we sat down and worked them all out — which is why we usually dismiss them so quickly,” said Matt Secrist, co-founder and COO of BKA Content. “That being said, taking what initially isn’t sexy, interesting or exciting and turning it into an opportunity to make people’s lives a little easier, better and convenient is the greatest entrepreneurial opportunity in the world today. The ability to recognize when you’ve happened upon a real opportunity is the skill of the successful.”
10. They're Honest
“By far, the most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who do not lie, cheat or steal. Sure, selling, charisma, financial wizardry and operational excellence are part of any successful entrepreneur's toolbox. However, it's the business owners who can do all of this without lying, cheating or stealing who truly make it today,” said Baron Christopher Hanson, lead consultant and owner of RedBaron USA. “Burning bridges, creating enemies, engaging in malfeasance or inciting human resource treachery is the ultimate road to failure. Everyone makes mistakes, experiences impasses, communication breakdowns and negotiation tensions in all types and sectors of business. However, it's the entrepreneurs who always take the high road, do as they say they will do, and ultimately refuse to lie, cheat, or steal who actually set themselves apart from the rest.”
11. They're Always Learning
“When I think of my own personal experience of running my own business for almost 15 years, I would say the biggest thing that has led to my success is staying relevant and constantly educating yourself of the ever-changing industries of your field of work,” said Kyle Theil, CEO of Visual Realm. “When I first started my company, we were heavily into doing Flash websites, as you can imagine, if we didn’t evolve and adapt, we would have never made it 15 years as Flash has since been basically removed from the internet. Now as a company we are a full marketing agency and not just a simple web design company because this allows us to attract a much larger group of companies that could use our services. Overall continue to educate, adapt and evolve.”
12. They're Logical
"Having a logical mindset is beneficial not only within a business setting but also in life. Being a logical person means that you're less likely to be driven by your emotions,” said Gareth Davies, managing director at DSM Industrial Engineering. “If you let your emotions control your actions, it can be difficult to make it as a business owner. You're more likely to take things personally and act on impulse. Doing this is going to increase your chances of making mistakes and making the wrong decision. For example, if you see an investment opportunity like broadening your product range and just go for it without any real thought, you run the risk of failing."