The greatest entrepreneurs of all time have less in common with each other than one may think. But that’s not what people want to hear – they want to hear that Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, and Henry Ford all score exactly the same on a personality test and possess an identical and unique set of skills, culminating into a recipe for entrepreneurial greatness.
Unfortunately, it’s just not that clear cut. Which is why, naturally, determining whether you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur isn’t all that straightforward either, despite what many articles, quizzes and books may promise.
In saying all of that, there are of course certain abilities and traits that can generally relate to the type of person who would be driven towards a life of entrepreneurship. That doesn’t mean they are steadfast, do-or-die qualifiers for whether or not someone will be successful in the business world.
We look at a few of these traits below; some of which may be obvious, while others may surprise you.
The 8 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs
You’ve probably heard that entrepreneurs think outside the box, but this is more than just being a creative thinker. Entrepreneurs tend to go beyond that; they think in an entirely different realm.
They see the status quo way of doing things, and they don’t think it’s good enough. They want to challenge the norm and shake things up, no matter what the cost.
In fact, they are often baffled or even frustrated with the way things are done, as they can see so clearly that there is a better way of doing them.
‘An intelligent mind is never bored’ may have been a handy tactic our parents used against us to make us stop complaining and find our own form of entertainment, but it doesn’t really apply when looking at the behavioural traits of successful entrepreneurs. In fact, if anything, the intelligent or restless minds of entrepreneurs helps them to create solutions for problems others have been unable to solve effectively, or even come up with their next big idea.
That’s often because the information they’re being fed or the task they’re completing at work is just not stimulating, or even seems like a waste of time when they can see more efficient or better methods of doing something.
It’s more than just complaining that Pythagoras’s Theorem is never going to help them in the ‘real world’ – it’s finding that they aren’t being challenged, which is something the world’s best minds are seldom complacent with.
Who says a successful entrepreneur has to be a straight A student with a squeaky clean record? If anything, entrepreneurs are more likely to have had run-ins with authority and maybe even have been fired from a job or two.
This goes back to the notion of thinking outside the box and bucking against the traditional norm, including authority. Unfortunately, being this kind of thinker doesn’t always sit well with bosses, teachers, or even parents, and as such entrepreneurs can find themselves in a little bit of hot water from time to time.
Ever been told you have an obsessive personality? Entrepreneurs usually have a pretty one-track mind, particularly when it comes to seeking out change or achieving a goal.
And it’s lucky that they do, considering they often need to rise above naysayers and potentially even a few failures. That ‘obsession’ for success turns into motivation and drive to getting themselves back up and continuing forward, almost as if wearing blinders against the possibility of further failure.
As bored, obsessive, and creative people, it’s little wonder that entrepreneurs are often huge advocators for both change and improvement. Some people don’t like to stir the pot too much – that’s not usually a concern for entrepreneurs.
It often begins with them asking the big questions like “why is it like this?” and “why can’t we do things better?” then seeking out a way to find an answer to those questions, by any means necessary.
While some people are afraid or nervous by change, entrepreneurs are more likely to see it as an exciting and integral part of accomplishing what they want to achieve.
- Big Picture Thinker
Entrepreneurs are more likely to be big picture thinkers, and are rarely bogged down in the finer details of a plan. This can be why many entrepreneurs aren’t great at small talk, which relies on someone having the skills to ask the same, small-detail-oriented questions that can seem like a bit of a waste of time to an entrepreneur.
Being able to look at things from a large-scale perspective is definitely a useful skill for anyone wanting to make the same large-scale impact on the world.
To get ahead in a world that’s constantly changing, one has to be ready to be just as malleable. Without flexibility, entrepreneurs can find themselves way off track creating or delivering something that the market no longer needs.
Usually, an entrepreneur tends to err on the side of being a little unpredictable, thriving off making last minute decisions and planning as they go (where practical).
Although entrepreneurs tend to be driven, independent and not so keen on the restrictive rules and authority figures, that doesn’t mean they aren’t teachable. If you want to be the best in a field and make a difference, sometimes you need a bit of extra help, and a good entrepreneur knows that.
Whether that’s finding a mentor, completing a relevant tertiary course, or simply being open to learn from people that have gone before you, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow as an entrepreneur, no matter what stage you’re at in your career.
If you find yourself reading through this list and saying “that’s me!” to every single one, then you may very well have what it takes to become the next Richard Branson. If you don’t, but you’re still convinced you’ve got a hidden entrepreneur inside you just bursting to come out, then don’t discount that feeling.
The most common relatable thread between the most successful entrepreneurs is that they were told, at some point, that they wouldn’t be successful. That they didn’t have what it takes. But that wasn’t a good enough response for them, so what did they do?
They decided to prove people wrong and become successful anyway.
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