What’s the No.1 Trait, or Characteristic of a Successful Entrepreneur?

by Chris C. Ducker · 27 comments

Traits and Characteristics of a Successful EntrepreneurOver the weekend of May 11-13, 2012 I was surrounded by hard working, existing and wannabe entrepreneurs. I was mixing it up with the best that Cebu (along with neighboring islands, and countries for that matter!) had to offer in the tech startup game, as we all celebrated the first ever Startup Weekend in the Queen City of the South!

I was asked to be a Mentor at the event, which was rather coincidental, as I picked up the Startup Weekend book on my way back from BlogWorld Expo in LA, in November 2011, where I spoke on the subject of bloggers working with virtual assistants to build their online brands and businesses – but, I didn’t get the chance to actually read the book until the beginning of the new year.

No more than a couple of weeks after I had finished the last page of the book, I was invited to take part in the first event, right here in my adopted hometown of Cebu City. Of course, I accepted.

The festivities of the weekend business opportunities got me thinking…

My Question

Throughout the course of my preparations for the weekend, I got to asking myself ‘What does it take to be an Entrepreneur?’, or more specifically, what are the Important traits and characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?. Hence today’s post…

If you have a strong opinion on this already, comment at will below (after reading my opinion, obviously!) – if not, then check out the video below, from the team behind Startup Weekend, for a little inspiration.

My Opinion

As far as I’m concerned, to become a successful entrepreneur you need to be someone that isn’t looking to make a quick buck. You need to be ready and willing to work your ass off – for years, quite frankly – to be able to achieve your dreams. You also need to truly understand the way people (your prospective customers!) think, as well as understanding what they want and need; the problems they have – and more importantly – how to create, package and present products and services that solve those problems.

However, without a doubt, the single most important trait of a successful entrepreneur, in my book anyway, is of originality.

If you’re not original you can forget it. If you’re not willing to brainstorm and mind-map until your ears bleed to come up with that one original idea that you know will solve a problem for a certain demographic, then you can also forget it.

Likewise, if you’re looking for a fast-track to success, diving in on a whim, potentially second-guessing things or worst yet, copying other peoples ideas, then you can also forget it. You’ll never be a successful entrepreneur.

Think about it. When was the last time you saw an insanely successful entrepreneur who wasn’t original? Who wasn’t innovative?

I’d love to hear what you have to say on this topic, so please comment below, and as always, thank you for getting involved and making the community here the hustlin’, bustlin’ entrepreneurial tribe that it is!

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

David May 7, 2012 at 20:47

Chris,

IMHO the biggest trait, if there is something like the ONE trait, is not mistaking temporary defeat with failure (Napoleon Hill). But since I don’t really think I believe in this ONE trait (although I haven’t spent much thought about it), I would say that the 13 aspects that Napoleon Hill tells us in ‘think and grow rich’ are pretty much the key traits one must have and then really nothing is impossible anymore that doesn’t violate the laws of nature.

Regards from Greece,
David

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Will May 8, 2012 at 12:13

David,

“Think and Grow Rich” is an outstanding book. I also like “The 12 Laws of Success” also by Mr. Hill.

Will

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Clay Nichols May 7, 2012 at 20:55

@David : on first read, I thought you meant “Napoleon Dynamite” .
BTW, here is the link to those 13 rules: http://ezinearticles.com/?13-Principles-For-Success—The-Mastermind-Genius-of-Napoleon-Hill&id=3453360
I agree that you focusing on ONE trait is a huge mistake. It’s like “what’s the most important ingredient in baking a cake”.

I’d argue a more holistic approach: it’s the combination of skills that lead to success. And there is more than one combination. And YOUR combination is determined by your skill mix. It’s like raising kids: Every kid needs something different (some lack self confidence, some lack self discipline). So a much better question is : based on your skills, what skills should you develop/strengthen?

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Jamie Alexander May 7, 2012 at 21:25

I agree with your opinion, although I was going to call it creativity. I think it can mean a lot more than just being original.

Sure, to come up with something original is creative, but it can also refer to your previous comment about not giving up. If you keep coming up with new creative ways to make something work, you will get there eventually.

I think it can also mean taking good ideas from other people/industries and making them work for your own business model.

Lots of other things can come under creativity too.

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Stephney May 7, 2012 at 22:15

To be a entrepreneur high dedication is needed and one should have the patience to watch the results.

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Steve May 7, 2012 at 22:31

I’d like to piggyback on the idea of originality. I think that FOCUS is also super important. Most entrepreneurs suffer from “Idea ADD” where they try a zillion different businesses at once.

From my experience, the best results come from finding that ONE good, original idea and then going after it like a rabid dog.

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Dean soto May 8, 2012 at 01:12

Chris,

By far, the #1 trait of en entrepreneur is knowing that you can’t get anywhere without other people. Whether it’s your customers, business partners, business friends, or mentors, big opportunities and success are always the result of other people. That being said, good entrepreneurs always put a value on relationships. The only way to build those relationships is to definitely not be in it for the “quick buck” like you point out :)

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Lee Sheppard May 8, 2012 at 08:49

Chris, I look forward to seeing you there. I am flying in Saturday and really hope i can learn some know things there.

Your the Man!

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Jon May 8, 2012 at 08:54

Before you can be creative you need to have confidence, which is the single most important trait in my opinion.

Confidence helps you sell, motivate, persist and be creative.

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Joshua May 8, 2012 at 09:15

Hey Chris, in my opinion the trait you need to become a successful entrepreneur is persistence / resilience. Being perstient or resilient, enables you to actually take the time to learn from your mistakes (or others), to further your learning, understanding of all those things mentioned above in your posts and comments. Not giving up and evolving through persistence / resilience to me is the key to achieving your own successes in future.

Not sure if anyone agrees, but that’s my 2cents :)

Cheers

Josh

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Frank Schwarz May 8, 2012 at 09:38

My opinion…continuously pushing forward. Never stopping even when it seems like something has failed.

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Mike Stankavich May 8, 2012 at 09:43

A bias for action over analysis. All the analysis in the world doesn’t prove anything until you take action and find out whether whether customers will buy your product and you can build/deliver it.

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TF May 8, 2012 at 10:28

I attempt to live by the basic motto: Show up. Every day.

If you show up, mentally, emotionally, physically, and do it consistently, everything else seems to fall into place.

It is easy to say… difficult to practice.

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Carmen May 8, 2012 at 10:51

Diligence..daily application is what excels an Entrepreneur to where they are. A successful Entrepreneur that leads within is always surrounded by people that sharpens them.

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Robb May 8, 2012 at 10:57

Chris, I like your answer.

But I think I have one that’s even better…

The #1 trait that every entrepreneur MUST have is the ability to ask themselves, “When I look back on this decision (quit my job, start this company, foster this idea, you can fill in the blank) and I’m 80 years old, will I regret going for it?”

Honestly, there is nothing secure about leaping out and trying to do something original. The praise only really comes if it’s successful… but it takes huge cajones to step out and actually do something with purpose and vision.

I think entrepreneurs who ask themselves this before steaming full charge ahead end up being successful. I’m not sure about the rest…

Robb

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Wayne Edward Clarke May 8, 2012 at 11:47

The big ‘C’s; to get started as an entreprenuer you need the first two for sure, and you need at least any two of the last four.

Creativity: Without it you have no product, which agrees with your point, Chris.
Confidence: In yourself and your product. Without this you won’t have enough motivation or persistence.
Credentials: Education or work experience, or both.
Credibility: A record of prior achievement.
Cash
Credit

By the way, writing a nice testimonial for Virtual Staff Finder is definitely on my to-do list, sorry I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Since I hired Norman we’ve been up to our elbows in rebuilding my business from the ground up, and doing it right this time. The guy is amazing. Using VSF is definitely the best possible thing I could have done for my business.

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Francis Teo May 8, 2012 at 14:19

I’ll tell you when I consider myself a successful entrepreneur.
Maybe that’s it. Successful entrepreneurs never think of success, they just keep on truckin’.

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Carlos Mateo May 8, 2012 at 18:39

I don’t agree that originality is the most important factors. It obviously helps, but I think there are more important factors like:
- Strategic vision. You have to know where you are going. You can work really hard on your business, but if you are pushing in the wrong direction, you will never get anywhere.
- Adaptability. Change happens so quickly nowadays that if you don’t adapt, you die. Successful entrepreneurs embrace change, seeing it as an opportunity and not a threat.
- Endurance. Most billionaires have been bankrupt a few times. But that didn’t stop them. No matter how good you are, you are going to fail at some point. Learn from the experience and rise again.

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Steve Wyman May 8, 2012 at 20:03

Hi Chris

There are so many traits. but to help you with this specifc request

“selective hearing/listening” – its vital that one listens to other BUT we need to be slective and not listen to naysayers. Great business are mostly built on ideas/conecpts and visions that the vast majority of people and experts believe will fail.

“Nobody needs a portable music player with their entire music collection on” – true – Need -> No, Aspire to own, Want, Buy, Evangalise -> Yes. “I give you the Ipod”

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Lou May 8, 2012 at 21:54

In short you need grit, curiosity, relevance and integrity to your values.

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reynaldo l. reyes May 8, 2012 at 22:16

Hi Chris;

I believe “Courage, Determination, and Imagination” is the most powerful traits. Ask yourself for one moment what your feelings have been on the eve of some act involving courage…… Has it not felt something like this? I cannot do this. This is too much for me. I shall ruin myself if I take this risk. I cannot take the leap, it’s impossible. All of me will be gone if I do this, and I cling to myself – J.N. Figgle.

Imagination – We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible. By logic and reason, We die hourly; BUT By imagination; We live infinetely.

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Gary May 15, 2012 at 03:36

Hey Chris,

In my opinion the No 1 trait is dedication and perseverance.

Also listen and learn from those who have already done it and are the experts in their field, and are willing to give you the benefit of their knowledge and experience.

I really don’t want to sound patronising but You are a great example of this.

Gary

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Thomas @ Mobile App Tycoon May 18, 2012 at 09:27

While I don’t think an entrepreneur can only be defined by one trait, I think that the #1 trait would have to be perseverance. As an entrepreneur, it essentially is your job to go “against the grain” of society. Most people aren’t going to understand what you do…others will belittle you for it. However, if you want to be successful you have to keep going and don’t let these people (or most importantly YOURSELF) stop you!

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Renan June 2, 2012 at 00:13

Chris,

many entrepreneurs are NOT original at all. They simply find a school of hungry fish and give them what they want.

Case in point: When I owned my restaurant in Wilmington NC, a woman opened up an upscale pastry and desert shop down the way from me. She was a trained pastry chef and brought something very original to the area. She struggled for several years before closing her store.

During her time there, her boyfriend asked her to come help him for the weekend. He purchased a $500 permit to sell hamburgers at some beach event 30 minutes up the coast. That weekend, he netted $5000 selling hamburgers.

I thought that determination would be the most important trait, but again, no matter how determined you are to succeed, if you are in the wrong place/time/industry, you are doomed to fail.

Vision…. although similar to your idea of originality, might be a better trait. Successful entrepreneurs, before anything, Flipping burgers at a beach event doesn’t require originality, but it requires vision to know that all those people are going to be hungry and they will be a captive market.

So, I think for now, I am going with “vision” as the most important trait an entrepreneur must have to be successful.

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Greg Marshall June 16, 2012 at 13:47

This is a great post. I love the point about having to be original in your thinking. What I have noticed is the emphasis on businesses are people and if you can understand the psychology of people from advertising to your staff you can be successful. This is a skill that I am working on as well as planning better. Right now I am trying to build a fitness blog to simplify fitness for people while having them feel connected. I am learning more lessons as this would be considered my second business.

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Kelly Dack July 30, 2012 at 16:41

I totally agree with your points. I believe that being original is the key to success for any entrepreneur. Originality in ideas, with a good plan and vision is important for business. Ideas if made in a creative manner will also help the company. Thus, understanding the psyche of the customers and staff and working accordingly will benefit the company.

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Chris C. Ducker August 9, 2012 at 09:00

Thanks for the comment and insights, Kelly.

You’re bang-on!

C

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