Want to know the second most comon question from startup entrepreneurs? (The first, of course, is “Where can I get money?”)
It’s “What traits do successful entrepreneurs share?” They’re not asking about tangible things like good ideas, great teams and adequate funding, but, rather the inner characteristics that set apart the founders of successful startups.
No doubt you’re motivated, but that’s not even close to enough. And there’s no doubt you have to be optimistic, perseverant, energetic and at least a little bit lucky.
But if you really want to know how how an entrepreneur’s brain works, it makes sense to talk to a professional.
Sharon Lewis-Bultsma, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Fullerton, Calif., shares the three traits she thinks all successful entrepreneurs must possess:
Startup Success Trait 1: The ability to be organized. “More accurately, it’s the ability to recognize the need for organization, but that you do not need to be the organizer. And do not confuse organization with neatness. Several years ago it was very “in” to point to a person’s desk (was it messy or clean?), and assume that was an indication of a bigger personality flaw or strength. Obviously, it’s not.
“Having a clean desk is not an indication of success, nor does it even mean you’re organized. I’m sure there are plenty of successful entrepreneurs whose desks look like they could be featured on an episode of Hoarders, but I’d bet those business owners have never missed a key appointment, or misplaced an important contract.
“Organization is in the eye of the beholder. If organization does not come naturally to you, at least be aware enough to create a system you’re comfortable enough to stick with [whether it’s online or a pad of stickies]. And as soon as you’re able, hire someone to be organized for you.”
Startup Success Trait 2: The ability to communicate well with those around you. “It’s easy to blame everyone around you for not understanding what you are saying, but in the end it really comes down to how well you can communicate. Whether it’s telling your employees or contract workers what to do, or convincing customers [or investors] why they should buy what you’re selling, if you can’t communicate clearly what you want, you will not get your desired reaction. But this is one area where practice makes (nearly) perfect. So if this is a particular concern of yours, try bouncing ideas and directives off someone you trust first, get their feedback on how you communicate (both style and substance) and keep correcting until you get it right.”
Startup Success Trait 3: The ability to make mistakes and learn from them. “This is a hard lesson for many entrepreneurs – just because you’re the boss, doesn’t mean you’re always right. Learn it and live it. No one succeeds in business when surrounded by “yes men,” so you’d better hope people feel comfortable and empowered to point out the mistakes you’re making. And you’re going to make a lot of mistakes during any startup. Just as with any new skill you acquire, you need to learn from your mistakes and move on.”
These traits all sound achievable, and the good thing is, they’re not dependent on natural ability; all can be acquired and perfected as you grow your startup. But Dr. Lewis-Bultsma says there’s one more attribute that’s characteristic of successful entrepreneurs: “While organization, communication and learning from your mistakes are all important qualities to have while starting your own business, the role of courage must not be overlooked. Sometimes you need to jump in with both feet, and learn as you go.”
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