I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what makes a successful entrepreneur. Maybe because of my new online endeavors, maybe because I have several friends who are passionate about their side hustle. The truth is that we live in exciting times! Nowadays, if you have an internet connection and an idea, despite limited funds, you can become an entrepreneur. By that definition, anyone can be named that. And there are plenty of people out there calling themselves just that. I am wondering what is it, psychologically speaking, that would make one a wildly successful entrepreneur (which would actually involve making money with their own idea or product).
So after thinking about this topic for a while and following a bunch of podcasts, YouTube channels, and blogs from names like Tim Ferris, Amy Porterfield, Marie Forleo, Mariah Coz, Lisa Jacobs to name a few, I’ve come up with a list of 5 traits of a successful entrepreneur.
I’ve witnessed these traits in my corporate career BUT I’ve often experienced these traits as both inspiring and productive as well as destructive and unfruitful. Thus, we are going to look at how these traits can be both strengths and weaknesses and what you can do to build the self-awareness and resources to ensure that you keep these traits on the positive side.
5 Traits of a Successful Entrepreneur
1. Passion. Entrepreneurs are often not driven by money, but by creativity, heart & intuition. They are often in love with an idea or a product, a cause, or a message. They can talk for hours about their passion and they strive to persuade and inspire others to feel the same. However, on the flip side, passion for a product or an idea without listening to the audience or to any potential customers, without attempting to validate it, can surely cause a business to fail. That, of course, can be pretty depressing and demoralizing for an entrepreneur who poured his or her heart and soul into this journey. Passion is essential, but make sure you are not blinded by your passion.
2. Persistence. This is a valuable trait also known as resilience, tenacity, and determination. Successful entrepreneurs are not afraid, slowed down, or stopped by rejection or obstacles. They have an amazing ability to go from one failure (or challenge) to another, without losing drive and enthusiasm. However, on the other hand, stubborn persistence—despite valid evidence that one should change the course—is not necessarily a strength. If the reason behind failure is because you are missing some common sense and not learning from your mistakes, this trait can definitely get you in trouble. I am sure you’ve all heard one definition of insanity: doing the same things over and over, and expecting different results. These are not easy things to look at, but how much is persistence versus a lack of self-awareness and ignorance?
3. Self-motivation. Being a self-starter is great because it’s a sign of creativity, innovation, internal motivation, and excitement and all entrepreneurs have that crazy itch to start new projects. Especially the creative ones. And this is an awesome quality. I love the independent spirit and the people that think ahead and have initiative. You need that as a successful entrepreneur. You are the fuel that fires the entire operation BUT most entrepreneurial ideas take a lot of babysitting and long-term consistent boring efforts in order to develop and grow; starters are not always finishers so you definitely need to be aware of the Shiny Object Syndrome of the multi-passionate entrepreneurs. You’ll never make money if you don’t give that ONE idea a good, consistent effort for an extended period of time.
4. Self-discipline. You cannot have long term success without this; if you are at home, with no boss watching over your shoulder, you have a BIG choice to make, either follow your planner and go through the daily steps to grow your business or you can watch 4 seasons of It’s all up to you, nobody’s watching, but the results will follow your choices. BUT too much discipline without being able to relax and compartmentalize in order to participate in other areas of your life, can be a dangerous deal. Constant planning and goal tracking can become a little obsessive and could be a passion and spirit killer. Not to mention that since the job of an entrepreneur is never done at the end of the day, not knowing when to stop to re-charge your batteries can lead to debilitating stress and burn out.
5. Fast-paced, multi-tasking superpower. This is one category I know really well; I know the positives of getting a lot accomplished in a short period of time and feeling like Super-woman. I also know that I am driving other people crazy. Deep down, there’s an implied expectation that everyone else should move as fast as us. Guess what? About 70-80% of people won’t. This unmet expectation will cause some anxiety, some frustration, and some arguments…especially in close relationships. More importantly, I’ve noticed sometimes, the more I try to accomplish when I am in that task-oriented mode, the more impatient and less emotionally available I am for my kids, my spouse, or the people I work with. That’s not something I want to sacrifice but it happens if I don’t pay attention to where I am in my workflow and how it interacts with my family life.
SO, now that we know the risks and benefits that come with these very much innate traits, here are some ways to make sure you stay on the positive, productive side:
Tips to Staying Positive and Productive
1. Make self-awareness a priority! Understanding your thoughts and feelings at any moment in time, and how they affect your creativity and decision-making ability especially in your business will be so empowering. Once you have this awareness, which is truly a life journey, you can maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
2. Invest in your personal development. It could be books, podcasts, videos, seminars, courses! There are so many wonderful resources out there on every topic you could think of. It does require some time investment but it will come back trifold: in your confidence, in your relationships, and in your business.
3. Learn all you can about how your business works. We often think that a business is all about the sale of the product. In the beginning, it truly is because cash is the blood of the business; you can’t keep going too long without it. But as you grow, it’s also about managing the cash and reinvesting it, marketing and branding your business, managing people, employees and customers, and a long list of daily operational routines. Building the right processes and systems will make a difference in your long-term success. The ability to juggle multiple balls and learning to delegate will take you from an entrepreneur to a prosperous business owner and operator.
4. Allow yourself to start dreaming big and have lots and lots of creative ideas. Write them all down so you can clear your brain…and THEN, pick ONE idea and commit to it. Look at the data, the facts, and the hard-core evidence to see whether you are on the right track. Your own emotions and thoughts are not enough. Validate your idea or product with as many people as possible (and not just friends and family). Surround yourself with like-minded people that will give you honest feedback. Listen to your audience, ask questions, always look for feedback. Get clear on your audience and what you can do to serve and provide value to them. They will always come back for more.
5. Get clear about your goals and the necessary steps to reach your goals. Put small, but accountable and achievable steps in place to ensure you reach your final goals and don’t get distracted by new ideas. Take some time and decide on a roadmap and then follow the road map. Consistency is key. Show up every day as if you were clocking in at a regular job. There is a whole new movement on “manifesting” (it’s definitely on my list to write about), but pretty much the idea is that if you think about something, write it down, the Universe will send it your way. There’s some truth to that, but this concept can also be interpreted very loosely. I am more of an action type of girl. Just talking and dreaming about something, does not quite do it for me.
6. Set realistic expectations and boundaries in place to protect yourself physically and mentally and to avoid negative stress and burn out. Like I mentioned, being fast-paced is a blessing and a curse. It’s great when you get stuff done; it’s horrible when things don’t turn around or happen as fast as you want them to. It’s really annoying to listen to online entrepreneurs spitting out numbers of how much money they made in a course launch, without really talking about their efforts, day-in-day-out for several years before making money. This “overnight success” or “it’s so easy, everyone should be doing it” stories are just cheap sales pitches and they set up unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for beginner entrepreneurs.
7. Recognize when you are going at 120 miles per hour and give your loved ones some warning. Take a little break between life in the fast lane and entering the slower family lane or just someone else’s lane…like your kids’ or your spouses’. Calm yourself down and re-center yourself before you re-enter their atmosphere. It will save you and them a lot of disappointment and heart-aches.
Thank you for reading this post! I would love to hear from you and your journey in entrepreneurship. I would love to know if you can relate to this post, or not, or if you’ve had other experiences that would help others trying to follow in your footsteps. So please take a few minutes and share your wisdom with us below!
ABOUT: Dr. Ruxandra LeMay is a licensed psychologist with experience and interest in communication, relationships, stress and anxiety management, executive coaching and entrepreneurship. She is the author of My Spouse Wants More Sex Than Me: The 2-Minute Solution For a Happier Marriage and My Spouse is Different Than Me: How to Mediate Irreconcilable Differences and Grow in Your Marriage. For more information, join her at ruxandralemay.com, a website for people who hate therapy, but still need it!