The key entrepreneurial characteristics
I have many of these entrepreneurial characteristics, some well developed, some not. Not all of the entrepreneurial characteristics are active all of the time, you can take the application of the characteristic too far. Many of the entrepreneurial characteristics are dependent on each other. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your key entrepreneurial characteristics. Getting the most out of them, in order to be highly effective without going over the top.
The entrepreneurial characteristics listed below are not characteristics a person is necessarily born with. Or entrepreneurs have exclusive genes. But they do have an aptitude for those qualities that make up the entrepreneurial persona. Many of the entrepreneurial characteristics are not easy to learn but are not impossible.
The following characteristics are in no particular order. Try to acquire most out of them, because it will make you more effective without going over the top.
Deep down entrepreneurs are dreamers. They dream habitually about the future, how they can solve a problem, how they can create an opportunity. Entrepreneurs dream about what is possible. It is dreaming that makes entrepreneurs good at strategic thinking and formulating a strategy for future directions, because they enjoy flying around the unknown, reinventing and finding.
However, they don’t just dream, they take action on their dreams. They see a goal is a dream with a deadline for its accomplishment. Everybody dreams, but perhaps the big difference with entrepreneurs is they have the ability to think and dream big.
Whether realistic or not, it is dreaming of success that brings life to most businesses, solves most problems and pushes us through challenging and hard times. Big dreams precede big outcomes and most people who have achieved big things were dreamers.
It always amazes people how an entrepreneur can see things they can’t. “Where did that come from”, and “How did you see that” are common expressions you will hear from others. Visualisation of the future direction is what entrepreneurs are really good at, a key entrepreneurial characteristic. Often people measure success by material things such as money in the bank, cars, houses and so on.
Building a business, a social enterprise, or working to cure a disease, is different because these things are more intangible, not quite so easy to see and therefore unlikely to happen. It is very hard to develop something you haven’t dreamt of first and then tried to visualise it. Seeing the invisible and the impossible are things entrepreneurs do best.
I find my mind is sometimes like the lens on a camera. Firstly there is something in front of me that is very blurred, then as I turn the lens the vision starts to come into focus and I can see it clearly. When you visualise the wrong thing then you will, more than likely, create the wrong outcome.
Connecting the dots
This entrepreneurial characteristic is the hardest for anyone to replicate. You either have it or you don’t. Entrepreneurs can see quite unrelated things and make something of it, such as a new product or a solution to an unrelated recurrent problem. They have the ability to look at everything around them and focus what they see toward their goals.
One thing I have noticed, entrepreneurs have the energy to connect the dots. Even when they are going through a trauma themselves. Entrepreneurs are comfortable with making decisions based on apparently conflicting and incomplete information. They have the ability to come to grips with ambiguity. And they don’t need to get agreement on every detail, yet they can apply analytical skills when more rigour is needed.
The first experience I recall about connecting up the dots, was when I was in high school and was given a ‘Vocational Guidance Test’. I could join up the dots, work out which levers to pull and I could easily see which way the gears were turning. Where others struggled, I remember doing this easily. It was interesting how the Vocational Guidance people came to the conclusion I should become a motor mechanic.
I will never forget George Bernard Shaw’s saying “Some people see things and say “why”, I see things and say “why not”.
An entrepreneur is a self-starter and knows that if something needs to be done, they should start it by taking some action. They frame the issues, set the boundary and get on with it. Entreprneurs are proactive and hate waiting around for someone to give permission.
Taking consistent and deliberate action can make or break anything. Most people are not action oriented and require a little push from the entrepreneur, in order to get things moving. Their obsession with action does create mistakes. However, they know that they learn from their mistakes and failures, which is why they consider it important to be generating mistakes.
The entrepreneur does not ask questions about whether they can succeed or whether they are worthy of success. True entrepreneurs are confident with the knowledge that will make them succeed, exuding confidence in everything they do. There are and always will be risks in doing anything you undertake. But one of the important characteristics of an entrepreneur is having that ‘gut feeling’ to know when something feels right or wrong.
Dreaming, visioning, persistence and actions are not enough without self-confidence and a high belief level. Having a high belief level can propel you to achieve the impossible. Confidence is a characteristic you will notice about an entrepreneur when they are working.
Entrepreneurs gain confidence in their ability to meet challenges by investing in themselves and being people of action. They improve their belief in themselves by seeing the outcomes they are able to achieve. Entrepreneurs have a positive outlook and learn to see obstructions as valuable firsthand learning experiences.
They know they’re right
This may sound arrogant, but they trust their own judgement. When they know they are right, they move forward quickly. Entrepreneurs don’t easily ‘drop the baton’. While they are open minded they can also be very closed minded and dogmatic when they know they are right.
Entrepreneurs are also comfortable in complex situations and can spot opportunities from what may seem to others a chaotic environment. They often use their intuition and ability to ‘join up the dots’, in order to understand patterns not obvious to others.
Tolerance of ambiguity
Entrepreneurs are change makers and like to get involved with new things, which by their nature can be vague, uncertain and lack a clear focus. Good entrepreneurs handle these situations with confidence and without stress because of their tolerance of ambiguity and indecision.
This is a strong entrepreneurial characteristic, they don’t need all the information before they take action. Entrepreneurs take theirs and others dreams and ideas to reality as they are able to see the pathway more quickly than others. They are best at coming up with ideas and passionately seek new ideas and opportunities as well as looking for the chance to profit from change and disruption in the way business is done.
Entrepreneurs know an idea is worth nothing until it is implemented. They don’t give up easily, or at the first setback. While they don’t like to leave things to chance, they don’t analyse new ideas to death. As soon as they are happy they move forward quickly, they always seem to know what they have to do. Every great achievement was once considered impossible until someone started to implement it.
Planning is one thing entrepreneurs are good at. This is because they are driven by their visions and goals. Entrepreneurs know they have to plan all the activities that will get them to where they want to go. Always open to change and do not hang on to old plans when they are not working. They continue to pursue only the best objectives, strategies and actions.
They avoid exhausting themselves and their people by chasing every detail of every opportunity. While entrepreneurs tend to keep a lot of ‘balls in the air’, they tend to stay focused on the things that are most important at the time.
Entrepreneurs often come up with solutions that are right out of the blue. Ideas are constantly being generated to solve problems, improve products or to help someone. When problems appear, it is usually the entrepreneur’s creativity that will solve them. They do this by turning obstacles into opportunities.
They seem always to be seeking new and better ways of doing things, they like going beyond the status quo. Future orientation and a desire to succeed causes them to look for better products and services along with better ways of doing everything. Entrepreneurs know innovation is crucial to continuous improvement and successful outcomes.
You will hear entrepreneurs repeatedly using action words. Words such as change, alteration, upheaval, transformation, revolutionise, transform, remodelling, a new method, modernise, upgrade and let’s try it. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, technologies and customer services and experiences.
Other entrepreneurial characteristics
While the following are characteristics of the entrepreneur, they can be more easily identified, learnt and utilised. Again these characteristics are in no particular order of importance.
Entrepreneurs are focused on their work and tend to eliminate any distractions to their objective. They are disciplined enough to take steps every day toward the achievement of their objectives. And they are also disciplined to do the boring stuff if that’s what it takes to keep things moving.
Energy and Drive
By nature entrepreneurs are driven people and because of this they always seem to be able to come up with the energy when others want to go for a break. Mind you if they are not interested in a project they will find it difficult to find the drive and enthusiasm, without which they have little energy.
Do their homework
They are generally knowledgeable about the subject at hand because they like to be on top of it before commencement. But they are always willing to learn more, they could be called knowledge sponges. Much of what they know is not learned in a formal classroom but on their own by seeking information, making mistakes, asking questions, doing their own personal study and research.
Entrepreneurs are not afraid to lead as they have supreme confidence in their own abilities to see things through and get the job done. They enjoy being in the driver’s seat. Entrepreneurs dedicate themselves to the fulfilment of dreams, visions and plans with a determination to generates positive activity throughout the whole project. Who better to lead an organisation when it is struggling, or has lost its focus than an entrepreneur who leads by example.
The entrepreneur’s ability to negotiate well is driven by their passion and desire to win. Entrepreneurs usually perform well in meetings because they can ‘connect the dots’ and find solutions quickly. They are also good trend spotters as they move forward in a negotiation.
Their creativity gives them ideas but it’s their ability to make decisions that make things happen. Rather than controlling situations in an attempt to possess them, the entrepreneur teaches others how to take charge and make decisions. They don’t always make the right decision but once the decision is made, they move on without looking back and mostly without a second thought.
Constant follow-up is another important one of the entrepreneurial characteristics because they know it will lead them to success. They understand it takes work to retain people’s interest and keep everything on track.
Entrepreneurs are always willing to make sacrifices. They sacrifice comfort and even their health, for whatever it takes to get the job done. In many cases, this means sacrificing time with family and friends as well as their own time and space.
Mind you, they hate wasting time on projects they see no future in because they value their time without being ‘clock watchers’. They are guilty of working very long hours seven days a week, in order to accomplish something worthwhile. Some people call that madness.
Entrepreneurs have the capacity to overcome setbacks. They are able to stick to the job at hand where others are long gone. It takes the time to mature a good idea or solve a big problem. They find it amusing that when something does mature, the people who gave up still want a piece of the action as if they had done the hard yards and been there to the end.
Study their interests
While I went to an agricultural college, liked agriculture and loved farm life, it was never my real passion. Entrepreneurs tend to only study things that interest them, which is the reason they often attended many short courses and seminars.
Enthusiasm plays a big role in magnifying entrepreneurial characteristics. Good entrepreneurs know it’s their enthusiasm that lights the fire under them and others. They also know that without enthusiasm most projects will never get off the ground. A good entrepreneur knows when to kerb their enthusiasm to avoid getting people over optimistic and unable to jump the first hurdles.
Entrepreneurs have a strong work ethic.Often they will be the first person to arrive at the office and the last to leave. They will go to work on their days off to make sure an outcome meets their expectations. Much to the annoyance of their family, their mind is constantly on their objectives or current projects, irrespective of where they are, or what they are doing.
Entrepreneurs see every event and situation as an opportunity. They most commonly look on the bright side and avoid negativity like the plague. Entrepreneurs tend not to worry about things they can’t control.
Many companies are formed because an entrepreneur knows they can do a job better than anyone else. They like to win everything, from sports and business to social events. This is one of the entrepreneurial characteristics that makes thing happen when the going gets tough.
Entrepreneurs are not disillusioned by their defeats, they tend to keep on keeping on. They look at failure as an opportunity to learn and to improve. They will try and try again until it is successful, as they believe most things can be achieved.
They are usually committed no matter the obstacles and roadblocks they might encounter. The finish line is always top of their mind and because of this, they tend to push the boundaries in order to get there. Taking responsibility for getting things done and doing them with reasonable care and attention is important to them.
This is one of the entrepreneurial characteristics that a successful entrepreneur is not afraid to display. They genuinely love what they do and are always looking for better ways to do things. Entrepreneurs generally do what they enjoy and it shows.
Attract supporters and advisers
Generally, they attract supporters and advisors because they want to exploit new opportunities and have a greater capacity to get things done. Entrepreneurs don’t look at it as a cost, they look at it as an investment.
One of the more common entrepreneurial characteristics is their more robust skills to motivate people and to sell ideas and concepts. They are proactive and take initiative which is what people like, somebody to steer the ship, somebody they can follow. An entrepreneur’s motivation to achieve something can sometimes be overwhelming.
Entrepreneurs realise success is the only option and are usually driven to make something of themselves. They are always eager to achieve or obtain success, power, or a specific goal. Lack of ambition holds many people back but is not a problem with entrepreneurs, they always have something going on. Entrepreneurs generally know what they want and they set about achieving it.
It is this ambition that gets them out of bed in the mornings. Successful entrepreneurs are extremely self-motivated to reach their goals because they understand, generally from bitter experience, that with ambition, self-motivation is key to overcoming whatever obstacles are in their path.
One of the key entrepreneurial characteristics is to know how to communicate well. They are very good at focusing others on the important issues and highlighting the benefits of any circumstance.
Know their weaknesses
While entrepreneurs generally are well aware of their weaknesses, they rarely discuss them, because of their positive nature and wanting to get on with the job. When they make mistakes they take the medicine and move on.
Learn from mistakes
They Learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others, they see mistakes and failure as a chance to learn. This is one of the entrepreneurial characteristics that tends to make them survivors. Keep in mind that a lack of some of the entrepreneurial characteristics will lead to mistakes being made.
Invest in themselves
Top entrepreneurs read, attend seminars, workshops and training courses and research at every opportunity. They never stop wanting to improve their business skills and understanding of projects and subjects they are interested in. They tend to join associations, clubs and network with other skilled people to learn their secrets. This helps them to clarify their own objectives and projects.
Entrepreneurs tend to be socially outgoing. They get excited about sharing ideas as they know their excitement is contagious. Unfortunately, some get over-excitement to the point of being boring. Being an entrepreneur can sometimes be a very lonely existence.
Entrepreneurs are not money driven
While entrepreneurs see money as important, they only need enough to accomplish the goals they are working on. Entrepreneurs are not generally driven by obtaining personal wealth, even though they may accumulate it along the way. They like building something from nothing for a good cause as they appreciate the community and environment in which they live.
Entrepreneurs will work with limited funds if they believe in the person or the cause. They see money outcomes as a measure of success. Often companies throw a heap of money at an entrepreneur and say, just go do it, make it happen.
Entrepreneurs will often wait a long time for an idea to mature and be successful. While they can be very impatient to get something done, it is usually because they want to get to the big picture more quickly and don’t want to be held back by slothful behaviour.
Entrepreneurs are in the main very serious people. They believe in what they do and who they are, so it stands to reason why they are serious on the job. They don’t get easily sidetracked or lose their motivation because they take the projects they get involved with seriously. Sceptics, don’t get a look in.
Entrepreneurial characteristics tend to cause entrepreneurs to look for ways to do things faster, better and cheaper. They are systems orientated and utilise all the technology they can to support their projects but avoid getting too caught up in the high-tech non-essentials.
Entrepreneurs use all devices to help them, such as cloud computing, mobile, analytics, social media and big data. They like to use tools and processes to help facilitate situations efficiently and effectively.
Finger on the pulse
An entrepreneur finds it hard to sit still. They like to be active and move fast to ensure they keep up with what is going on, they like to think they are always on top of their game.
Entrepreneurs can be very flexible, but only when it doesn’t interfere with their longer term vision or goals. Their ability to challenge the status quo and to act flexibly is critical to any project and they know it. Entrepreneurs have the ability to make critical assessments of situations and if it doesn’t feel right, they question why and action some changes.
Most entrepreneurs are team players and like working in personal and dynamic teams, particularly if they have created them to get a project done. However, there are some entrepreneurs who like working alone.
Entrepreneurs can have a ‘hide like a rhinoceros’, thankfully criticism does not worry them, nor. do those who throw stones and let them down. They learn to cope with business setbacks and health problems because of their ‘thick skin’, “tough on the outside, soft as butter on the inside”.
A term I dislike but often hear. It refers to a person who feels the need to be in control of all aspects of their surroundings. Everything must be in order. A person who must dot all the ‘i’s’ and cross all the ‘t’s’, is excessively insistent upon the smallest detail and a desire to control others and their surroundings.
Personally, I don’t believe this is a characteristic of an entrepreneur, but others do. Some see it as an obsessive-compulsive disorder which includes being inflexible and stubborn.
Yes, entrepreneurs have luck, they generate it themselves. I believe you are lucky when you win the lottery and you haven’t bought a ticket. Luck is not one of the entrepreneurial characteristics you should be depending on.
Entrepreneurs are not loners
The above list of entrepreneurial characteristics clearly disputes the impression of an entrepreneur being a loner. Sitting in their garage discovering new way-out inventions, without having the skills to create and develop a valuable business from their efforts.
Actions really do speak louder than words. An entrepreneur acts on dreams, ideas and decisions and it is their actions that set them apart from those who just dream of success. The people who really annoys them, are the ‘gunners’. People who just talk about doing things, but never actually follow through with actions, they start but usually give up at the first sign of trouble. Often these people are loners without an internal drive mechanism.
Learn from mistakes and failures
One of the important entrepreneurial characteristics that can be developed, is the ability to get over mistakes. Learn the lessons of failures and move on to the next venture with their head held high. Business failures and traumas help entrepreneurs to become more successful the next time around, but only if they learn from it.
I have done my best to learn by thinking and reflecting on my mistakes. I try to act on them in a constructive way by writing them down and analysing them while relating them to the many entrepreneurial characteristics.
Entrepreneurial characteristics can be summed up in this ‘Entrepreneur’s Credo’
Where was this when I needed it? Like so many entrepreneurs, it took me many years to understand the entrepreneurial characteristics of a true entrepreneur. If you can study and develop these entrepreneurial characteristics, your business will see more profitable growth and become more sustainable. This will be in spite of you find some difficulty with a few of them.
Written in 1776 by Thomas Paine
“I do not choose to be a common man,
It is my right to be uncommon. If I can,
I seek opportunity, not security.
I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
Humbled and dulled by having the
State look after me.
I want to take the calculated risk.
To dream and to build.
To fail and to succeed.
I refuse to barter incentive for a dole.
I prefer the challenges of life.
To the guaranteed existence.
The thrill of fulfilment.
To the stale calm of Utopia.
I will not trade freedom for beneficence.
Nor my dignity for a handout.
I will never cower before any master.
Nor bend to any threat.
It is my heritage to stand erect.
Proud and unafraid.
To think and act for myself.
To enjoy the benefit of my creations.
And to face the world boldly and say.
This, with God’s help, I have done.
All this is what it means to be an entrepreneur.”
“The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer”. Nolan Bushnell
“Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service. It is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practised. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation. And they need to know and to apply the principles of successful innovation”. Peter Drucker