I was asked to speak to a group of students at The University of Arkansas last night. It was my first talk to a group and I wanted it to be good. I was nervous, I won’t lie. They wanted to hear about entrepreneurship and my experience as an entrepreneur.
I didn’t do much to prepare. I knew that everything I was about to talk about was from the heart, from the experiences that I have had. Before I got in the car I jotted down some bullet points. These ten traits are what I feel is a basic rundown of being an entrepreneur.
While there is no specific formula to being a successful entrepreneur, I feel that these traits have helped me, build my startup. Success can be graded many different ways and while we have yet to be successful monetarily speaking, I can say that there have been many success along the trek.
10 Traits to Be an Entrepreneur
1. Be Passionate – Everyone Has an Interest
We all like something. I don’t care if it is pocket knives you have an interest in, it is still an interest. I hear all too often “I don’t know what I am going to do or what I want to do.” Come on! You have an interest in something. It starts with an interest in something and turns into a passion or could already be a passion.
You have to be passionate about what you are doing to be an entrepreneur. If you aren’t there is no way that you will be able to do the next 9 points below.
If you want to do something that you aren’t interested in, something that you aren’t passionate about, entrepreneurship isn’t for you. I know there are thousands of office jobs where you can sit behind a desk, punching numbers into a computer, for something that you have no interest in. You’ll sit there unhappy as hell, waiting for that clock to tick 5pm. Entrepreneurship doesn’t stop at 5pm, it is 24/7 folks.
Been there. Done that. Not for me. You live once. DO WHAT YOU LOVE!So be passionate.
2. Be Ambitious – Think BIG
Have a big idea. Be the next Google. Own the world. Build a space ship. Be the person who finds the cure for AIDs. Think HUGE.
Chances are you aren’t going to do any of those or be any of those but setting your bar low will only result in a low achievement. Use that high bar as motivation to keep reaching to keep climbing.So be ambitious.
3. Be Fearless – Don’t Be Afraid
Entrepreneurship is hard. It is scary. There are hurdles. There are times of despair. DO NOT BE AFRAID.
Living in fear will only cause you to be so closed that you miss resources, miss opportunities, etc. Yes, be logical, and be careful, but don’t be afraid.
The rate of failure when starting a company is above 90%. Do not be afraid of failure. Failure is not always bad and more often than not is a great learning opportunity so that your next venture will be that much better.
I read an investors blog (which I now cannot find) the other day that said, “We only invest in entrepreneurs who have failed once.” Yes, sounds stupid, but it shows you that people understand the benefit of learning from failure.So be fearless.
4. Be Resourceful – Search For Tools
There are many tools out there that can help you as an entrepreneur that are free. There are also many many people who are out there that are willing to help.
Utilize every resource possible; blogs, social networks, social gatherings, universities, local organizations, etc. The problem is not that the resources are not there, it is that people are not resourceful.So be resourceful.
5. Be Social – Meet People
People are your single most important resource. Meet as many people as you can. Anyone and everyone who will listen. Begin relationships. If they do not pay off now, they will in the future.
Also, meeting people, talking to people, is practice for pitching and selling not only yourself as an entrepreneur but your product or service. The more practice you get, the more you can refine your pitch, the more you can work on communication, the better you will be at selling who you are and what you sell or serve.
Utilize social networks. Follow people in your industry. Join discussions on blogs. Build your personal brand as an entrepreneur.
You can learn something from every single person you communicate with. Take advantage of each perspective, each contact. You never know what doors may open, what ideas may be realized, or what resources become available.So be social.
6. Be a Leader – Lead
As an entrepreneur, you must want to build a company. That means you will have people working with you and for you at some point. You have to be able to lead. You are the vision. You are the heart. You are the role model for the company. Lead.
It is your job to build the team. In doing so you have to quickly learn how people fit with each other, how effective people are, how to best utilize people, and how these people can ultimately put your venture in the position for success.
Once you have your team, they begin to look for all the traits that I have put in this post. If you are not passionate, how can you ask for your team to be? If you are not confident, this will reflect poorly on your team. If you are not working hard, how can you ask your team to? You as a leader have to be passionate, ambitious, fearless, resourceful, social, a leader, opportunistic, open, focused and tenacious.
You are your team’s role model. They look to you to direct them and your venture to success. They look to you to see what it takes to get to that level of success. This is intrinsic to being an entrepreneur.So be a leader.
7. Be Opportunistic – Take Advantage of Opportunities
Whether it is a social event, a meeting, an industry convention, or an invite to a lecture, take advantage of the opportunity. I cannot stress this more. The people that you will meet, the resources that you will find, the doors to more opportunities that could open, are countless.So be opportunistic.
8. Be Open – Be a Student
This is quite possibly the hardest thing for some people. Be open to take critiques and suggestions from people. As an entrepreneur you are forever a student. Always learning from others. Always growing from others. I mean, “others” are who you are providing your service or product to, so why wouldn’t you learn from these people?
Every single person has a different and unique perspective on anything and everything. Utilize that perspective as an opportunity to develop as an entrepreneur. Look for the “you should do this” or “why aren’t you doing this” or “this is terrible, try this” comments more than the “this is great” comments. The criticisms and piques at your product or you as an entrepreneur are the best tools for you to grow. Utilize perspectives. These perspectives are some of the best feedback and opportunities to grow you will get.So be open.
9. Be Focused – Stay On Path
Staying focused is sometimes very hard. Once you catch the entrepreneurship bug, it is hard not to want to try and turn every idea into a business. Instead putting your efforts into multiple ventures, start out with one, focus on growing, learning and building it to success.
You can’t do everything. If you take your focus away from the current venture at hand, you are not only delaying its success but putting it at a higher risk of failing.So be focused.
10. Be Tenacious – Don’t Give Up
This is one of the most important traits. Times are going to get hard. There will be mountains to climb. There will be hurdles to jump. Things in your personal life will come up that make things impossible.
Stay true to what you are trying to do. Entrepreneurs endure. They jump hurdles, occasionally trip, but they always get back up. They climb mountains, sometimes fall, but always start climbing again. You get the point. If you can’t endure in the hard times, you will never get to the times of success. It is never easy. Entrepreneurship isn’t a life of vacation. Quite frankly it is the opposite.So be tenacious.
Keep in mind that you have to get past Trait 1, “Be Passionate,” for all of these other traits to work in sync with each other. These traits while important singularly, have to all be present within an entrepreneur to be successful.