YEC Report: 7 Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are a special breed. We know they have something that the cubicle-dwelling masses don’t. But what is it?
Every business authority has a theory. You can take your pick from lists of seven, nine, fourteen, or more “essential” or “surprising” characteristics of an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, the ubiquity of these recommendations makes it difficult to figure out which are relevant to your situation.
The success or failure of your startup depends on you. So how do you know if you have what it takes to be a winning entrepreneur?
We decided to check with successful entrepreneurs themselves. Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is comprised of owners and founders under the age of 45 whose businesses generate a minimum of $1M in revenue. We asked YEC members for the three adjectives that best describe themselves as entrepreneurs.
Each person’s list was slightly different. But there were multiple commonalities, and there lies the gold. When a group of folks at the top of their industries have something in common, it pays to pay attention.
What pushed them to the top? Here are the characteristics that successful entrepreneurs say make them who they are.
Fifty percent of the entrepreneurs we surveyed identified as ambitious, specifically mentioning these traits:
Many businesspeople display ambition as they climb corporate ladders. But entrepreneurs need ambition at another level; motivation to create something new, determination to set out on a path with no guarantee of success.
Are you ambitious enough to be the one who sets the direction for an entire company? Are your goals lofty enough to propel your business and inspire your employees? Are you passionate about what you’re doing, determined to let nothing stand in the way of your vision?
Nurturing your inner drive will help you set and reach big goals, pushing your business to grow. If you want to cultivate determination, YEC entrepreneurs have advice on turning your passion into a profession, adopting a goal-setting system, and staying motivated to hit business goals.
Thirty-eight percent of entrepreneurs identified as creative, using words like these to describe themselves:
- Problem solver
- Change agent
Creative entrepreneurs are the ones who leave others wishing they had thought of that. Innovative products, services, and marketing campaigns are the ones that make headlines, pulling in attention and sales. Every part of your company can benefit from a creative approach.
Are you a problem-solver? Do you have out-of-the-box ideas? Does your product or service stand out from its many competitors?
If you need help building creativity to make your business stand out, YEC entrepreneurs offer five ways to become a more creative leader, advice on finding inspiration for innovation, seven tips for competitive innovation, and their best sources of “eureka” moments.
Thirty percent of entrepreneurs surveyed referenced resilience as one of their top characteristics. They identified as:
Many successful entrepreneurs don’t succeed on their first try. Thomas Edison was known for saying, as he struggled to create the incandescent light bulb, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” It was the willingness to try and try again — not giving up when the first idea didn’t take off — that eventually led to Edison’s breakthrough.
Are you ready to dust yourself off and get back to work if things don’t go your way? Are you prepared to learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on?
Of the entrepreneurs we surveyed, 27 percent called out a positive attitude as pivotal to their identity. They called themselves:
A positive mindset can make a big difference in your quality of life as an entrepreneur, as well as to customer experience. Optimistic entrepreneurs make the best of every opportunity rather than allowing themselves to be crushed by worry.
When you face a new day, do you expect good things to happen? Do you pound through your to-do list with enthusiasm? Do you exude positive energy?
If you want to develop a more optimistic attitude, YEC entrepreneurs offer thoughts on how a positive mindset contributes to success in business, advice for keeping tough conversations positive, hacking your mental health, responding to negative feedback in a positive way, and injecting positivity into life.
Twenty-three percent of entrepreneurs cited confidence as a defining characteristic of themselves. Variations included:
Confidence cannot be overemphasized; it is important for anyone in business, but especially entrepreneurs. Although everyone sometimes faces doubts, an entrepreneur must believe in their venture and boldly advocate for it. You are the face of your company.
Do you hold your head up when entering a room, shake hands firmly, and deliver your pitch or presentation with a smile? When you’ve committed to a decision, do you stick with it without second-guessing yourself?
Twenty-three percent of entrepreneurs identified one of their top characteristics as having a people-focus. They framed themselves as:
- Relationship builder
People skills are crucial for entrepreneurs. No one does it alone — not even solopreneurs, who must draw on the support of their networks and nurture customer relationships like everyone else.
What’s the state of your personal and business network? Are you regularly reaching out, making connections, and building relationships? Do you have contacts that enrich your life, and are you finding ways to enrich theirs?
Are you comfortable hiring and training staff? Do your customers consider you excellent at customer service?
If you need a boost in any of these areas, YEC entrepreneurs have plenty of advice on developing people skills, from this book on the art of people skills, to this one on being a superconnector, to simple advice on the role of positive relationships in founding a business.
Twenty-three percent of entrepreneurs described themselves as having a strong work ethic:
As a business founder, the buck stops with you. There is no one to corral you if you are late or not paying attention. You’ve got to discipline yourself, because only you can bring your ideas to fruition.
Are you dedicated enough show up, day after day, even when no one is watching? Can you stay focused on your work when you’re alone, resisting the pull of distractions?
There’s more than one way to build a successful company. Every entrepreneur has a different mix of characteristics that make them the best person to spearhead their business. But as we can see, there are commonalities that serve as useful indicators of where success comes from.
Invest in yourself and your business by developing your entrepreneurial characteristics.