So You Think You Want to Be an Entrepreneur?

Being successful in starting your own business takes more than just a great idea.

Posted: 07/11/2013 08:00 AM EDT

The idea of starting your own business can seem so cool and sexy. Who wouldn’t want to call their own shots, develop a sizeable enterprise and have a chance to achieve a life-changing level of affluence? We’re talking about a no brainer here, right? Before taking the plunge into entrepreneurship, you should first take a step back and give some long and hard thought to what it really means to start, run and grow your own business, and whether you possess some of the attributes that can help to make a successful entrepreneur.

If you are thinking about going down the entrepreneurial road, consider whether you have some, most or all of these important traits and skills.

Personal Traits:

— Passion: Entrepreneurs must love what they do and have an undying passion for their idea or concept, so much so that work doesn’t feel like work. If you don’t love what you do, you are unlikely to dig deep and stick it out when inevitable challenges arise.

— Curiosity: Curiosity is the mother of innovation. Entrepreneurs have an insatiable curiosity about how things work and they love to ask questions about anything and everything.

— Optimism: Entrepreneurs see the glass as half full and think of problems as opportunities for innovation (but can sometimes get into trouble if they are unwilling to see problems and correct course when needed). They are not easily discouraged.

— Highly competitive: Entrepreneurs are naturally competitive and want to win and prove to the “no-sayers” that they can achieve their goals.

— Proactive in their approach: Entrepreneurs are never satisfied with the status quo, and proactively seek to solve problems and create value.

— Frugality: Successful entrepreneurs tend to be careful with money and have a firm grasp on what things cost and their value to the business.

— Early bloomers:
Entrepreneurs often displayed an entrepreneurial spirit as children, when they started value creation activities such as babysitting, a lemonade stand or a newspaper route.

— Legacy entrepreneur:
Entrepreneurs commonly have parents or other family members who have owned their own businesses and set an example of entrepreneurial success.

— Risk takers: Good entrepreneurs have the courage to take risks but they don’t gamble everything they do is calculated to achieve success.

— Decisiveness:
Entrepreneurs must be able to make decisions if they want to keep the enterprise moving forward. This requires the ability to take inputs from a variety of sources and then make sound and timely decisions about the best way to proceed.

— High energy: Entrepreneurs often have to work around the clock with very limited human and financial resources. They are full of energy and can tolerate sleeplessness and thrive in chaos more than the average person.

— Independent:
Entrepreneurs are typically loners who want to control their own destinies, but the good ones also know how to harness outside resources and ask for help.

— Nimble: Entrepreneurs are highly opportunistic, flexible and responsive to change. While they may understand the importance of having a plan and sticking to it, they are nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

— Persistent:
Entrepreneurs never give up; so even if their first, second or third business fails, they will keep at it until they succeed. In fact, failure to an entrepreneur is really just the creation of an opportunity to tackle something different.

Personal Skills:

— Planning: Most entrepreneurs will find it next to impossible to succeed unless they have a thorough and detailed plan to develop, grow and finance their business. Lack of planning can cause poor and reactive decision-making and lead to lost time and money.

— Coordination: Because entrepreneurs have to achieve a myriad strategic objectives, often with minimal resources, they must be able to juggle many different responsibilities simultaneously and coordinate the efforts of others in a manner that allows for efficient execution.

— Organization: Entrepreneurs must be able to organize all of the resources of their business in order to run it efficiently and effectively.

— Execution:
Successful entrepreneurs understand that there are a lot of great ideas, but an idea has little value unless a company can execute on it. Many businesses will stumble not in the ideation, planning and financing stages, but in the execution of their business plan.

— Leadership ability: An entrepreneur needs an inspired team that can help to propel the company towards success, so the abilities to motivate and effectively lead a team are essential.

— Research acumen: An entrepreneur who is adept at gathering information and market intelligence will be in a position to make better decisions and stay ahead of the curve.

— Communication: Entrepreneurs must be effective communicators of their vision, plans and ideas to team members, potential customers, financing sources and others.

Some believe that whether a person is cut out for entrepreneurship may be more a matter of nature than nurture. In other words, there are those who argue that you are either born with an entrepreneurial make-up or you are not. In more recent times, however, people who never saw themselves as entrepreneurs have been thrust into the role out of necessity because, with unemployment hovering close to 10 percent (or more in some areas of the country), opportunities to work for someone else have become increasingly elusive.

If you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, try to be as honest and objective as possible when assessing your personal traits, skills, strengths and weaknesses. This can be a difficult undertaking for many would-be entrepreneurs, but it is important to determine at the outset whether you are suited to the rigor, risks and challenges of entrepreneurship. If you find that you have certain trait or skill gaps, as we all do, you should focus on how to fill them with other talented team members or resources that you can bring to your venture.

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 (Photo: Grady Coppell / Getty Images)

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