I was asked the other day what personality traits I thought were important to entrepreneurial success. I immediately gave my preprogrammed reply about passion and dedication and hard work.
After taking some time later to ponder the question a little deeper (I normally operate in shallow waters), I came up with a more detailed checklist for entrepreneurial success.
This is by no means a definitive list, but I’d be willing to bet that if you don’t have at least a majority of these traits, your chances of business success will be greatly diminished.
You must be self motivated.
If you don’t have the wherewithal to bounce out of bed each day without your spouse drenching you with cold water, chances are you don’t have the self motivation or discipline required to be an entrepreneur.
Business demands that you take action based solely on your own volition. You have to do a hundred things every day that will not get done unless you make yourself do them.
You can’t NEVER be afraid of hard work.
If you think working for someone else is hard work, try starting your own business. You will be required to give every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears you can muster and then some.
You will have to work long hours and be on call 24/7, at least in the beginning. If the mere thought of hard work makes you tired, maybe you should just keep your cushy day job.
You should have experience in the type of business you plan to start.
If you can’t locate your car’s engine you have no business buying an oil change franchise. The most successful business owners have prior experience in the industry in which they have set up shop.
Consider working in an industry at least part time for a year before jumping in with both feet.
You must be able to climb back on the horse. AGAIN & AGAIN.
I always say: “If business was easy, everybody would do it.” Starting a business is hard work and the odds for failure are against you in the first few years.
If you want to ride herd on your own business, you must be willing to fall off your horse and get back on a few times without giving up.
You need the support of your family.
When you start a business you may have to spend more time away from the family than you like. The business may also put a strain on you financially. You will have enough obstacles in your way without having to worry if you have the support of your family and those closest to you
You must have a thick skin. YOU WOULDN´T IMAGINE HOW MUCH.
If your feelings are easily hurt, keep your non-threatening day job because business is not for you. Many days in business, rejection waits around every corner and you must be able to handle rejection without taking it personally.
You must interact well with others.
Being an entrepreneur requires interacting with a variety of people, from your own employees to vendors to customers to investors. You must have the ability to effectively manage people without offending them; the ability to accept good advice from mentors and politely discount the bad; the ability to overlook mistakes or quietly rectify them; and the one I have trouble with: the ability to tolerate incompetence without losing your cool (at least not on the outside).
The deeper your pockets the better.
The number one cause of business failure is a lack of money. Before you start your business you should have access to enough capital to see you through until the business can sustain itself. It helps but don´t forget about resourcefulness.
You must be able to delegate.
Running a business requires the performance of dozens of simultaneous tasks and it’s foolish to try to handle them all yourself. You must learn to put your trust in others. If you can’t dish out responsibility without worrying over the result, your business growth will be limited.
Previous business ownership is a plus.
Prior business ownership is not a prerequisite, but it can’t hurt. Many successful entrepreneurs have the skeletons of past businesses rattling around in their closet.
Another of my sayings:
Business is a lot like marriage: you learn a lot from the first one that may come in handy the second or third time around.
With that kind of advice you can see why I didn’t go into marriage counseling.
Henry had the honor of speaking this week at a women’s business association luncheon on the topic of entrepreneurship. When he mentioned to his wife the day before that he was speaking to a group of women entrepreneurs she asked, “Why on earth would they ask you to speak?”
In her defense, his dear wife has no idea what he does for a living. She’s never read a single one of the several hundred columns he´s written. She’s never attended a function where he´s speaking or sat in the audience at any of his seminars.
She just knows that they live a very comfortable lifestyle and believes him when he tells her their money doesn’t come from the drug trade.
Beyond that, she’s incredibly happy in her ignorance of her husband’s skills.
When Henry feigned hurt feelings she waved a hand at him and said, “My point is, what in the world can a man tell a roomful of women that they don’t already know?”
Henny Youngman, Ralph Cramden, Rodney Dangerfield, Tim Knox. At least I’m in good company.
But she had a point. What the heck did he know about women in business? So as not to look like a total idiot in front of this group of what he now calls “womentrepreneurs” he decided to do a little research on the topic.
Here’s what he discovered: while some still believe it’s a man’s world, when it comes to business, women are catching up fast.
According to the Center For Women’s Business Research there are over 10 million women-owned businesses in the US, employing 18 million people and generating $2.32 trillion in sales.
Women start businesses at two times the rate of men and women-owned businesses account for 28 percent of all businesses in the United States and represent about 775,000 new startups per year and account for 55% of new startups.
One thing that I found particularly interesting was that the top growth industries for women-owned businesses in recent years were construction, wholesale trade, transportation/communications, agribusiness and manufacturing, industries traditionally dominated by men.
In the past 25 years the number of women-owned firms in the US has doubled, employment has increased four-fold and their revenues have risen five-fold.
Here is the question I sought particularly to answer: Do women approach business differently than men? Henry´s been compared to a bull in a china shop when it comes to business. Would a female counterpart approach things differently? More gracefully, perhaps? As his lovely bride would say, “Duh.”
In her book, How to Run Your Business Like a Girl, Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin explored common female traits and how women entrepreneurs – and perhaps men, as well – can use those traits to their entrepreneurial advantage.
Baskin reported that women tend to use three unique strengths more than their male counterparts: trusting their intuition, focusing on relationships, and putting more emphasis on keeping their life in balance.
Trust Your Gut
Women are much more likely to make a decision based on a gut feeling. Women may gather the facts and figures necessary to back up that feeling, but they generally know what they want to do based on intuition.
Build Strong Relationships
Men play the game of business like a sport. They are out to win and dominate. “Women,” Baskin says, “are much more interested in establishing a connection.”
Find A Balance Between Work and Life.
A number of women interviewed for this book cited on quality of life as their reason for starting a business, alluding to their desire to find a way to juggle family and work. “If having more time for your family is important to you, find a way to work that into your day. It’s not so much how much work you do, but being able to decide when you’ll do it.”
Baskin offers one more piece of advice to women in the early stages of their business:
You Don’t Have To Know Everything.
Henry´s wife would argue this point because she really does know everything, but Baskin says when it comes to business, thinking you know everything is not the key to success.
“It’s amazing how many women say they didn’t know anything when they started their business,” Baskin said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help – you don’t have to be perfect at everything.”
Solid business advice: for guys and gals.