Top 10 Key Attributes of an Entrepreneur to Succeed


Entrepreneurship is a vocation where the playing field is even among the competitors. It doesn’t matter if you are competing against another entrepreneur who graduated from an Ivy League school in the US. A college or Master’s Degree will not guarantee you success as an entrepreneur. Some entrepreneurs will move forward and succeed while others will accept the bitter taste of failure and loss.

To succeed, you must possess the key attributes of an entrepreneur.

One of the most interesting discussions in a high school reunion is finding out where my former classmates are and what they have been doing the last few years. I’m sure like myself, many of you are pleasantly surprised to learn that the ones labeled misfits in high school are the ones during exceptionally well in their careers.

Sure the smart ones found well-paying jobs. But the average to below average students were the ones who became successful entrepreneurs. I always find myself asking why is that? Could there be an inverse correlation between academic success and entrepreneurial success?

A 2012 article from the New York Times sought to state its case that there is no correlation between high SAT scores and success in college. High school students who scored very high in these exams did not particularly excel in college nor did they find well-paying careers after graduation.

In the world of international business, many of the most iconic and successful entrepreneurs did not finish college: Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft and the late Steve Jobs of Apple.

How about the remarkable life story of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson?

Branson attended Stowe School; an independent school at Buckinghamshire, until the age of 16. Branson had an atrocious academic record partly because he had dyslexia. His headmaster, Robert Drayson, told Branson he would either end up in jail or become a millionaire. Drayson was wrong on both counts as Branson moved on to become a BILLIONAIRE and one of the most inspiring champions of entrepreneurship.

My point in raising the argument is not to undermine the value of having an education. After all, education in itself is a privilege and if you have been accorded an opportunity to study in an established institution, then by all means you should capitalize on it. I’ve always shared with the younger generation that a good education is your passport to a good career.

The question is: “Where will your passport take you?”

It would seem that success in entrepreneurship requires more than academic excellence; intellectual capacity, technical or fundamental competencies. There are certain behavioral attributes of an entrepreneur that will spell the difference between success and failure.

So what are the key attributes of an entrepreneur that would lead to a successful career?

I am referencing the 2014 study by Gallup chairman Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Bharadwaj Badal called “Entrepreneurial Strengthsfinder” in addition to my experiences and encounters as a lifelong entrepreneur. The study of Clifton and Badal was very extensive and covered more than 1,000 entrepreneurs.

Top 10 Key Attributes of an Entrepreneur to Succeed

1. Business Focus

Statistically, entrepreneurs start out with a disadvantage as 55% of startups fail within five years.

Successful entrepreneurs are those who are focused on turning a profit.

They know the numbers and that the odds will be against them in the next few years. Those who can maintain business focus can do so because they established the most important component in any venture before committing to entrepreneurship. Purpose.

Purpose paves the road for entrepreneurial success. It guides you to follow your vision regardless of the obstacles that lie ahead. A purpose is a reason why entrepreneurs wake up every morning looking forward to seizing the day.

And lest you think their purpose is “to make money,” you are wrong.

Yes, entrepreneurs want to turn in profit, but they look past material wealth. For them, profit creates opportunities to transform lives. The most successful entrepreneurs use business as a lever for transformation.

When you think about accomplishing a greater good that serves other sectors, your success will be sustainable because you are contributing to the very same economy that supports you.

2. Confidence

Even if they were average or mediocre students at best, the most successful entrepreneurs were confident of who they were and their capabilities.

They did not let their grades or their teachers define who they were. They have the faith and self-confidence to know where they want to go and what they want to achieve.

Thus even under the most difficult situations; and there are many, these entrepreneurs never lose hope. Their composure remains intact, and their minds are always looking for solutions.

If the best decision is to close the business, these entrepreneurs will not wallow in self-pity. They are already looking forward to the next venture.

As Sir Richard Branson said: “Do not be embarrassed by your failures. Learn from them and start again.”

3. Creative Thinking

Henry Sy is one of the Philippines’ most successful entrepreneurs. He got to be successful not only because he worked hard but because he was an innovative thinker who was ahead of his time.

One of the most famous stories handed down to promising entrepreneurs on Henry Sy was about the time the company found out they were losing shoes at Customs. SM’s managers hired the best minds from the biggest and brightest schools and business to solve the problem. But no one did.

Mr. Sy did it with one simple solution: He shipped the left pair and the right pair separately. Pilferage problem solved! And mind you, Mr. Sy only has an Associate Degree not a Bachelor’s Degree.

Related: Top 10 Successful Entrepreneurs in the Philippines Story

In the case of the highly-paid managers and consultants hired to solve the problem, they were very much structured in their way of thinking. Problems are approached using principles of management learned in college or MBA. These are all theories which can be successful under the right conditions.

Mr. Sy exhibited classic “out-of-the-box” thinking. While the “scholars” approached it as a complex problem, Mr. Sy thought it was a simple problem that needed only a simple solution.

In this day and age of volatility, unpredictability, chaos and ambiguity, you need flexibility, not rigid business decision-making. Creativity leads to flexibility.

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