What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? those who would take the plunge and leave their steady nine-to-five job to start a business almost always first pass through a process of soul-searching during which one asks oneself, "Do I have what it takes to be an Entrepreneur?". Looking at some of the most well known and successful entrepreneurs it would appear that there is no common denominator. Entrepreneurs seem to have been drawn from a widely varying pool of talent and personality - from genius super-achievers to high-school dropouts.
However, the best entrepreneurs do share some common traits that are crucial to a successful venture. For some, these traits come naturally and for others they are learned through hard-knowck experience, yet all are vital if you want to start and run a business. An analysis of 23 research studies published under the title "The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Entrepreneurial Status" found that entrepreneurs have different personality traits than corporate managers, scoring far higher on traits such as openness to experience (curiosity, innovation) and conscientiousness (self-discipline, motivation) and considerably lower on neuroticism, which allows them to better tolerate stress.
Starting a business requires perseverance : you have to be able to live with uncertainty and push through a crucible of obstacles for years on end. Entrepreneurs who don't give up easily have a better chance of finding their market and outlasting their inevitable mistakes. This trait is known by many names--perseverance, persistence, determination, commitment, resilience--but it's really just old-fashioned stick-to-it-iveness.
"Tenacity is No. 1," says Mike Colwell, who runs Plains Angels, an Iowa angel investor forum, and the accelerator Business Innovation Zone for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. "So much of entrepreneurship is dealing with repeated failure. It happens many times each week."
It's commonly assumed that successful entrepreneurs are driven by money. But most will tell you they are fueled by a passion for their product or service, by the opportunity to solve a problem and make life easier, better, cheaper.
"Most entrepreneurs I know believe they will change the world," says Jay Friedlander, a professor of sustainable business who works with entrepreneurs at the College of the Atlantic and at Babson College. "There's an excitement and belief in what they're doing that gets them through the hard times."
Passion based on your company's specific mission is an intrinsic drive that provides the internal reward that can sustain you between paydays.
This classic trait is the definition of risk-taking--the ability to withstand the fear of uncertainty and potential failure. "It all boils down to being able to successfully manage fear," notes Michael Sherrod, entrepreneur-in-residence at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.
This is where the ultimate entrepreneurial test takes place, on the mental battlefield. You can go with the fear and quit, or push through it. While many would feel powerless in the face of adversity, "the entrepreneur looks at the situation and knows he has some control over the outcome," says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.
Entrepreneurs have the ability to spot an opportunity and imagine something where others haven't. They identify overlooked niches that put them at the forefront of innovation. They imagine another world and have the ability to communicate that vision effectively to investors, customers and staff.
"Entrepreneurs often face naysayers, because we see the future before the future plays out," Matityahu says. "You have to be several steps ahead of the market."
Self-confidence is a key entrepreneurial trait. You have to be crazy-sure your product is something the world needs and that you can deliver it to overcome the naysayers, who will always deride what the majority has yet to validate.
Researchers define this trait as task-specific confidence. It's a belief that turns the risk proposition around--you've conducted enough research and have enough confidence that you can get the job done that you ameliorate the risk.
"You have to have a lot of self-confidence. Be willing to take a risk, but be conservative," says Jason Apfel, founder of FragranceNet.com, an e-commerce site for beauty products. Apfel didn't know anything about the beauty world when he started the company, but he believed he could create a solid website to sell such products. "I thought selling a commodity online at the most competitive price would work," he says. His company has outlasted well-funded competitors and sees $145 million in annual sales.
Business survival, like that of the species, depends on adaptation. Your final product or service likely won't look anything like what you started with. Flexibility that allows you to respond to changing tastes and market conditions is essential. "You have to have a willingness to be honest with yourself and say, 'This isn't working.' You have to be able to pivot," says Colwell of Plains Angels.
Entrepreneurs exist to defy conventional wisdom. A survey last year by Ross Levine of the University of California, Berkeley, and Yona Rubinstein of the London School of Economics found that among incorporated entrepreneurs, a combination of "smarts" and "aggressive, illicit, risk-taking activities" is a characteristic mix. This often shows up in youth as rebellious behavior, such as pot-smoking. That description would certainly hold true for some of the most famous entrepreneurs of recent years.
In fact, simply starting a business breaks the rules, as only about 13 percent of Americans are engaged in entrepreneurship, according to a Babson College report. Doing what the majority isn't doing is the nature of entrepreneurship, which is where the supply of inner resources comes in.
Are these traits in you? There's only one way to find out - Take the plunge!