Whenever you apply for a new gig, you always read the job description first, since you want to make sure your skillset, education and interests are a fit for the position. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, however, there’s no job description — not even a warning label to signal what’s on the horizon. So, what are the important characteristics of successful entrepreneurs that you should know?
As an entrepreneur, it’s a little harder to define the expectations of your role, especially if you created it yourself. Yet, there are important entrepreneurial characteristics and skills all successful business owners have in common, in addition to the passion and work ethic that binds them together. Before you dive head first into the entrepreneurial pool, you’ll want to make sure you have these top 4 unexpected entrepreneurial characteristics to be successful.
Entrepreneurial characteristic #1: Plays Well With Others
If you’re interested in becoming an entrepreneur for the maverick appeal of making your own decisions alone, you’re not going to get very far. Whether it be working with clients or with a small team of employees you hire, one of the entrepreneurial characteristics you will need is an ability to gauge the feelings of others as you work towards your goals.
This is because, with rare exception, you’re going to find that what you want to achieve can’t be done alone. In a Q&A in Rome last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg noted that business owners will need people that have complementary entrepreneurial characteristics and skills, and can perform tasks and possess expertise that they don’t bring to the table. A studio or project-based environment such as the Game Studio at Cogswell College is a great teacher for this entrepreneurial quality – you’re more likely to find the answer when you bring in multiple viewpoints and multiple skillsets. This can be applied to any company big or small. If folks can’t gel, they won’t succeed.
Entrepreneurial characteristic #2: Seeks Out Problems to Solve
You want to change the world, sure, but desire and passion aren’t going to be enough if you’re not getting your name out there to prospective partners, employees and clients. You’ve got to find a problem to solve that no one else is, and apply your dedication and passion to that. Caleb Madsen and Ricky Ge have done just that. Even as students at Cogswell, Caleb and Ricky brought their passions for audio and health technology with them to school, then found an education that gave them the perfect tools to address the problems they wanted to solve with their entrepreneurial skills.
Caleb uses his desire to solve acoustic issues for all types of rooms and venues to develop an app with his startup AcoustiTools that uniquely uses Tango scanning capabilities to check for audio issues in a room or space. Ricky takes his passion for physical therapy and combines it with a unique use of gamification and a sensor developed by his startup Healer Tech called the FlexR to change the way rehabilitation is done. This entrepreneurial characteristic is about finding out how your passion can break the mold.
Entrepreneurial characteristic #3: Creates Things Often
A solid body of work is crucial to getting the attention of people you’ll do business with. You wouldn’t go into a job interview without a great portfolio of work. If you’re building a company, you’ll need samples of work done for clients or the unique potential you can bring.
It’s similar to advice that we give students building an art portfolio for creative jobs. These collections of work are as much about showing that one of your entrepreneurial characteristics is how you grapple with production issues as it is about seeing your actual work and passions. Walking through your portfolio will help you find your voice as you describe your projects. It will also help you speak to your role in taking those projects from concept to production, and how you managed your time on that production. It’s not enough of an entrepreneurial quality to say that you go against the grain or have a unique perspective – you’ve got to show it. Create, and create often, to establish your company’s voice and role.
Entrepreneurial characteristic #4: Works Smart, and Hard
You’ve got big ideas, you’ve got a plan – but you’re still only one person, or at most a small group of people when you’re starting out. When resources are limited, dedicating yourself 110% percent to every single task is a good way to burn yourself out before you really get anywhere. You’ve got to prioritize tasks, dedicating energy to the ones that will truly drive your company forward. That’s the entrepreneurial characteristic of working smart.
As Virgin Atlantic CEO Richard Branson pointed out in a recent Business is an Adventure speaking session, entrepreneurs have to be willing to delegate themselves – ideally “putting themselves out of business”, according to Branson. This means you’ll want to find a team to help you handle day-to-day tasks so you can focus more on high level, creative thinking.
That being said – you will be working hard. All the perks of being your own boss come with long work hours, often well beyond a standard 40-hour week. If that entrepreneurial characteristic doesn’t appeal to you, entrepreneurship will not be for you.
There may not be a formal application for an entrepreneur job, but it’s still good to think of the skills you’re going to need for such as position. If you’ve decided to be your own boss, then ensuring you have the entrepreneurial characteristics and skills and values required is the next step.