What makes an entrepreneur?
Statistically, the average UK entrepreneur is a 36-year-old
white male working in the construction industry.
But statistics can be very misleading. Because in fact,
successful entrepreneurs and business owners come in absolutely all
shapes and sizes: aged between 9 and 109, male, female, rich, poor,
people with multiple doctorates and people who left school at 13,
and from every ethnic background you can think of. What they have
in common is the drive to make things happen.
This guide explains the personality traits that make entrepreneurs
who they are. And if the below sounds like you, you could well make
a great one.
- Starting and running a business is incredibly hard work
and is usually riddled with complications, frustrations and
- You have to be determined to succeed to pull yourself through
- You also have to be ready to put in incredibly long hours,
every day of the week, for months - if not years.
- Determination is also what will keep you searching for
the best contracts and deals for your business, or that one
material you just can't seem to find - which often takes hundreds
of phone calls for days on end.
- It's also vital for forging commercial partnerships with the
people you want to - your perseverance will prove a lot about you
and encourage others to trust in your ability.
- It is only with determination that you will plough on trying to
find the business model, marketing technique, and sales strategy to
make your business a real success - as these things can take years
to refine and perfect.
- If you're not determined to make your business a success, you
need to seriously question whether starting up is right for
- You've got to have confidence to be able to get through the
hard times. And there will be hard times: when you're working
14-hour days, it looks like you've just lost your life savings, and
you're still not getting any customers. You need deep
emotional reserves and inner confidence in yourself and your
business idea to get through that.
- Confidence also enables you to approach the people you need
on-side: commercial partners, lucrative clients, target customers,
- It also reassures them that you know what you're doing, and so
encourages them to work with you.
- Confidence will be an invaluable asset in any pitch or
presentation you have to make.
- If you doubt your own confidence, fear not - there are ways to
improve it. Try one of the multiple self-help books or website
tutorials out there aimed at improving esteem.
- Ideas are absolutely worthless unless you do something
about them. You need to be a go-getter to make any aspect of
your business happen.
- Entrepreneurs are the kind of people who just get on with
things, rather than sitting around talking about them.
- You need, though, to be able to structure to your action. Just
leaping in for the sake of it is foolish - you need to have clear
paths of action to make a business idea a reality.
- Being passionate in business doesn't mean that you're a fiery,
emotional, romantic hot-head - it means that you truly
believe in the business you're building, that the idea
behind it excites you, and that when you talk to people about what
you're doing, it's obvious you're really into your new business and
determined to make it work.
- Passion for a business idea - and the ability to
communicate it - is what gets staff, investors, banks,
customers and commercial partners interested in your idea.
- It can be fantastically convincing, and will always help you
strike deals and bring in custom.
- It is also your passion that will motivate staff and suppliers
when times are tough - you need to inspire them to keep working
hard to make things happen.
Ability to see the bigger picture
- When you're running your own business, you'll face constant
- You need to the kind of person who can see the bigger picture
so these don't get you down.
- You also need to view finances, strategy and growth from
a more holistic point of view so you can plan years into the
future - as all businesses should - rather than just weeks or
- This is invaluable for your budgeting and business planning,
and, so, for the survival of your business.
- Business is all about relationships.
- To be successful, it'll really help if you're the kind of
person who can build rapport easily and isn't afraid to strike up a
- You also need to build a relationship with customers and make
them want to do business with you because they like you.
- When people like you, it also increases their loyalty to your
business - a crucial tool to help pull you through the darker
times, or when a new competitor starts up just around the
- The very best entrepreneurs, with strings of companies and
millions in the bank, are almost always the biggest risk takers.
Without risk, there is no reward.
- That means grabbing an opportunity when you see one and not
being afraid of failure.
- That said, entrepreneurs take calculated risks -
which their actions may look flippant, you can rest assured that
they're doing the maths inside their head to always make sure
they've got a high chance of succeeding if they take a risk.
- Only a fraction of business owners become full-blown
entrepreneurs - the type who run hundreds of businesses all
across the world. But you can take inspiration from them, by trying
to always remember to push yourself and your ideas that little bit
Not afraid of failure
- If you worry too much about failing, you'll never start a
business. You have to be willing to fail if you want to
- Banishing a fear of failure also gives a massive boost to
your confidence and risk-taking ability - after all, if the
worst option isn't to be feared, you might as well have a go.
- You need to try to banish fear not just of your business
failing, but also of an important contact turning you down or a
client deciding not to do business with you. If you're always
worried about this, it will stress you out far too much and make
you seem much less confident.
- And remember - you learn best from your mistakes
in business. Don't fear them - embrace them!
- Key for being able to identify market gaps, new customers, new
product possibilities and, if you become a fully-fledged
entrepreneur, new business opportunities.
- Opportunity-spotting often comes hand-in-hand with optimism -
and the ability to take calculated risks.
- It'll help you find more inventive sales, PR, marketing and
partnership ideas too.
- If you think this area needs work, start noticing how big
companies are spotting new opportunities - how they
capitalise on trends and target their advertising. And start
reading books on how businesses have developed in new and creative
- You'll know if you're an opportunity-spotter if you're
always coming up with ideas or you often see how
products and business could be more efficient or more popular.
- Entrepreneurs always think of profits and the bottom
line. If you're not focused on making money or at least
breaking even, you're not going to have a business for very long -
just a cash-drain.
- Being able to calculate figures quickly will help, but it's not
imperative. What is vital is that you always remember to work out
costs and profit margin on everything you buy and sell and add or
deduct it from your budget.
- Thinking through any financial decision carefully
is far more important than doing so quickly.
What if I don't think I have all these traits? Can I still
run a business?
This guide is just a round-up of the most common entrepreneurial
traits. But some very successful businesspeople are painfully shy,
and some perfectly competent business owners never take risks and
aren't too hot in the maths department either. However, if you feel
that you lack most or all of these personality traits, you might
want to think about whether you're really ready to start a business
now, or whether it would be better to try to develop your skill-set
for a few years first so you know you have the best shot at things
when you do eventually start.
Does it matter that I've never run a business before?
Of course not - everyone's got to start somewhere. That said,
there are some key skills that will really help you out if you
don't have former business experience. Find out more in our guides:
*how important is business experience* and *what skills do you need
to run a business?*. Even better, Smarta has put together
everything you'll need to start a business in Smarta Business Builder
- download it now to get started.
The bottom line: in finance and accounting, this
refers to net income after taxes (which is the bottom line
calculated on a spreadsheet) - in other words, how much money there
is to be made from something.
Breaking even: when you're no longer losing money as
a business or on a product, but are making about the same as you're
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Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011 is sponsored by NatWest.