Traits for successful entrepreneurs

Ask the Job Doc.

Q:  The corporate track isn’t right for everyone.  In your work, what do you see as the required traits of successful entrepreneurs?  I think I would be nervous, but excited about starting my own business.  I am a senior in college now and can’t see myself in a very traditional company. 

A:  It sounds like you have the entrepreneurial bug!  Starting a business is fun, frightening, exciting, exhilarating and nerve-wracking.

Many entrepreneurs have grand ideas, which are just that — grand ideas.  Turning a grand idea into a profitable business can be a challenge though.

I am lucky in my role.  I have been able to work with many successful entrepreneurs across many industries.  I think the “must have” traits for a successful entrepreneur include:

  • focus/determination/tenacity – able to focus on your business, and be determined in launching and building your business
  • strong work ethic, WIT (whatever it takes) – few successful entrepreneurs are able to get it all done in 40 hours in a single week
  • resilience/grit – able to pick yourself up after a setback and work through tough issues (few successful ventures are easy)
  • understanding that missteps are part of the journey – failing is part of it, no journey is a perfect upward trajectory
  • adaptable – flexibility in changing your path, based on what your customers tell you
  • business development/networker – a pipeline of new business is key to most entrepreneurial ventures
  • able to execute – taking an idea and putting a plan in place
  • experience in the industry – knowing your industry and your marketplace will give you credibility
  • listening skills – others will give you advice, you may not always agree, but always listen
  • passionate – although an overused word in business, being passionate about business keeps you energized

I consulted Jon Carson, serial entrepreneur and CEO of CollegeVine and Carson added, “Entrepreneurship is often over-glamorized as there are many more losers than winners.  It’s pretty risky to go out on your own unless you have an idea you are truly passionate about getting strong response from the market with paying customers clearly in sight.  Unless you have that I would do it the old-fashioned way and work on it nights and weekends, preferably with a partner.  The best course for you to take may be to find a great early stage company getting traction and learn the ups and downs on somebody else’s nickel.”


Good luck in finding the best path for you!


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