What it Takes to Be an Entrepreneur

What it Takes to Be an Entrepreneur

by Nicholas Tart on July 9, 2009 · 10 comments

Can anyone be an entrepreneur? Absolutely. Can anyone be a successful entrepreneur? Probably not. Successful entrepreneurs are a rare breed. Not everyone meets the requirements. In general, there are four characteristics an entrepreneur must possess in order to be successful.

Take Dorsey, Brin and Page, for example.

Passion for the Business

First and foremost is passion. Do you think Jack Dorsey is passionate about 140 character messages? I do. Do you think Sergey Brin and Larry Page are passionate about indexing and organizing? Probably.

Maybe those three aren’t passionate about those things, specifically, but I know they are all passionate about helping people. Twitter makes it efficient for people to communicate. Google makes it easy for people to find information.

A lot of hard work goes into making a business successful. If you don’t enjoy that work, if you aren’t passionately in love with that work, you’re not going to finish it.

“As we go forward, I hope we’re going to continue to use technology to make really big differences in how people live and work.” – Sergey Brin

Product and Customer Focus

“If you build it, he will come.” This timeless quote from the Field of Dreams no longer holds true in today’s marketplace. You can’t just make something cool and expect people to buy it.

Google was created to solve a problem. It’s hard for consumers to find good information, and Google designs its services to help alleviate this problem.

As an entrepreneur, you have to figure out what people need and want. Then proceed to create a product that satisfies those needs and desires. People pay for solutions.

“We have a mantra: don’t be evil, which is to do the best things we know how for our users, for our customers, for everyone. So I think if we were known for that, it would be a wonderful thing.” – Larry Page

Tenacity Despite Failure

twitter_failFour out of five new businesses will fail. In other words, the average entrepreneur isn’t successful until their fifth try. Entrepreneurs must be stubborn and stupid to not give up, right? Wrong, sometimes.

As evident by the all-to-present “fail whale,” Twitter can attest to this characteristic. I’m not going to stop using Twitter just because it won’t load every time I want it to. But it would be nice to see the big blue/white whale less often.

Jack Dorsey and crew are working on this, but it’s easier said than done. If they haven’t given up yet, I’m confident they’ll find a way to make Twitter successful and profitable.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll undoubtedly run into setbacks. These setbacks will only become failures if you lack the tenacity to push through.

“Ideally, we’d like to sustain it (Twitter) through revenue. But we might need to take more money.” – Jack Dorsey

Execution Intelligence

How many business ideas have you had? How many businesses have resulted from those ideas? Execution intelligence is the ability to fashion a solid idea into a viable business. This is where most entrepreneurs get stuck.

Sergey and Larry had a brilliant idea, but the execution behind bringing their idea to market was even better. They had an idea, created a beta, rose over $1 million in funding, monetized their business, and bought the Googleplex for $319 million. All within 10 years.

Of course there were other pivotal/fortunate steps along the way, but Sergey and Larry did a world-class job of executing a business.

Passion, focus and tenacity are all vital characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. But if you don’t have the business intelligence to back it up, you can forget about being successful. This is where JuniorBiz comes in!

“If you can run the company a bit more collaboratively, you get a better result, because you have more bandwidth and checking and balancing going on.” – Larry Page

Other Common Entrepreneurial Traits

Here are a few more characteristics of successful entrepreneurs:

  • Achievement motivated
  • Alert to opportunities
  • Creative
  • Decisive
  • Energetic
  • Innovative
  • Lengthy attention span
  • Moderate risk taker
  • Networker
  • Optimistic
  • Persuasive
  • Promoter
  • Resource assembler/leverager
  • Self-confident
  • Self-starter
  • Strong work ethic
  • Tolerant of ambiguity
  • Visionary

Source: Barringer, B. R., & Ireland, R. D. (2008). Entrepreneurship: Successfully Launching New Ventures. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc.

In case you don’t know, Jack Dorsey is the creator of Twitter, and Sergey Brin and Larry Page are the founders of Google.

Are you one of the six types of dumb entrepreneurs? And how many of the 23 hats of entrepreneurship do you wear? Whatever your reason, make sure you want to be an entrepreneur for the right reasons.

Photo 1 by: rich115

Image 2 by: [visual media]


Ben Foster 1 Ben December 22, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Well said, Nick. I find the list of 18 characteristics of a successful entrepreneur particularly helpful. I think I might write them down and take a peek every once in a while. The list isn’t just a lot of characteristics that you are God-given and born with– they are also a model for what every businessperson should strive to be like.

Really liked this post, Thanks.

2 Nick Tart December 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm

I think that’s a good idea, Ben! It’s a pretty comprehensive list. I actually found it in one of my entrepreneurship textbooks and I’m glad I added it.

No problem, thanks for the comment!

3 The Bad Blogger December 22, 2009 at 5:25 pm

Everything comes with passion, but I don’t agree with creating product people need, in my opinion, is creating product that people want.
There is a big different in need and want, people doesn’t need what they should need, but they always want what they really desire.
.-= The Bad Blogger´s last undefined ..If you register your site for free at =-.

4 Nick Tart December 22, 2009 at 7:26 pm

There’s some truth to your comment, but if you create a product that people can’t live without, it’s going to sell. For example, if you create a cure for cancer, you’ll be an instant millionaire.

Along with your point, people don’t need the iPhone, but they certainly want it. So it sells.

In most cases, it’s a combination of need and want. Most people need to have a car (arguably), but they buy the car they want.

Thanks for your comment!

5 Melvin December 22, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Agreeable, but I think sometimes luck has something to do with it as well…

6 Nick Tart December 22, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Hey Melvin, you’re absolutely right. Luck is an essential ingredient to a successful venture. But I’m a strong believer that hard working entrepreneurs tend to create their own luck.

7 AP December 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm

So much to comment on. All in all, great post. I was happy to read that I have all of the characteristics on the Entrepreneurial Traits list. What a relief!

I agree: Luck is made, much like the secret. When we invite positive thoughts into your minds and surround yourselves with positive people, the universe conspires to get you where you want to go.

Then there’s the idea of execution intelligence; you can have many great ideas, but it takes one great person to develop one great idea from start and beyond.

What’s interesting to note here and it’s a bit off topic, but along the same lines, Google, for all intents and purposes, has its first Microsoft challenge with the Launch of Bing. I’ve been reading some positive reviews of people using Bing. Some people are saying that you should bing it and I find myself binging it more often than not. OK, really off topic, nonetheless, great post!

8 Nick Tart December 22, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Thanks for the comment, AP! Yeah I think I have all of them too! The one I might be lacking is persuasiveness. But that can be developed.

I’ve used Bing once or twice. It’ll take quite a bit of effort (and luck!) to overtake Google.

9 Quanta February 22, 2010 at 2:52 am

Hey Nick, thanks for such a wonderful post!!
Under “Other Common Entrepreneurial Traits” there r these 3 points –
1. Moderate risk taker
2. Tolerant of ambiguity
3. Visionary

Could you give me some example based explanation for these 3 points?

10 Nick Tart February 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Of course, Quanta!

1. Moderate Risk Taker – If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to take a few risks. For instance, if you get a job, you will be paid an hourly (or salary) rate no matter what happens. If you start a business, it could be years before you start to get paid for your hard work. So starting a business is much riskier than working for someone else.

2. Tolerant of Ambiguity – This means that you don’t have to have all of the information in order to make a decision. Ambiguity just means that things are unclear. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to make decisions all the time when you don’t know how they’ll end up. For example, I’m writing a book and will implement a marketing plan once it’s published. But I don’t know how well that marketing plan will work.

3. Visionary – “Visionary” just means that you have the ability to plan your business so it’s successful in the future. For instance, I have a very ambitious vision for JuniorBiz and this site is just the beginning. I want to create a whole line of products and eventually franchise a coffee shop brand. That’s as much as I want to say ;)

I hope that helps! Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.

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