If you’re thinking of starting your own business, but you’re unsure if you have what it takes to get your ideas off the ground, here are ten characteristics that you can either check off your list or work on developing in order to have a good deal of ammunition on your side, when you finally decide to begin putting your plan into action.
1. Willingness to take risks
According to a study conducted by researchers at Berkeley’s School of Business and the London School of Economics, entrepreneurs are driven more by their aversion to losing than by their love of risk-taking: “The larger the loss aversion, the more effort an entrepreneur will put into succeeding.” Coupled with confidence, risk-taking becomes a powerful indicator of success—since entrepreneurs must have the willingness to face the unknown. Think of it this way: starting a business is always at least a little risky, so you may as well take that leap and have faith that it will pay off. You’ll never know unless you try.
What is tenacity, in concrete terms? Well, it’s a step above persistence and dedication. It describes the kind of will that “lets you keep a slow and steady pace through a marathon[,] that lets you climb a mountain, or makes competing in an Ironman triathlon sound like a fun way to spend a weekend.” Wow—that’s an impressive show of strength! Ideally, entrepreneurs acquire the same sort of second wind as long-distance runners. After the second wind, they continue to run toward their destination. For them, the next finish line is a challenge, rather than something that makes them feel overwhelmed.
3. Time management
Being self-employed comes with a great deal of freedom, but—as the old adage goes—“in dreams begin responsibilities.” Because of this, you need to find a way to organize your free time so that you are in control—not the other way around! One point to keep in mind is the importance of being flexible and willing to periodically re-evaluate tasks, since the entrepreneurial life is decidedly less predictable than a traditional nine-to-five office job. A popular system, as of late, involves organizing tasks around calendar deadlines, as opposed to checklists: this avoids the tendency to make unrealistically long lists.
In addition to finding tools that help your productivity and organizational skills, it’s also important to know when to take a break and set limits. Too much time dedicated to business-related tasks is likely to lead to burnout, rather than tasks accomplished. In fact, a study conducted by the New Zealand Productivity Commission showed that a longer workweek does not make people more productive. Because of this and other similar findings, a number of companies have begun implementing shorter work weeks or work days—all in the name of increased productivity. Time management isn’t always just about seeing how many tasks you can check off your list in one day: sometimes, it’s more concerned with taking enough time off to allow for sanity and results, when your nose is to the proverbial grindstone.
4. Interpersonal skills
Some contend that entrepreneurs are born, not made. In line with this reasoning are certain traits that many cite as crucial to the success or failure of business owners, including a proverbial chip on your shoulder, an independent nature, and patience. If you’re not keen to prove yourself, at any cost; if you don’t disregard competitors and well-meaning but ill-thought advice; if you aren’t resilient and able to wait out inevitable storms that interrupt your progress, it’s likely you won’t have a good chance of succeeding—no matter how many credentials or letters accompany your signature. It probably also helps to be a bit extroverted—or perhaps an ‘outgoing introvert.’
5. Passion for your pursuit
In other words, you shouldn’t start a business merely because you want to strike it rich. Rather, you must believe passionately in your product and your business idea. Belief in what you’re working for will make all the hard work you have to put in—and, rest assured, you’ll need to put in a substantial amount of hard work—feel less like a chore and more like part of what motivates you to get going, each morning.
You also need passion in order to help motivate others to care about what you are trying to accomplish, collectively, as a company. Great leaders provide inspiration as well as a model of how employees should aspire to feel about the company where they work. Moreover, “Without passion,” Jayson Demers argues, “your productivity will suffer, but more importantly, you’ll never be happy with where you are.” Think of how motivated you were to succeed when you’ve really wanted something, in the past. The passion you feel will make your hard work seem much easier than it actually is!
6. Ability to always be ‘hustling’
What does it mean to ‘always be hustling’? Two words used by Mario Andretti, four time auto racing champion, are innovation and resourcefulness.People who are innovative think outside the proverbial box; they suggest new solutions for well-worn problems. People who are resourceful know how to be creative about utilizing their resources and making sure a little goes a long way. Hustling also involves a lot of hard work and a refusal to quit, even in the face of overwhelming odds. Are you willing to do anything it takes to get ahead? In other words, are you willing to always be hustling?
7. Social media savvy
When it comes to social media, the ideal amount of participation is as much as possible. This is because sites like Facebook and Twitter are capricious, in nature: people’s feeds are inundated with information, and the more you post, the more likely your business will get noticed by some of your followers—thereby increasing the chances that you’ll acquire more followers, in the process! Moreover, the more social media sites you participate in, the more likely you’ll reach more potential customers.
Interestingly, business people are more likely to use social media for personal reasons, rather than for business. However, business trends are also changing. Increasingly, people vote with their wallets, and local businesses are becoming more important to people, not only because they represent a sustainable option since transportation costs are minimized, but patronizing them strengthens the local economy.
Image Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham
There are plenty of specific reasons to use social media, including the ability to tell a daily story—which humanizes a business, rather than focusing on the business side of things. In addition to personalizing a business, social media aids in recruitment, sharing information about products, keeping current with clients and their needs, and finding out information about potential investors. Essentially, being on social media equates to more chances to interact with current or future customers, and that is a very good thing!
8. Intellectual curiosity and education
One of the most important keys to a company’s success or failure lies in its ability to stand apart from the competition and distinguish itself, somehow. The ability to figure out the secret ingredients needed for your particular business requires the ability to think critically and research market trends and consumer feedback. Intellectually curious tendencies tend to be prevalent among people who pursue higher education, and many a successful startup was started in a garage or apartment by cash-strapped students: a few examples include Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; Zoosk founders ShayanZadeh and Alex Mehr; and Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
Of course, it’s not mandatory that you attend college or graduate school in order to be the mastermind behind a startup; however, what is necessary is the same kind of motivation and drive needed to ace final exams or to research and write outstanding term papers. If you’re an autodidact, you’re probably well-acquainted with the stacks of your local libraries and bookstores. Hopefully, the above examples will serve as impetus to get your own idea off the ground and into planning and strategizing mode.
I’ve already covered the other two Ps, passion and persistence (i.e. tenacity), so now comes the third P: patience. When starting a business, it’s crucial to remember that it’s going to take time to make your company well-known and profitable. It’s best to realize this fact early on in order to resist expecting instantaneous recognition and success. As Zalmi Duchman writes, “Without patience, I would have given up on many initiatives my company built, and I might have even given up on the company [altogether].”
The final characteristic to make the list is ambition, or a kind of drive that knows no bounds. Or, in Logan Kugler’s words, “Be ‘frighteningly ambitious’ and don’t ever tone it down.” In other words, the bigger and more outlandish the idea, the more intrigued people are likely to be. Moreover, original ideas are likely to be more memorable than bland, ordinary ones. Perhaps part of the attraction to eccentric ideas is our fascination with outstanding individuals: people who are unique and say or do something different than everything else that’s being said or done.
Think of political revolutionaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Both said and did things that were out of the ordinary and controversial for their time. However, imagine a world in which King and Parks didn’t exist. They had their fingers on the proverbial pulse of society and were able to capitalize on common sentiments and dreams that, however unpopular, were also very prevalent and ultimately instrumental in framing our modern-day understanding of human and civil rights.
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If you have any traits you’d like to see included in this list, please feel free to add them in the comments section, below. Best of luck in achieving your goals; and remember, no dream is too big to take on here in the concrete world—so get to it!