Aspiring entrepreneurs often ask know how successful business owners got where they are today. More often than not, though, this curiosity is restricted to technical details like which business models were used or how startup financing was obtained.
The idea seems to be that it’s just a matter of going through the same motions that they did. But this is not the only part of the business success equation. Virtually all successful business owners have a set of core personality traits and characteristics that drove them to take those fruitful actions.
Unless you already have or can cultivate the following traits, business ownership could be a challenge.
1. An Obsession with Outcomes
Owning and operating a business is a world apart from being an employee. For one thing, employees need not concern themselves with the ultimate outcomes of what they do.
Someone you hire to build the company website does not personally feel the pain of corporate problems. So long as he did his job correctly, the web designer takes comfort in knowing that a server crash is “someone else’s problem”.
The business owner sees the situation much differently. From his perspective, it doesn’t matter why the server crashed – all that matters is how many sales the company loses until it gets fixed. Thus, the owner must solemnly and blithely acknowledge problems while promptly doing whatever is needed to solve them.
It’s difficult to exaggerate the importance of determination to business success. Paul Graham, a venture capitalist who has both run and invested in hundreds of startups, believes this is actually the most important trait of all:
“You can lose quite a lot in the brains department and it won’t kill you. But lose even a little bit in the commitment department, and that will kill you very rapidly.”
There is a very good reason why determination and commitment is so important. As a business owner, you are literally responsible for every facet of the business.
Whether you hire people or choose to do everything yourself, the completion of everything from products to websites to sales materials to the procurement of office space falls squarely upon you. Should anything fail to get done or take longer than anticipated, you will be responsible for somehow getting it done.
Unless you authentically believe in your business and see it as a cornerstone of your future, you will likely give up.
3. Long-Range Vision
Starting and running a successful business is not easy. As the old saying goes, “if it were easy, everyone would do it”. Thus, it is not enough to simply react to threats or opportunities as they arise. Instead, entrepreneurs who thrive tend to hold enthusiastic, long-term visions for where they wish to end up.
Expected obstacles or chances to grow are anticipated and planned for well in advance, such that each day’s activities advance the goals you wish to reach. Without such a vision, you might find yourself torn by indecision each time a new problem or opportunity crosses your path.
At the same time, the sharpest business owners are careful to keep their heads in the clouds but their feet on the ground. While it’s all well and good to theorize about far-off projects, entrepreneurs need to remain focused on proven business models.
That which consistently puts money into your bank account ought to be prioritized over speculative forays into untested markets or products. It’s not that successful business owners never experiment (far from it), but that they do not lean their entire businesses against unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky ideas.
5. Emotional Stabilit
Running a business (especially early on) often feels like an emotional roller-coaster. One day, sales are rolling in and everyone’s pumped up about the future.
A week later, you lose a major customer and everyone’s enthusiasm takes a hit. How you react to the ups and downs of everyday business life has a lot to do with whether you succeed.
Ideally, a business owner should be able to absorb these emotional peaks and valleys by taking comfort in his or her long-term vision and strategy.
Most successful business owners have had to contend with their fair share of doubters. Some people will express skepticism at your business goals for reasons totally irrelevant to your own situation.
The fact that a business lacks the certainty of a “guaranteed” career is often enough create doubt that you will do well. When no one believes in you, the only way to succeed is by believing in yourself.
It is therefore usually best to ignore criticism that isn’t focused or doesn’t come from another entrepreneur.
7. A Balanced Life
Finally, entrepreneurs often come to find that work cannot consume their lives. If you do not derive enjoyment from other parts of life (romance, hobbies, athletics, etc.) your entrepreneurial success will begin to feel less and less satisfying.
Paradoxically, this can, in turn, start to erode your entrepreneurial ability and confidence. No matter how hectic your company becomes, strive to maintain a balanced life outside of work.