21 Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

As an entrepreneur, you will need to master a number of skills to achieve success.

From the ability to notice new business opportunities; to being happy when taking risks; from being a natural promoter to being particularly adept at cultivating networks than others.

In fact, the range of skills that successful entrepreneurs demonstrate has led to some debate about whether or not entrepreneurs are born or made.

Research carried out by Scott Shane of Case Western Research University in Ohio, for example, shows that the genetic tendency towards entrepreneurship is between 30 – 40% innate, which seems to prove that entrepreneurs are born.

Or does it?

Well, yes and no.

Having the ‘gene’ doesn’t mean that you will become an entrepreneur – much less a successful one. And at the same time, NOT having it doesn’t mean that you definitely won’t become an entrepreneur.


Well, whether genetics is on your side or not, the reality is that all entrepreneurs have to make the choice to start their own business in the first place. They all need to put in the hard work and struggle to be successful.

So, even if you weren’t born with all of  the skills I’m about to list, the good news is, that doesn’t mean that you are destined to fail.

So what are the skills that you need – and how can you master them?

In 2014, research by Gallup identified the top 10 skills that successful entrepreneurs must have, based on a study of 2,500 US entrepreneurs.

These are the starting point in terms of the skills that every successful entrepreneur has. However, there are still a few more to add to the list.

Don’t despair if you reckon you are missing a few of these. There are ways to gain the skills you need, while improving on the ones you already have.

To start with, it’s easiest to list all 21 skills under 4 main skill ‘types’ or categories:



Is your glass half full or half empty?

Unsurprisingly, your view of the world – and how optimistic you are about achieving success, will affect your ability to succeed as an entrepreneur.

While there’s nothing wrong with a healthy does of realism, being pessimistic is unlikely to enhance your ability to make bold decisions for your business.

Mastery: Even if you’re not naturally optimistic, it is possible to develop an optimism ‘habit’.

-Checking yourself if you’re thinking negatively and try to take a more positive view

-Surround yourself with positive people

-Talk to yourself positively – be kinder about yourself and believe in your own actions.


If you are confident about your decisions and the ability of others around you, then you are more likely to succeed.

Mastery: Improving your positivity will already have improved your confidence, but other tips include:

-Being assertive when dealing with people and your business

-Changing the way you think about yourself

-Changing your body language – stop stooping, make eye contact, smile more

-And when all else fails – have a list of achievements to hand. Write down everything that you’ve achieved that shows how awesome you are and refer back to it in moments of self-doubt.


Do you have a clear vision of what you want your business to achieve? Does that drive you forward each day?

Successful entrepreneurs have a strong vision for the future and a determination to improve the world through their product or innovation.

Larry Page wanted to create a better way for webpages to connect. In fact, he was so passionate about it that he and his business partner, Sergey Brin, dropped out of university and created Google. The rest is history…

Mastery: Ask yourself this. What is your why? Don’t think ‘what will my business be’ think ‘why’ and start to build your own vision of your business.

Need some inspiration? Check out Simon Sinek’s famous ‘What is your why?’ TED Talk.


Are you a leader of a follower? Business needs both – but great entrepreneurs must have a strong desire to be in control and feel comfortable making decisions that could have a huge impact on their business.

Mastery: Continuing to educate and improve yourself is a key leadership skill. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses defines good leadership and, by improving on what you already have, you can improve your ability to lead others.

Drive & determination

There will be days when no-one wants to buy what you’re selling, systems don’t work and no-one cares about what you’re doing.

If you don’t have the drive and determination to succeed, these are the days when you are more likely to want to crawl under the duvet than go to that important meeting or make that crucial call.

Mastery: You can improve your determination in a number of ways:

-Don’t over think, just act

-Strengthen your will by exercising it more often – it will make you braver in the long run

-Think about your end goal – what do you really want?

-Never give up


You have to be comfortable taking risks. Entrepreneurs have to make decisions without having many – or any – of the facts. The path of any new business is uncertain – indeed, for many established businesses, it’s uncertain – and so the successful entrepreneur needs to be willing to take risks.

Mastery: It’s true to say that you have to be relatively comfortable with risks in the first place. But take some inspiration from others when you’re in need of a brave pill. Look at Evan Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat, for example.

Having developed Snapchat with Bobby Murphy, Spiegel left Stanford University just three classes before completing his degree.

Then, in 2013, he infamously turned down a $3 billion purchase by Facebook, only to end the same year with both he and Murphy set to become billionaires.

Some might have thought both of those decisions were crazy at the time – they were certainly risky.


Along with the determination to succeed and take risks, comes the ability to deal with failure because:

You are likely to fail.

Sorry, but there it is. 90% of startups fail.

The trick is not letting that be the whole story.

Thomas Edison, the famous inventor of the light bulb, made millions of dollars in his lifetime. But did you know that he’d failed countless times with numerous other inventions before finally having that (literal) light bulb moment?

Mastery: If you want to avoid becoming one of the 90%, take a look at the newly launched Autopsy website, which gives details on businesses that have failed – and why – so you can take steps to avoid the same mistakes.


So we’ve dealt with the skills that you have within you. What about when you’re dealing with others, such as your customers, clients, investors and staff?

Team Building

We’ve already touched on leadership skills, but do you have what it takes to motivate the people around you – or to build a tribe of loyal customers? Can you build an effective team of people that will deliver your business needs?

Mastery: You’re probably reading this and thinking ‘I’m just at the start of my entrepreneurial journey. How do I know if I have this skill?’

Perhaps you’ve already built teams within your current workplace (if you’re in a job) or maybe you’ve always had the ability to spot the best people that will help you to deliver successful projects, or run fabulous events in college or school? Think about all the teams that you’ve worked with – or brought together.


In the early days – when you’re doing everything – good communication skills will mean that you can pick up the phone and speak to potential clients or investors; that you can write sales copy or a blog post that grabs attention; and that you’re able to sell your vision when no-one knows who you are or what you’re doing.

Of course, good communication isn’t all talking. It’s about listening – in fact, most of it is about listening. It’s also about using emotional intelligence to pick up clues from other people about whether what you are communicating is clear and interesting to them.

Mastery: If you’re not sure whether you’re a natural communicator, a good way to find out is simply to ask for feedback. Did that make sense? Do you understand what I’m trying to achieve? Ask questions and given people the chance to ask for more clarity and you will soon get a sense of how strong your communication is and will start to recognize the messages that you need to improve upon.


Whether you’re a solopreneur working from home or a new tech start-up, you will need to be able to negotiate.

You might need to raise finance or reduce costs. If you have staff, you may find yourself negotiating employment packages. And of course, you are likely to have negotiations on price with customers.

Mastery: Preparation is the key to successful negotiation.

Before making the call or going into the meeting:

-Consider your best alternative – in other words, your absolute minimum – and stick to it

-Be confident about your offer – don’t give too much away

-Open at your max – you might be pleasantly surprised

-Use silence – state your terms and then stop talking. It shows you’re confident about your offer

-Offer better terms – can you sweeten your offer with something of value but without reducing your best alternative?


You are working to build a successful business and a core aspect of this is about dealing with clients, staff and investors with integrity. This will strengthen your brand and build customer and staff loyalty.

Anita Roddick of the Body Shop built an entire brand around integrity and ethics – but your business model doesn’t have to be ‘green’ to be ethical and fair.

Mastery: Try to see other viewpoints. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Most people only view the world from their own perspective, so by changing your view, you’re already ahead of the game.


Again, these are the type of skills that tend to be more innate than learned – but there are still ways to build your strengths in each of them.


Successful entrepreneurs look at existing solutions and improve them. Or they take problems and come up with a new solution.

They are able to do this by using their creativity to take a different look at the world.

Mastery: You can improve your creativity by exercising your creative muscle more often.

-Be creative every day – whether it’s writing a blog post or thinking up a new marketing campaign

-Always carry a notebook around with you – you never know when inspiration will strike

-Open yourself up to new ways of thinking. If you work in tech, network with marketing directors in other industries; volunteer at a local charity; meet with entrepreneurs running social enterprises – go and meet people working in different industries from your own and see what lessons you can learn from each other

Problem Solving

The chances of your business running smoothly are slim.

You will have to deal with problems. Your website might crash when that blog post goes viral and your hosting package can’t cope. You might have issues with your production line. You might have to deal with unhappy customers.

Chances are that you’re reading this and thinking ‘But I don’t have any problem solving skills!’ That’s because it tends not to be a skill that many of us think that we have. Despite the fact that we are constantly solving problems every day. From broken washing machines to juggling childcare with work.

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, dealt with the problem of the recession – and the squeeze it was having on profits – by taking some tough decisions, including closing stores and slowing growth.

Now that the economy is recovering, Starbucks has diversified into retail sales, providing bottled and packaged goods into supermarkets. You’ve maybe seen their cold frappuccinos and their ground coffee on the shelves? Schultz dealt with the problem of falling profits by making cuts and diversifying to protect against future market changes too.

Mastery: One way to instantly become better at solving problems is to focus on the solution and not the problem itself.

What is it that you are trying to achieve and what are the different ways of achieving it based on what you have available? Just shifting the focus to the solution helps to create a more positive mindset, which in turn, helps us to deal more effectively with problems in the first place.

Recognizing Opportunities

Successful entrepreneurs constantly recognize opportunities. Whether it’s a new product to bring to market or a different way of dealing with a problem.

Mastery: There are a few aspects to consider that can help you to develop a ‘nose’ for the best opportunities:

-Ask whether the product or service will meet an existing need

-Do you have the resources – or access to the resources – that you need to get this to market?

-Can you provide the product/service at a price that the market will bear?

Is the timing right – personally, for your business, and for the market?


Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to be all ‘icky’ and ‘salesy’. Believing in your product – and having a brand that you are proud to promote – will help you to sell it to customers, staff and investors, naturally.

Mastery: Entrepreneurs tend to develop products and services that they believe in – but if you’re still not a natural sales person, make sure that you choose the sales channel that you are most comfortable with. You might like to pick up the phone, or you may prefer email or face-to-face meetings. Work to your strengths, and you will be more successful at selling.


We’re into the final category of skills – and the good news is that ALL of these can be learned.

Strategy & goal setting

The truly successful entrepreneur doesn’t just have a product that they believe in and a vision of how it will enhance the world. They have a plan of how to achieve that vision – and goals for getting their product or service to market.

You know the well-worn phrase that ‘failing to plan is planning to fail?’ It’s well-worn and overused for a reason.

We might all be tempted to think of the Richard Branson’s of this world as being creative, fly by the seat of their pants types – but I’m willing to bet that Mr B has strategies and goals for all of his businesses too.

If you’ll be looking for investment, you will NEED a proper strategic plan, but even if you intend to work as a solopreneur from your bedroom, setting your goals out will make that bedroom empire more achievable.

Mastery: Start by simply writing down the What, Why and How aspects of your business. It’s a great first step to the beginnings of a strategy plan.


Yes, there are 21 skills that every successful entrepreneur needs, and the good news is that delegation is one of them.

Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses means that you will also know when you need to focus on what you’re really good at, and when to leave the other aspects to someone else.

In the early days, you may not have this luxury, but when the business is up and running, delegation quickly becomes a necessity.

Mastery: If you can’t stand writing sales copy, employ a good freelance writer as soon as you can. If your diary, emails and calls are in backlog hell, hire a good VA. Recognize what you need to do versus what you ARE doing. Working ON the business rather than IN the business must be your focus if you’re aiming to build a successful enterprise.

Elance, ODesk and Freelancer are all good places to start to look for people to carry out those small jobs that need doing, but that you just don’t have time for when growing your business.


This is a practical skill that you will need to have when you are deciding whether to grab an opportunity or to diversify.

It’s true that some people are born with this skill but it can be one you can master. The more decisions that you make for your business – from choosing a logo to hiring staff – the easier it becomes.

Mastery: As your business experience grows, so too will your instinct for what will work and what won’t. However, bearing in mind that you will be making decisions from the start, there are a couple of tips to help you deal with them more easily.

-Make small decisions quickly. Clear them and move on.

-Ask for advice. If you’re really struggling with a decision, reach out to people who have been there before – through online forums, family and friends, or others in your field.


Not every entrepreneur needs to be a fully qualified accountant, but you do need to be able to interpret your accounts if you want to be able to make informed decisions about your business.

Mastery: Accounts may as well be written in hieroglyphics? Buy a book or take a course in basic finances – or even sit down with your trusted accountant (although they may charge you for their time). Whatever works for you – but make sure you have a basic grasp of figures and what they mean.


You need to have a clear idea of who your customers are, what types of messages they respond to and how you will reach them.

Mastery: Do some market research. Figure out who your ideal customer is and figure out how to reach them. If you already have customers – just ask them! You can get a basic Survey Monkey account for free.


You’ve created your business – or at least have an idea that you are developing. You should also have an understanding of the type of business model that works best in your industry.

Will you be online, offline or both? Do you need an office where you can meet customers or can you work from home? Understanding the best model for your business will put you on the path to success.

Mastery: Do some industry analysis. What do your competitors do – and can you capitalize on their weaknesses? What do customers in your field expect – and can you offer it better or differently?


So that’s it – 21 skills that every successful entrepreneur needs.  The more that you are willing to continue to learn throughout your entrepreneurial journey, the more likely you are to succeed in the long run.

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21 Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs

What does it take to be an extraordinary entrepreneur? You know, an entrepreneur who has a vision for a business, rallies support to build it and then grows it into one of the most innovative companies in the world….what does it take to be an entrepreneur like that?

1: Make a decision and go!

This was one of the first lessons I learned when starting my first business and it was extremely hard to get used to making a decision and then taking action on that decision. I was so afraid I was making a mistake. Since then I’ve learned that making a mistake is not a bad thing. You actually learn from those mistakes, which helps you make better decisions down the road.
You will struggle with hiring and firing people, project budgets, office space and advertising creative. When you first start off in business you will take days and even weeks to answer these questions.
This core belief actually came back to me when I lost a million dollar client. They were happy with the service I was providing, but they wanted to know what else I was going to do to take their business to the next level. I had a few ideas, but I didn’t make a decision on which idea I was going to act on. Long story short, I took too long to make a decision and I lost a $1.2 million client.

2: Show passion, not perfection

It’s a lot easier to work on a project for closed doors for years until you get it perfect and then ship, but that just won’t work these days.
Often when I talk to young entrepreneurs who are “working” on a project behind closed doors I realize they are afraid to ship because they don’t want to be ridiculed. But I always encourage them that what people don’t want a perfect product…what they want is a passionate person behind the project.
If you can show people you are passionate about creating a perfect product by releasing it, then getting feedback and iterating…then people will jump on board…especially if the product solves a real-world problem.
Don’t try to perfect anything because if you perfect something that no one wants to use, you will just end up wasting money.

3: Avoid the ugly baby syndrome

One thing that entrepreneurs are in the habit of doing is falling in love with their ideas… even if it is a bad idea. This is like parents who fall in love with their new baby, even though everyone knows newborns are ugly.
You need to be objective in your business, with your plan and your product. Everything on the table needs to be up for debate if you truly want to succeed.
Seek out mentors to help you, and get advice from them on a regular basis. Listen closely to what they are saying. Listen closely to what your partner is saying and more importantly your customers.
This doesn’t mean you have to surrender every idea, but sometimes you may have to make drastic changes.
The CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, tells a story about how they were going down the wrong path and brought in the founder of Costco, Jim Sinegal for advice. Jim said, “You know, I don’t want to be rude but this is exactly the wrong thing to do.”
Schultz listened, realized Sinegal was right, and shifted their strategy.
One way to protect yourself from falling in love with your idea is to train yourself to fall in love with solving people’s problems. It doesn’t matter what you create to solve their problems, but as long as you do it in a simple, easy, and ideally an affordable way, you will be fine.

4: Find the sweet spot, then scale it

Once you have reached product market fit, there will come a time when you need to figure out how to scale your product.
If you scale your product before people fall in love with it, you’ll tarnish your brand. What I mean by this is that people won’t be happy with your product so they will say negative things about it. This will cause churn, a decrease in sales, and a bad brand that will be hard to fix. Once people think negatively about your product or brand, it’s hard to change their perception… even after you fix your product.
Scale the business once you have fixed the major product problems.

5: Don’t think about taking a leap, just take it

Speaking of perfection, there is never a perfect time to become an entrepreneur. Though being young and without a family is certainly a better time than when you are older and have a family.
Once you take the leap though…you are committed. You need to quit your job and become your new business. That’s a huge risk for sure, but if you don’t take the risk what’s to encourage a partner or investor to take the risk on you?
This commitment needs to infuse everything you do…and never think of minimum amounts. Never think that you need to secure just 4 clients a month to succeed or you just need to make 200 calls before the money pours in.
That never happens. Your projections will more than likely fail. This means you need to have a mantra that says there is no failure…just wild success! So stop wasting time and take the leap.
One of the most common emails I get is from people asking if I would invest in their business idea. When I ask them how far they have gotten, most people tell me that they are still at the idea stage and don’t have the time to go further as they have a full time job. If you can’t take the leap into entrepreneurship, investors won’t fund you because it shows that you don’t believe in what you are doing if you aren’t willing to quit your job.

6: Entrepreneurship isn’t a war, it’s about solving problems and turning a profit

Some entrepreneurs treat business like it’s a war that you need to defeat and destroy your competition. But even if you can actually do that and become number one in your market, you will still fail if you aren’t turning a profit.
The truth is that if you can find a way to differentiate yourself from your competition in a meaningful way, your revenues will go up. Plus if you are in a new market that is big enough, it doesn’t matter what your competition is doing, as there is enough room for both of you.

7: Hire slow, fire fast

The single most critical part of running a successful business is to hire the right people…and fire the wrong ones fast.
A lot of people spend a lot of time and energy trying to select the right person based upon past performance, but I’ve often found that what you learn in an interview with somebody doesn’t equal good performance down the road.
I like to see people get their hands dirty and how they adapt to stressful situations. When I interview people, I rarely talk about what they have done or even look at their resume, instead I ask them questions related to what they would do for my company and how they’ll get that work done in a timely fashion.
And if you happen to hire a few bad people, keeping them hurts your business as it will probably do more damage then good. Mark Zuckerburg famously fired people who were loyal to him but couldn’t handle the growth. And Zappos even paid people to leave the company if things weren’t working out to make the transition easy.

8. Learn from your first, earn from your second, give back with your third

If you are a serial entrepreneur…or you’re on your first business but think you have two or three more in you…then you will likely get a lot of experience, business wisdom and wealth out of those ventures. It will take years before you get there, but if you keep at it, sooner or later you will do well.
Your first business is going to be full of mistakes and lessons learned…that’s a good thing!
You can apply those lessons learned to your second where you should get it right and become successful. Then on your third business you can give back.
You can give back money to other startups but you can also give back experience and help out other entrepreneurs or volunteer for charities. Don’t ever expect anything in return, but instead just give back like your mentors did with you.

Now, do you have to have all of these core beliefs in place on day one as an entrepreneur, you are going to become extraordinary, right? The answer is no. The thing about starting and growing a business is that you will grow as a person yourself…and that is one of the best educations an entrepreneur can get!
So take a minute to re-read the core beliefs I shared above, then print them out…and start working on becoming the next Steve Jobs or Larry Page.

Creating the Different!

There’s a sad story about failed marketing campaigns that maybe you’re familiar with.
Perhaps this has happened to you.
The story goes something like this:
Upon launching your product, or presenting a new offer, you do all the right things.

… You create useful and valuable pre-launch content that builds all sorts of interest and attention.
… You carefully craft your messaging based on tested and scientific copywriting methods.
… You have your audience keenly dialed in and channel their interest and desires through all of your marketing.
… You couldn’t be more convinced that your product or service is what they want.

Then you open the doors for a grand opening, AND…
Sales are dismal. You make a few here and there, but it’s certainly not the flood youexpected.
So where did you go wrong?
You followed the rules and listened to the experts. Why aren’t things working?

Therein lies your problem

You played it safe.
You thought you could get away with merely doing what works, what’s tested, proven, safe.
The reality is: what’s proven has already been done. As priceless as those lessons are, the standard way of executing them is yesterday’s news.
The more audiences become exposed to online marketing, the more blind they become to the latest tactics and techniques. What used to be captivating and novel soon becomes
old hat. Just as people get ad-blindness over time, they also get a sort of “marketing tactic blindness” as those campaigns become more and more routine.

Here are some examples of tactics that used to be effective, but are now merely mundane:

– The three-video hype-machine launch. They used to be rare, exciting, and useful. Now they’re just noise.
– Transparency. It used to be unexpected and disarming. Now it’s merely a baseline for not seeming like a complete douche bag.
– Webinars. They used to be novel and scarce. Now they’re common place.

It’s not that launch videos, transparency, or webinars are bad. But they’re not enough. They won’t make you remarkable. You need to add something more.
The problem is this: what was once an innovation quickly becomes a template that other people follow. And as soon as something starts to become adopted by the masses, it
immediately begins to lose its effectiveness. If you’re doing what’s been proven to work and you’re not experiencing the results you want, something needs to change>

Doing what no one wants to do

There are good reasons why there are only a few at the top of any industry or niche. Sure, those folks work harder than anyone else, but that’s only part of the reason they’re so successful.
The true reason they’re number one is because they aren’t afraid to be first. They aren’t afraid to venture out and do what no one else has done.
Want some examples of this kind of trailblazing marketing?

– Nintendo Wii. Instead of trying to compete for the male-dominated gaming market, they targeted families and made video games fun and accessible for all ages.
– Cirque du Soleil. They could have followed the template of predictable musical entertainment, but instead they combined music, acrobatics, and circus performance into a high-class, memorable experience.
– Curves. Rather than the same boring gym, they created a fitness center specifically.

What it takes to be number one

I know what you’re probably thinking: “I can’t afford to take those kinds of risks and not have things work out.”
I get it. Becoming the best is not an easy road.
Being a pioneer can mean a lonely road, and it’s scary to not have data and charts to back up your theories. And when you need things to work, it’s hard to take risks.
That’s why I recommend that you work incredibly hard at building an audience and getting  one offer working — something that you can repeat, that just works for you. Maybe it’s a  group coaching program or a membership site (bonus points if it supplies recurring revenue).
Whatever your offer is, the goal is to get it to a point of stability and a place where it’s fairly predictable.
Once you do that, getting risky gets a lot easier. I’m talking about crazy, wild ideas that  could change everything or fall completely flat. Writing a book or creating a TV pilot.
Something no one has seen yet.

A final word on breaking the rules

It’s easy to get all romantic and starry-eyed talking about breaking the rules and creating  marketing campaigns that have never existed before. You might think that I’m telling you
that you need to ditch all traditional education and throw out your entire library of marketing training.
Of course you could do that, but it would be incredibly dumb.
Any great trailblazer needs to first know the terrain before they start going off the path. You need to have the right training — from the right teachers — before you can become a
wilderness warrior and survive without a compass or a map.
So I’m not saying that you should ditch the classics and time-tested marketing advice. Of course not. By all means, master them. Be able to recite them from memory.
But please, don’t stop there. That’s only the beginning.
After you’ve done that, you’ll be well equipped to go off the path. To venture where no one has gone before, and start creating templates that others will follow.
That is, after all, where the true rewards lie.

Don’t give up!

Wrestling with a puzzle, a project or a problem, the likeliest reason to give up is the belief that it can’t be done. What’s
the point of persevering if it’s actually impossible to succeed?
“It can’t be done,” we say, throwing up our hands. Not “I can’t do it,” or “It’s not worth my time,” but “It can’t be done.”
In the year after Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile, the record was broken again and again. Once people
realized it could be done, it wasn’t an impossible task any longer. And that’s why there’s a flood of tablets on the
market, many from companies that had what they needed to build the first one, but didn’t until Apple showed them the
Two things you might take away from this: First, there’s solace in finding someone who has done it before, whatever
“it” is you’re trying to do. Knowing that it’s possible and studying how it was done can’t help but increase the chances
you’ll stick it out.
Second: huge value accrues to the few able to actually do a thing for the very first time.