What Characterizes a Successful Entrepreneur?

Sujan Shrestha, July 21, 2017

Since the 18th century, researchers have longed to characterize entrepreneurs and have come up with varying conclusions ranging from risk bearing mindset to the need for internal locus of control. Several point out the ability to take risks, make connections and grab opportunities. Some have even delved into the culture of an economy. While of course, there are many skills, attributes and aspects that characterizes a good successful entrepreneur, there has been some consensus recently about what makes a good entrepreneur. The result is seven overarching themes of attitudes and personalities that successful entrepreneurs possess:

  • Commitment and determination towards achieving their goals

Needless to say, working hard is necessary to achieve any feat. It is very easy to lose track of what you want to achieve. It's those that are focussed and have a high level of self discipline that actually do achieve success. Having a desire to achieve or passion to do something is just the beginning of the journey; getting there requires commitment and determination.

"I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance."
– Steve Jobs, American entrepreneur, businessman, inventor, and industrial designer


  • High moral strength and courage to deal with failures and conflicts

A successful entrepreneur doesn't give up. In fact, more often than not, they will have gone through failure or faced issues down the line. However, they are resilient and choose to learn from mistakes and failure's.

"As an entrepreneur, you have to be OK with failure. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough."
– Alexa von Tobel, CEO of LearnVest


  • Leadership in terms of self-initiation and ability to inspire others

A good entrepreneur is a good leader. They can motivate their employees to work together toward their goals, through ups and downs, which requires earning their trust and respect. They are self-starters but team builders.

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” 
– John C. Maxwell, American author and speaker


  • Obsession with finding and grabbing any market opportunity

A good entrepreneur is obsessed with value creation and enhancement. They are in a constant lookout for opportunities and always think outside the box. They see better ways of doing things and know that every idea can be expanded upon, made better, enhanced or broadened.

"Being an entrepreneur isn’t really about starting a business. It’s a way of looking at the world: seeing opportunity where others see obstacles, taking risks when others take refuge."
– Michael Bloomberg, American businessman, author, politician, and philanthropist


  • Calculated risk taker with high tolerance for uncertainty

Launching entrepreneurial ventures is full of risks, but successful entrepreneurs never play it safe. They are willing to take calculated risks–they weigh the possible costs (of money, effort and time) and the scope of the business venture before making decisions. This requires having good decision-making skills. That's what distinguishes careless risk-takers from successful ones.

"Everyone can tell you the risk. An entrepreneur can see the reward."
-Robert Kiyosaki, American author of Rich Dad Poor Dad


  • Open minded, responsive to change and creative problem solver

A successful entrepreneur is always open not just to suggestions but also to the possibility of failure and even mistakes. They are creative problem solvers: they aptly realize when they need to change their course and adapt to change, which there is bound to be plenty of in business.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."
– Albert Einstein, Theoretical physicist


  • Motivation to excel through constant development and growth

Successful entrepreneurs are goals-oriented (let's remember our blog on setting SMART goals) and have a drive to achieve and grow. They are aware of their strengths and how to utilize them as well as their weaknesses and how to tackle or work with them. They seek to constantly excel and improve not just the business but also their level of knowledge and skills.

"Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection."
– Kim Collins, Track and field athlete


Even though an entrepreneur may or may not have all these characteristics, they will have shown most, or a few, of the above traits that separates them from the rest. We have seen many cases where different entrepreneurs have tasted success because of different traits that they possess, which suggests that it might be inaccurate to say that a few certain selective traits are more important than others. However, focusing on certain traits depending upon the business model will undeniably help them be successful.  

Sujan Shrestha, ACCA is the Finance Officer at True North Associates, a venture capital/private equity firm. '

Reference: Spinelli, S., & Adams, R. (2016). New venture creation: Entrepreneurship for the 21st century (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

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