There’s a lot of scientific research out there that examines the traits that many successful CEOs have in common. Most are tall, for example, and people with wider faces tend to rise to the top faster than those with narrower mugs, apparently.
The best CEOs are humble and while they also have to have a measure of charisma. (I suspect this is easier said than done.)
How much of this sort of research reflects reality is a question that will probably never be answered. It’s pretty clear, however, that it doesn’t much reflect the reality of your average successful small business owner or enterprising entrepreneur. The qualities that make for a successful entrepreneur have nothing to do with looks or demeanor and everything to do with perseverance and diligence.
I don’t have the scientific research to back it up, but I do have enough years of experience meeting and interviewing entrepreneurs to know that the ones who endure and thrive as business owners all have a few traits in common. Here are five qualities every successful entrepreneur must have.
Common sense. You don’t need an MBA to be a successful business owner. In fact, you probably don’t even need a college degree. What you do need, however, is a solid dose of common sense. Whether you’re just starting out or have been in business for decades, you still probably won’t be able to afford to hire someone to handle every facet of your business. There’s a lot you’re going to have to do yourself. Whether it’s solving problems in the warehouse, dealing with computer issues or handling minor accounting, entrepreneurs are called on to wear many hats. The ability to be a jack of all trades and a master of at least one is what makes entrepreneurs able to handle the day-to-day challenges of running a business.
Diplomacy. Never has the customer been more right than when you’re the owner of the business. Every customer is hard-earned, and losing one is something small businesses can’t afford. As a business owner, you need to be able to negotiate treaties between your employees, your customers and your vendors. And that’s just the beginning. You’ll probably also have to finesse relationships with local inspectors or regulators, neighbors who don’t like the traffic your business is causing or the guy who owns the shop next store who keeps using your parking spaces. Being able to keep people happy while staying in business is essential.
Fear. You might think a fearless entrepreneur is a successful entrepreneur. But, fearlessness leads to making cavalier decisions. Instead, good successful business owners have a keen sense of fear and when they think something’s about to go wrong, they put a plan of action in place to prevent it — or at least to minimize the damages. A healthy fight-or-flight instinct has kept many an entrepreneur from unknowingly driving his business of a financial cliff.
Leadership. Everyone who deals with a new business is taking a leap of faith. Employees who sign on to work for you aren’t sure whether they’ll have a job in six months. Customers who do business with you have no idea whether you’ll come through with what you’ve promised. A good leader who naturally possesses leadership qualities that will inspire confidence and loyalty stands a much better chance of making it than a business owner who only thinks of the bottom line.
Creativity. You don’t have to be in a creative business to be a creative business owner. In fact, if you’re not a person who can come up with creative solutions to difficult problems, you’ll never make it as an entrepreneur. Being a business owner is, above all else, about figuring out how to turn lemons into lemonade and problems into profit. If you can do that, everything else will fall into place.