Characteristics of successful entrepreneurs

A great number of new businesses are founded and registered every year, however, few will go on to become hugely successful. Although there are many factors which can affect the success of a business startup, an influential one, particularly in the early stages, is the character of the entrepreneur. As the driving force and visionary behind your business, your personal attributes can have a large impact upon your business’s success. Let’s take a look at some traits that successful business leaders and CEOs tend to share.


As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to cope with rejections and setbacks without getting disheartened. Business is competitive and if you can’t develop thick skin and resilience, it is unlikely you will persevere through (inevitable) tough times and come out stronger. Learning from the difficulties you face and persisting are key attributes for succeeding.
Example: When Walt Disney worked at a newspaper, his editor told him he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”. Had he not persevered, he would have missed out on 22 Academy Awards and becoming a household name.

Relationship building

Being able to build strong, positive relationships with business partners, investors and your staff is key for getting the best from them. People are much more willing to work hard for someone they like than someone they don’t. A study reported in Harvard Business Review – conducted over 10 years on upwards of 2700 business executives – found being able to build ‘deep, trusting relationships’ was the attribute most likely to determine CEO’s success or failure.

Example: Known for being charismatic, hands-on and open, Richard Branson is a good example here. He recently blogged, “friendliness is a huge positive – and it will take you more places in life and in business than being argumentative and uncaring ever will”.

Care and share

Going hand-in-hand with relationship building, it is important that you care about your organisation and staff, and share your success. Prioritising your company’s needs over your own and holding yourself to the same standards as everyone else sends a strong, positive message to your staff that you care and are ‘in it together’. What’s more, magnanimous, respected leaders will share victories but acknowledge and take ownership of failures, without passing the buck.

Example: Mark Zuckerberg is often quick to acknowledge and take responsibility for Facebook failings or controversies and is known for working shoulder-to-shoulder with his staff with no grand executive office or special treatment.

Don’t settle

Tenacity and a drive to keep on bettering your business is vital for continued growth and success. Even if your business is flourishing, getting complacent or settling for your current state won’t see you reach your full potential and can become a downfall – you can guarantee your competitors won’t be resting on their laurels. Continued ambition and thinking big can take you far.
Example: An insatiable urge to move forward on to bigger and better things is common in successful CEOs. Ingvar Kamprad, IKEA’s founder, puts this as, “the most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.”

Surround yourself with talent

You could have a fantastic business idea but without the right team of people behind you, you wouldn’t be able to get it off the ground. A good business leader will be able to find the people that their business needs, where their expertise is lacking, and delegate tasks efficiently. Whether it’s a creative marketing mind or the aid of an accountant to keep your books balanced, seeking help and effectively scouting talent will help you create a high-achieving team.
Example: Steve Jobs personally interviewed thousands of applicants when on the search for the best and brightest additions to the Apple business, often scouting for talented candidates in new, atypical ways.

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