What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur

What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur

While entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, more often than not, the ones that truly flourish have several attributes in common. Here, psychologists and experts reveal what those qualities are.

1. They know when to risk it

“Entrepreneurs are not usually ‘gamblers’, but they do have the disposition to take calculated risks,” says business psychologist Dr Mark Parkinson. “Also, their risks are bearable because many entrepreneurs have a high tolerance of ambiguity, so they’re good at coping with open-ended situations and can deal with uncertainty.”

Most entrepreneurs move ahead empowered by an understanding of the consequences, adds Natasha Courtenay-Smith, digital marketing strategist, business coach and author of The Million Dollar Blog. “Having this willingness to take calculated risks means you can forge ahead quicker and get more done,” she says.

2. They believe in themselves

“There is no straightforward route to success, so you need to have conviction and be decisive,” says chartered clinical psychologist Dr Jessamy Hibberd. “This also means you need to be confident in yourself, believe you will succeed and not be deterred if others don’t agree with you.”

After all, as an entrepreneur you have to be prepared to stand out from the crowd. Sandra Murphy, SME consultant at Business Doctors, explains: “Whether you’re saying ‘We need to change how we do things’ to people within your own company or to your industry as a whole, it’s not always what people want to hear. You’re going to need a hefty dollop of self-belief to do this authentically.”

Asking for investment, selling your idea or changing products all require chutzpah, too. “Self-belief can help you to see ‘failure’ as a learning experience rather than the end of the road,” adds Murphy.

3. They follow their instincts

“Trust your gut feeling,” advises Saija Mahon, founder of Mahon Digital Marketing and author of The Modern Female Entrepreneur. “I’ve learnt so much from business books and seminars – however, it’s gut instinct that’s usually ensured I make the right decision. The human mind is truly amazing; it guides you more than you know.”

Deniz Ucbasaran, professor of entrepreneurship at Warwick Business School, explains: “As humans, we rely on both rational thinking and automatic, non-conscious intuitive thinking. Entrepreneurs often need to make quick decisions. If there is too little information, or simply too much to make sense of – for instance, when entering a new market – intuitive thinking can help. First, it’s based on experience – in fact, some scholars refer to intuition as ‘automated expertise’. Second, intuition is rapid and holistic, meaning it helps individuals make associations between new information and deeply held knowledge and beliefs. This allows intuitive thinkers to identify patterns or connect what appear to be disparate pieces of information, helping to produce novel ideas.

“Entrepreneurs don’t just talk about doing something – they do it. They are very driven, always look for the next thing, and they have clear goals”

Dr Jessamy Hibberd, chartered clinical psychologist

“Because entrepreneurship is about identifying opportunities to create new value, and because entrepreneurs often need to act quickly, intuition can be a real asset.”

4. They are resourceful

Faced with an ever-changing road map, adaptability is vital. “It’s a question of knowing you can work everything out or find the resources to do so, rather than letting yourself become blocked because of the things you feel you don’t know or understand,” says Courtenay-Smith.

Ben Maruthappu, co-founder and president of on-demand social-care platform Cera, knows that adaptability has been key to his business success. “When building a company from concept to scale, it’s essential to make the most of your resources, as these are finite, and to look for opportunities that could benefit the company,” he says. “Start-ups are fast-moving. It’s also absolutely critical, therefore, that you’re adaptive. At Cera, we have to iterate different concepts daily to provide the best services for our clients, while generating the technology to match.”

5. They have drive

It may not be glamorous, but pure industriousness is something all entrepreneurs at the top of their game have in common. “They don’t just talk about doing something – they do it,” says Dr Hibberd. “They are very driven, always look for the next thing, and they have clear goals.”

Pete Liggins, founder of boxing gym Box Clever Sports, knows that hard work has been an essential ingredient in building his company. “Running a business means you’re solely responsible for its successes and failures – and that means getting up early, working seven days a week, and putting in the hours of admin, marketing and problem-solving,” he says. “But growing your idea into a successful business is a wonderful feeling.”

Mahon recognises her drive as the attribute that took her to the next level. “I started as a one-woman band six years ago, and today I have an award-winning agency with two offices,” she says. “I know I wouldn’t have got here if I didn’t have my passion and drive. Drive comes from passion; passion feeds drive; drive gives you energy; energy ensures you get up each day and execute your vision.”

6. They keep on keeping on

Resilience may be the most crucial characteristic of all. It’s how a person copes with challenges that separates the winners from the losers. In 2016, Steven Novick founded Farmstand, a restaurant specialising in ethical and sustainably sourced food, in London’s Covent Garden – achieving a goal he set after being diagnosed with cancer 10 years earlier.

“Anyone starting a business should be ready to face the challenges head-on, whether it’s financing falling through or your product having to be redesigned over and over again,” he says. “Founding Farmstand has meant overcoming a number of obstacles, particularly when it comes to keeping the business as sustainable as possible. It’s not always easy to achieve while keeping costs down. Being able to maintain faith in your product, no matter what, is crucial. And in a sense, Farmstand’s entire existence is a testament to my resilience, as the idea was born out of my battle with cancer, which spurred me on to make a success of my dreams.”

 

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