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Seven Surprising Traits of Thriving Entrepreneurs

I’m sure you’ve read many articles and even books about what makes for a great entrepreneur.

You know, the usual suspects:

  • How to create superior products…
  • How to hire the right people…
  • Having the strength to drop a steady job to start your own business

…and so on. Blah blah blah. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.

But in my experience, there are other less discussed factors that are vastly more important for an entrepreneur who is to become successful.

Some people are born with it, some need a couple of first trys to develop the skills, or something in between.

Nevertheless, here’s a list of Seven Surprising traits of Successful Entrepreneurs:

1. Knowing When To Start – A Keen Sense Of Timing

Creative Commons License photo credit: mela sogono

This may sound self-evident, but when you’ve been through the whole experience of starting a company several times… it’s, well, non-trivial.

You need to have so many things lined up before you should honestly consider launching a venture, or even a product.

The market must be prepared for it (you do NOT want to invent demand) – the working capital needs to be there – the right people must come together – and most of all the Business Idea must be one whose time has come.

This is a hard one to teach, you basically need to either be born with it or learn it as you go. Or a bit of both.

There are people like Armand Morin who says he always has several products ready to go at any time, but he waits until the moment feels 100% right for it.

When the time comes, you just know. And then you take your foot off the brakes.

2. Knowing When To Quit – When Cutting Your Losses Becomes Paramount

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This might sound like a surprise, but it’s one of the most important traits an entrepreneur could ever have.

Yes it’s important to know when to start, but sometimes it’s even more important to know when to quit and protect your assets, or at the very least, cut your losses.

Investors and true business owner types know this the best. When circumstances stack against your business model that was created before them, sometimes the best option is to fold – quickly.

And restart, of course.

This is probably the hardest thing I ever had to learn in business – not to let anything get in the way of cutting losses when things are definitely stacked against you.

Don’t do it. Don’t let the losses run you to the ground. Re-evaluate and re-start.

For hardcore marketers: check out what Gary Halbert has to say on this – item #1 on


2. Risk Aversion – Know What You’re Getting Into

SBJ 2005 - Getting There - 23
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kenneth Hynek

This may sound like a strange one, after all many people view starting a business risky compared to holding a steady job.

But in tougher economic times, it’s easier to see how true this really is. Jobs come and go, but a valid business model can keep paying you for decades!

This basically means that you don’t rush into an opportunity you see opening up, just because it’s there.

Yes, it’s true that it’s critical to follow inspiration when one truly comes your way (we’ll get to that in #4).

But when you’re potentially pouring your life savings, long days and plenty of emotional investment into a brand new business… well, let’s just say you’d better know.

Just like the best of investors do not gamble on their investments, the best entrepreneurs don’t go into a business “just to test the waters”.

So don’t do it. Do your homework and be honest about what you find.

3. Seeing The Playing FieldCaring For The Whole

097/365: Sunken Treasures
Creative Commons License photo credit: dotbenjamin

This is a kind of continuation on the previous point of risk aversion.

And it’s a more difficult one to explain because, well, either you see it or you don’t.

So let’s take a metaphor.

A general with the best strategy may win the battle, but the general who sees the whole battlefield… wins the war.

Similarly in business, you must at all times be aware of countless variables at play in your market: your competition, changes in technology, user preferences, societal changes… it never ends.

That’s why it’s called SEEING the playing field. You couldn’t possibly keep track of it all. You just have to ‘see it’.

4. Quick To Implement – Take It And Run With It

Everybody Deserves A Quickie
Creative Commons License photo credit: Whatsername?

I know some people will disagree with me on this one, but that’s okay.

When you see something new and important that could make a big difference in your business, do not wait and analyze and hmm and ooh and aah.

Just put it to the test. Implement what you can of it right away, and track the results.

If it works, great. If it doesn’t, at least you now know.

I’m always amazed when people speculate about how such-and-such strategy could work out, or how some product would do… there’s only one way to know, bud!

Apply it, immediately. It may take some thinking, but thinking never killed anyone, right?

5. NEVER Play With Money – Don’t Show Money You Don’t Want It

all night long ...
Creative Commons License photo credit: benmur

This should be self-evident: never, EVER gamble with money in your business. Do not even play.

I know it’s easy to think you’ll fix it later, but it’s only going to get harder once you give in to that impulse.

Do NOT forgo salary, even for a little while. Do not do anything that sets a bad example.

As an entrepreneur, you will encounter many situations where you’re tempted to ‘cut the corners’ or ‘sacrifice for the greater good’.

Just… don’t do it.

Hollywood movie directors know this all too well – do NOT play with your own money (unless possibly if you’re Mel Gibson).

6. Realistic About People – See Them As They Are!

pillow fight SP-10
Creative Commons License photo credit: f_mafra

As much as you want to be the seen as the good guy in your business… see people as they are, not as you’d like to believe they are.

There’s a big difference between believing in people, choosing to see the good in people… and letting yourself be fooled about their ACTUAL performance.

It’s not being pessimistic or anything of the sort, just being honest about what’s going on.

Your people will actually respect you for it. But you must be honest to yourself first, then to your people.

When you need to evaluate whether to hire someone, the ZEN of working with people comes in:

You must believe in the best that person has to offer.

At the same time you must remember whatever you see there now… may be all you’re getting. Do not bet on what you cannot see.

The same applies when you need to ‘let someone go’ (there’s truth in that nasty phrase you know). Unless you can see it sprouting already, the change you so want to see in people may not happen until it’s too late.

7. Adaptive Decision Making – The Best Plan Is The One That Works

Creative Commons License photo credit: amsfrank

Sticking to a plan that doesn’t work is madness.Do NOT fall in love with a plan that LOOKS like it should work.

Adapt, adapt, adapt.

You write a business plan so you can ADAPT it every time your circumstances change.

And they change, ALL the time!

Any time you something isn’t working in your business, forget the plan you had and wished would work.

Take what you have now and work out a new plan.

Planning is cheap so do it often.

Adapting to those new plans may be harder, but it’s the way to survive and thrive.

That concludes the Seven Surprising Traits of Thriving Entrepreneurs.

I’m sure you realize there are many more and you always learn more as you go along.

So write the next set of seven and invite me there. 😉

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