Business development 27 September 2016

The six common traits that make a successful entrepreneur

sense of humour
Successful entrepreneurs are able to maintain a sense of humour

Chief commercial officer at Crowdcube, Matt Cooper, identifies the key personality traits that make successful entrepreneurs.

At Crowdcube, we see and speak to interesting and innovative startups and growth businesses every day as they look to us for help to raise investment for the next stage of growth and development.

While we can often spot a potentially successful business by assessing a company’s goals and plans, just what makes a successful entrepreneur in terms of personality traits?

Here we’ve tried to identify the common attributes we see in successful founders, which we feel appeal to our investors as they look to part with their cash to support ambitious businesses and budding entrepreneurs.

Creating value

The first thing we see as a recurring theme in and entrepreneur is the ability to create value where others cannot or will not. This often defines an entrepreneur in my view, and it’s something that not a lot of people have.

It’s the ability to create something from nothing or spot an opportunity where others cannot see one. This is a common trait in businesses that are either moving quickly or in entrepreneurs that have been there, seen it and done it before  – they have created value and then at some point have created value for shareholders in the form of a financial return.

Successful entrepreneur – Being scrappy

Then there’s the ability to be what we call “scrappy”. By adapting and being able to change roles if necessary, for example if you are a tech founder, you can’t just stick to that particular area. The same applies to someone with a sales and marketing background. It’s the ability to be able to hustle, to do things that make you feel uncomfortable sometimes, to think on your feet and learn on the job in order to move the business forward and get the job done.

Starting up and running a business is never a smooth road. It’s fair to say there are usually plenty of lumps and bumps and being able to be scrappy when you need to be is a common trait that we see with a successful entrepreneur.

In an early stage business, they probably have to be scrappy every day of the week, but in a later stage business it’s being able to recognise that you have to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in if needed.

A problem shared is a problem halved

Many a successful entrepreneur understands that starting and running a business can be a lonely place. Having a co-founder can make life much easier, of course, as it allows you to share the stresses and strains of starting a business.

Those that are on their own will tend to surround themselves with a network of people they can go to for support and guidance. These are individuals whose judgement they trust and more often than not will tell you straight.

As a business owner you will make wrong decisions and it’s important to have people who are prepared to tell you to “stop drinking your own Cool-Aid”.

Developing a thick skin

In business there is a misconception that an entrepreneur needs to be bulletproof and have to plough on regardless. It’s ok to be vulnerable at times. Your investors and your team will respect you for it. The fact is that no one likes dealing with failure or setbacks, but as an early stage business you have to cope with people saying no to you and that it might take 100 phone calls or emails to win that one contract or hire that first key member of the senior team.

So the ability to deal with rejection and criticism while retaining a certain vulnerability is something else we often see.

Coping with failure

And remember businesses do fail. There’s an interesting difference between how we perceive business failure here in the UK compared to the US.

Over there, it is often perceived as a badge of honour, here there’s something of a stigma attached to it. Whilst as an individual you might put a lot of pressure on yourself leading up to the business failing and afterwards, you will get over it and others will as well.

Any seasoned and successful entrepreneur, and certainly investors, will know that businesses fail, have seen it before and accept it. Stop apologising, get over it and move on.

And finally…

We couldn’t look at common traits of a successful entrepreneur without referencing a sense of humour. This is essential, especially as you begin to scale up, hire more people and develop teams. Sometimes you might feel like sobbing into your sandwich at lunchtime, but you have to be able to stop, laugh occasionally and enjoy the ride.

Read on to discover the three common phases of change for startup CEOs.

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