Anatomy of an Entrepreneur

Woman entrepreneur posing.

Here at Startup Savant, entrepreneurs are our specialty. We know what traits an entrepreneur needs to succeed, and we’ll let you in on a secret: everyone has them. Most people just need to spend time nurturing these traits in order to create a successful startup — and yes, it’ll probably take some trial and error to find out where you’re lacking.

In this guide, we’re going to dig into the ideal entrepreneur anatomy! We’ll cover the major entrepreneur characteristics you need, some ways to gain authority and deal with failure, and much more.

Recommended: Take the free entrepreneurship quiz to find out if you’re ready to create a startup!

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

What Is an Entrepreneur?

First of all, what is an entrepreneur? And what is a startup? According to Lexico, an entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” An entrepreneur creates a startup, which is a company with a business model that supports innovation. Startups tend to have fast growth potential and provide products that either don’t exist yet, or solve a problem better than the options currently available

Being an entrepreneur is easily one of the most exciting and fulfilling professions out there. That’s why every year, armies of brave souls venture out with their great startup ideas, hoping to carve out a route to success.

However, the startup and business world is one of the most competitive and unforgiving environments you can enter, and the journey is a lot more treacherous for those who lack the right characteristics (e.g., being innovative, creative, open-minded, passionate about your startup, adaptable, etc.). Think about which of the following entrepreneur qualities you already have, and which you need to tend to.

Recommended: Want to learn more about starting a startup from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit our startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.


The Anatomy of an Entrepreneur is Made Up Of the Following:

1. Passion

Starting a business is like signing up for an obstacle course. Actually building, running, and managing a business is a labor of love that requires passion and resilience. It’s not for the faint of heart.

So if you’re in it just to “get rich,” go buy some lotto tickets instead. Yes, making money is part of the show—but it can’t be your sole motivator. If you have passion for your startup, everything else you need on this journey will come naturally: hard work, determination, persistence, and the drive to succeed.

2. Creativity

One of the defining characteristics of a startup is that it is innovative enough to disrupt the status quo. In order to shake up an industry, however, creativity is a must. This doesn’t just mean thinking outside the box for your startup idea alone; as an entrepreneur you need to be comfortable with the unconventional to troubleshoot tricky problems and keep your startup moving forward.   

You’ll soon find out that an innovative approach can open up dormant opportunities and align your startup more closely with its goals.

3. Motivation

Startups don’t just appear overnight. Launching a successful startup requires you to be an entrepreneur with enough motivation to make it happen. That means having the drive to dedicate yourself day after day to making your startup a success — regardless of the trials that arise. 

Maintaining your motivation as an entrepreneur will require continuous commitment,  organizational skills to keep yourself on task, and a network of support to help you get the job done.

4. Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is,

“The ability to make yourself do things that should be done.”

Some say this is the most difficult value to practice. Being self-disciplined means being able to fight all the temptations and distractions that can ravenously gobble up your time. You have to be in control of yourself and act responsibly on a day-to-day basis in order to succeed!

5. Adaptability

Adaptability is another important part of the entrepreneur anatomy. The market is dynamic and ever-changing. Successful entrepreneurs understand that they must be flexible and able to adapt to changes quickly in order to see growth.

Most adaptation requires adopting new methods, skills, perspectives, etc., so a love for learning is important here. If you love to learn, over the years you’ll end up knowledgeable in a wide variety of areas and capable of adapting to any circumstances when running a startup company.

6. Observation

A successful entrepreneur is vigilant of their environment. They notice even the smallest changes in a system—ones that other entrepreneurs don’t. Being observant will allow you to get ahead of the competition instead of being left in the dust.

Become the type of person who pays attention to detail. You’d be surprised how often little things impact the big picture!

7. Self-Assurance

Being self-assured means trusting yourself enough to make the best decisions for your startup and face any challenges that come your way.

Building a business is like raising a kid: when they’re young you have to make all the decisions because the child hasn’t developed independence yet. If you’re not able to make decisive calls, you’ll place your business at risk of failing.

What Makes a Successful Entrepreneur?

Unlike what some people preach, confidence is not the only thing you need to succeed. You won’t be successful just by puffing your chest and acting as if the whole world is yours.

The key to success is having the competence and openness to continuously update your knowledge based on the latest trends and industry moves. You always have to be calibrating internally to be a better manager, entrepreneur, and human being.

It’s about competence laced with confidence, not the other way around. If you surge through the business world with a “calibrating attitude,” you’re on the road to success and growth. Here are some ways to nurture this quality in yourself and your startup team!

1. Be Open to Feedback

Competent leaders know that every piece of feedback is a learning tool and that it’s important to encourage feedback from all stakeholders. Never take feedback as a personal insult—it’ll only hurt your morale and breed negativity. Confident, competent leadership means seeking out and appreciating feedback.

2. Consider Adopting Holacracy

Holacracy is a flat management structure wherein everyone has the same amount of authority, regardless of different job descriptions. Companies as large as Zappos have implemented this style. This structure increases confidence and competence company-wide!

3. Use “Open Office” Design for Work Areas

Whether your startup takes the form of a holacracy or a traditional management structure, an open office is a great way to monitor activities and build a sense of camaraderie. The more often we see the faces of our colleagues, the more comfortable we feel working alongside them.

4. Create an “Independent” Culture in Decisions & Execution

Everyone should feel comfortable making small decisions on their own. Spending too much time in meetings making endless considerations on something insignificant is a waste of time.

In order to create an independent decision culture, the founder and the management need to be on the same page when it comes to handling large and small problems. Develop clear guidelines for what should be independently solved and what should be discussed in a meeting. This will make your team more competent and confident when making their own decisions.

Competence laced with confidence is the key to detailed execution and favorable results! Remind yourself and your team that competence breeds confidence, but confidence can be an empty canister.

5. Gain Authority

Let’s talk about building business authority. This is super important to do if you want to see startup success and growth, but you need to know why and how in order to get started!

What’s Authority?

When we talk about business authority we’re talking about trust. Gaining authority means establishing enough trust with your audience that they’ll consider what your business has to offer, and ideally purchase your product or service.

Why Is Business Authority Important?

If your niche regards you as trustworthy, in most cases you’ll see an increase in revenue and repeat-customers!

How to Increase Business Authority

Use Professional Design

Design is the first thing your customers will see when they look at your business. Your business website, your business card, the inside of your store—your all-around aesthetic presentation needs to show your audience who you are or who you aim to be.

Shoddy design means less appeal right off the bat, regardless of how great your product or service is. You need to have a solid design to reel people in, which means:

  • A powerful color scheme.
  • Bold & easy to read fonts.
  • A clear message.
  • A memorable business name.
  • Simple navigation/getting around, both online and in the real world.

Provide Killer Content/ Products

Image isn’t everything. Obviously you need to offer value to the consumer in order to succeed, and definitely to build business authority.

If you’re building an online, digital content-based business:

  • Make sure your content is easy to read.
  • Don’t neglect specifics—especially about your paid products.
  • Use custom, high-quality images and videos.
  • Link to other authoritative sites.
  • Use statistics.

For offline businesses:

  • Offer a product/service that people want.
  • Offer a product/service that people need.
  • Don’t cut corners.

No matter what type of business you’re starting, you won’t be able to properly build authority without first delivering awesome products, services and content!

Build Social Awareness

A lot of startups gain authority primarily through social media! You can build your online social awareness and become connected with a good chunk of the population by running campaigns on up-and-coming platforms. Take a look at Foundr’s Instagram Guide for an excellent example of this in action.

Reach Out to Influencers

Many people used to think of like-minded entrepreneurs solely as competition. However, any successful business owner today knows that reaching out to influencers is critical to building authority, especially if you own an online business.

Pay Attention to Detail

This entrepreneurial trait can really help you nail the small details that will perfect the overall look and effectiveness of your business. It’s necessary for pretty much everything you craft as an entrepreneur: your products, your message, your content. Every time you get a little detail right, you gain appeal and trust.

This can be as simple as creating quality customized items like branded pens, notepads, water bottles or other gifts for your customers. Any way you can demonstrate your attention to detail will help you make a lasting impression.

Give Back

Choose a cause that you care about and get your business involved. Whether you’re donating to charity, speaking at events or holding raffles, giving back is always a great way to build your brand’s authority.

People love getting involved with businesses that have a built-in social good. If your business is trying to pass on knowledge and wisdom, people will look up to you for it. If you’re donating charity, people will be keen to interact with your business in order to get involved with the cause.

Be Patient

Building authority isn’t an overnight process. It’s going to take time for people to notice and build trust with you.

Once you’ve taken care of all the other steps on this list, the last thing to do is just be patient. If you’re doing everything else right, authority will come.

6. Understand Failure

Even the most successful entrepreneurs fail sometimes — and when they do they fail hard, to the tune of millions of dollars. How we deal with failure is what determines our success. It’s about “failing up,” or letting failures guide us to better ourselves, our goals, and our businesses. Here are three reasons successful entrepreneurs fail up, and why you should too!

They Aren’t Afraid to Fail

The successful entrepreneur doesn’t fear failure, because they know there’s always a lesson to learn or a new perspective to gain. When they do fail, they don’t let it stop them from taking risks. They believe the possibility of failure keeps life interesting!

Tip: Do Something Crazy Today

Do something that you’re reluctant to do. Speak in front of a crowd. Ask out that person you’ve been interested in all year. If you dive right in and do what you’re afraid of, and you’ll chip away at your fear little by little.

They Let Failure Drive Them

Let’s just say it: failure sucks! Successful entrepreneurs don’t enjoy failure. They do everything in their power to avoid it — but when it does happen they know it’s not the end of the world. They’re able to react to adversity in a productive, innovative way. Failure drives them while it paralyzes others.

Tip: Focus on Your Dreams

Your dreams are unique to you, while your doubts are common to anyone who’s ever taken a risk. Come to terms with your doubts. Once you acknowledge that voice in the back of your head that says you can’t, it gets a lot easier to focus on your dream to create a startup.

They Learn Lessons

We can think of taking risks like developing film. Ever heard this old saying?

“Capture the good times and develop from the negatives. And, if your first picture doesn’t look the way you wanted it to, just take another one.”

We should all strive to have this mentality. Failure makes us stronger and helps us grow. It humanizes us, develops richer brand stories, and allows us to connect with others on a more empathetic level.

Tip: Develop Your Negatives

The next time you’re unsuccessful in a venture ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?” Don’t just stay angry. Take the time to reflect and learn from your failure. One day, you’ll be able to thank that lesson for helping you captivate an investor or close a big deal!

Entrepreneur Anatomy FAQ

What is an entrepreneur?

The definition of an entrepreneur is not only someone who organizes and operates a business; it is someone who takes financial risks that are greater than normal in order to make their dream business a reality.

What are the characteristics of an entrepreneur?

An entrepreneur could be characterized as someone who has passion, self-discipline, motivation, and the ability to think creatively. Entrepreneurs are also observant, adaptable, and self-assured.

How do you become a successful entrepreneur?

Being a successful entrepreneur means being independent and forward thinking enough to create a business that stands out from the competition. In addition, you need a great startup idea, capital, and a phenomenal marketing strategy to get your business up and running.

What are the major types of entrepreneurs?

The three major types of entrepreneurs are: the social entrepreneur who is motivated to create a positive change with their startup, the lifestyle entrepreneur who combines their interests and lifestyle into a business idea, and the serial entrepreneur who repeatedly generates business ideas and easily repeats their success of their previous startups.

Why do entrepreneurs fail?

There are many reasons why entrepreneurs fail but the biggest and most common by far are: not investing in marketing, starting a business with a market that is too big or too small, and not generating enough funding to support the business.