Last Updated 20 April 2017 | By:

Entrepreneur Anatomy

The Traits It Takes To Succeed

Entrepreneur Anatomy: The Traits It Takes To Succeed

All we deal with around here are entrepreneurs, interviewed hundreds, the Startup Savant team is composed of them as well, so we definitely know a bit about the traits it takes to succeed. And listen, we all have these traits. This includes you. What matters is how much of “energy” you give them, you know?

So let’s jump into this. We’ll start by briefly covering the top 5 characteristics then dig into confident leadership, gaining authority, and more. Enjoy!

1) Top Characteristics

Being an entrepreneur is easily one of the most exciting professions. It’s certainly one of the most fulfilling and appealing.

Every year armies of brave souls venture into the business world, start a business, and begin working towards success. But before hopping on the bandwagon, if you can start enforcing these characteristics things will go much smoother.


1) Passionate

The business world is one of the harshest, most competitive and unforgiving environments. Starting a business means plenty of highs, lows, difficulties, obstacles, struggle and challenges.

Not for the faint-hearted…

Building, running and managing a small business is a labor of love that takes an emblazoned and passionate mind to appreciate how entrepreneurship works.

So if you’re in it just to “get rich,” you should go buy lotto tickets instead. While making money is part of the show, it can’t be your sole motivator. If you have the passion for business, everything else will follow: persistence, determination, hard work, and the drive to succeed.


2) Self-Disciplined

Self-discipline is described by Merriam Webster as:

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

Many argue it’s one of the most difficult values to practice. You have to be in control of yourself and act responsibly if you want to succeed, especially when handling the registration process. Being self-disciplined means you’re able to fight all the temptations and distractions that ravenously gobble up your time.

It means you’re smart and focused enough to do things today rather than postponing them for later, because ‘tomorrow’ never really comes!


3) Adaptable

Business and the market are dynamic, always changing. Successful entrepreneurs find ways to adapt, understand they must respond to changes quickly, and have to be flexible at all times.

Part of this means you love to learn, because most adaptation takes place through taking on new methods, skills, perspectives, etc. Throughout years of this they end up being knowledgeable and skilled in a large variety of areas.


4) Observant

A successful entrepreneur is vigilant and receptive of their environment. They’re able to notice even the smallest changes and problems in a system.

Being observant is important because it allows you to notice things other entrepreneurs can’t. A good eye will take you a long ways! You’ll be ahead instead of getting left behind. Become the type of person who sees some of the many bigger pictures of business.


5) Self-Assured

Being self-assured means you trust yourself enough to make the best decisions for your business. And because you trust yourself, you’re confident when facing challenges that come your way.

It’s normal to doubt yourself sometimes, however, if you’re severely indecisive that can be a huge stumbling block. Building a business is like raising a kid, and when they’re young you have to make all the decisions because the child hasn’t developed independence yet.

If you’re not self-assured enough, you’ll place your business at risk of failing because you’re not able to make decisive calls.

2) Confident Leadership

Confidence has been overrated for so long that we’ve been internalizing it religiously. We’re taught being confident is a sure way to success.

No, the sure way requires more than confidence. The key to success is having the competence and being open to continuously updating skills and knowledge based on the latest trends and industry moves. It’s always calibrating internally to be a better manager, professional, entrepreneur, and human being.

A gorilla can look pretty confident with its puffed-chest, but it’s a useless type of confidence. You can’t be successful just by puffing your chest and acting as if the whole world is yours. You need the ability to discern when to start and stop, why you need to restart, and how – when to speak, when to listen, when to take over the conversation, and when to dismiss.

It’s about competence laced with confidence, not the other way around.

Most startups are led by confident individuals, but we don’t know for sure how they approach this “confidence versus competence” thing. Ideally, a founder surges through the business world with a “calibrating attitude” that’s nurtured in the following ways.


First, Be Open to Feedback

Everyone’s entitled to their opinions but actual feedback should be sought after and expected. A startup leader should encourage feedback from all stakeholders as every piece of feedback is a good learning tool for progress.

Never take a feedback as an insult, as it would only decrease your morale and breed negativity, which is bad for both confidence and competence. Feedback leads to success, be open to it.


Consider Adopting Holacracy

Holacracy is a flat management structure. As an example, it’s now being implemented at company’s as big as Zappos. Everyone’s their own manager and subordinate and has the same amount of authority in the company, despite their unique posts and job descriptions. This kind of structure increases confidence and competence.


Use “Open Office” Design for Work Areas

It’s especially useful in a company with Holacracy management style. However, if you prefer to adopt the traditional “up-to-bottom” management structure, an open office is a great way to monitor activities and build a sense of camaraderie. The more we see the faces of our colleagues, the closer we become.


Create an “Independent” Culture in Decisions & Execution

Tiny decisions should be independently made without having to spend much time in meetings and on endless considerations. For this, the founder and the management need to be on the same page in terms of big and small problems. Develop clear guidelines on which can be independently solved and which must be discussed in a meeting.


Focus on Follow-Through & Results

There are too many activities in a startup that must be handled with care and caution. And competence laced with confidence is key to detailed execution and favorable results. Remind yourself and your team that competence breeds confidence, but confidence can be an empty canister.

Sure, our parents and kindergarten teachers are right that we all must be confident. But oftentimes we confuse being confident with looking confident. As we grow as leaders, true confidence comes from competence in detailed execution and favorable results derived from being open to feedback and continuously upgrading skills and knowledge based on the latest trends.

You can lead without “looking” confident, but you can’t lead without “being” competent.

3) Gaining Authority

Now let’s highlight why it’s so important for your business to gain authority, and the basic steps you can take to start doing so. First…

What’s Authority?

Simply put, when we talk about business authority we’re talking about trust – about becoming a company that genuinely gains trust so consumers consider what the business has to offer, and ideally purchase its products.


Why’s Business Authority Important?

Increasing business authority means your niche regards you as trustworthy which in most cases increases revenue and repeat-customers. So how can you go about increasing your authority if you’re a relatively new business?

Well, the steps below should give you a good idea and aren’t limited to building online brands. They can help people build business authority both online and offline. Enjoy!


Step 1) Using Professional Design

Design’s the first thing your customers’ minds see when they look at the front of any business. Regardless of whether we’re talking a website, the inside of a brick & mortar store, or business card. The first thing is always the design – aesthetics/presentation.

Shoddy design means less appeal right off the bat, before people have even seen your products or looked more into what you’re about. To reel human minds in, you need to have a solid design for your business, which involves:

  • 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.


Step 2) Providing Killer Content/ Products

This probably sounds overly obvious, but the statement still stands. Business authority can’t be built properly without first delivering awesome content/services/products.

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

  • Make sure your content is easy to read.
  • Don’t neglect specifics; add in great detail.
  • Use custom images and videos to build your presence.
  • Link to other authoritative sites.
  • Make sure they will want to link back to you.
  • Use statistics.

For offline businesses:

  • Create a product people want.
  • Create a product people need.
  • Re-do step 1 in this article for design.
  • Don’t cut corners.

For online content-based businesses such as blogs, build products that show that extra bit of attention users want. They already get articles from you that helps them out. For paid products, give them more detail. Using or employing audio, video, and other little extras helps them just that little bit more.


Step 3) Building Social Awareness

Nowadays, a lot of businesses become authoritative by increasing their online social awareness. For many entrepreneurs, it wasn’t until they figured out how to grow their followers on a social media platform that they began to really get noticed.

Take a look at Foundr’s Instagram Guide for an excellent example of this in action. It’s time to start building social awareness. Run campaigns, get involved on the up and coming platforms. It’s the best way to become connected with the rest of the world. Of course, the world may not be your target, but the principle is the same.


Step 4) Reaching Out to Influencers

Reaching out to like-minded entrepreneurs is critical to building authority. You see, many people used to think of like-minded entrepreneurs solely as the competition. Any successful business owner today now knows that it’s all about collaboration and helping one another. If you own a business, or an online business in particular, then reaching out to other influencers is important.

We actually recently published an article on Wealthy Gorilla that highlights 14 reasons why you should reach out to people, and how you can do so.


Step 5) Attention to Detail

Being too much of a perfectionist can be somewhat of a detriment, rather than beneficial.

For the most part however, the trait allows you to nail a lot of smaller details that really can perfect the overall look and effectiveness of something. This attention to detail is required in almost everything you do as an entrepreneur. It’s in your products, message, and content. Every time you get a small detail right, it boosts business appeal and trust.

Classic examples include using small customized items at events like branded pens, notepads, water bottles or other unique client and/or customer gifts. It’s this attention to detail that makes lasting impressions.


Step 6) Giving Back

Giving back is always great because it allows you to help others, whether it be donating to charity, speaking at events, or holding raffles, etc. If you’re giving back you’re helping the world be a better place and that’s what it’s all about. How does this help you gain business authority?

You gain business authority due to the fact that people love to get involved with events and businesses with a built-in social good. If you’re speaking to others trying to pass on knowledge and wisdom, they’ll respect you and look up to you for it. If you’re donating charity, people will be keen to interact with your business to get involved with the cause.

In fact, Startup Savant gives back by donating to children’s education through because that’s incredibly important to us.


Step 7) Being Patient

At the end of the day, building authority isn’t exactly a quick process. It take times for people to notice and trust you, both as a person and as a business. When all other steps are consistently taken care of, the last on the list is simply just to be patient. Give it time. If you’re doing everything else right, the authority and respect will come.

4) Understanding Failure

Everyone faces failure at some point in their lives—some of us more than others—but how we deal with failure is what separates successful entrepreneurs (the doers!) from dreamers.

The most successful entrepreneurs fail. They fail hard, fail big, and to the tune of millions of dollars. But many entrepreneurs say the key to their success is failing up, or letting their failures develop them into a better person than they were, or guide them to create a better goal/product/company than they had before. Here are three reasons successful entrepreneurs fail up, and how you can too.


They Aren’t Afraid to Fail

A successful entrepreneur knows they can never truly fail, because there’s always a lesson to learn or a new perspective to gain.

There’s a possibility of failure in every situation… it’s what keeps life interesting. But the difference between those that are successful and those that aren’t is this: the successful entrepreneur doesn’t fear failing. Or, when they do (heck, we all do sometimes!) they don’t let it control or stop them from taking risks.


Tip: Do Something Crazy Today

Conquering fear is something that happens little by little, day by day. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Pick something that you’re reluctant to do, and do it. For example if you fear public speaking how do you overcome it? You take every single opportunity that you can to speak in public!


They Let Failure Drive Them

Successful entrepreneurs don’t like to fail; what separates a true entrepreneur from a dreamer is how they react to that adversity. Let’s just say it: failing sucks! A successful entrepreneur will do everything in their power to avoid defeat and when they do fail it’s not the end of the world. Failure drives them while it paralyzes others.


Tip: Focus on Your Dreams

Accept whatever doubts you may have as exactly what they are: 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 dreams.

Your dreams are unique to you, while doubts are a common thread that nag almost anyone that’s ever taken a risk, built a business, followed their dreams. Focus on what matters: yourself and your dreams and greater-visions.


They Learn Lessons

There’s an old saying about a camera that goes something like this:

“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.”

Every entrepreneur strive for this mentality. We need failure. It makes us stronger. It humanizes brands, develops richer brand stories and allows others to connect with us on a deeper and emotional level.


Tip: Develop Your Negatives

Every time you are less than successful in a venture ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?” Instead of getting angry or upset, take the time to reflect on and learn from your failure, instead of focusing on the failure itself. One day, that same lesson is sure to be the story that helps close a big deal or captivates an investor.

This peek at what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur is a collaboration between multiple successful founders. A huge thanks to Jennifer Xue, Dan Western and Jackie Stienmetz.