11 qualities that make a true entrepreneur

Authored by Bernard Marr.
4 min read
SME founder runs analytics using tablet
Think you’ve got what it takes to start your own business? Our business expert Bernard Marr shares his opinion on the essential traits to become a successful entrepreneur…

You may have heard a lot lately about the ‘new economy’ in which many people are getting away from the cubicle (or corner office) and starting up businesses of their own. Millennials in particular are likely to become freelancers or entrepreneurs (external link) because as a group they highly value freedom and flexibility.

It sounds like a dream — running your own business, setting your own schedule, getting paid to do what you love. But what does it actually take to be a successful entrepreneur?

Well, I believe it’s about more than just passion or drive. I’ve gathered some of the traits I believe are necessary to be a true entrepreneur.

1. Self-starting

This may seem obvious but an entrepreneur can’t sit around waiting for someone else to give them permission to do something. They must be a self-starter who is able to take action on ideas instead of just dreaming about them day after day.

2. Disciplined

An entrepreneur, freelancer, or even telecommuter must be disciplined enough to work without a boss over his shoulder making sure things get done. This can sometimes be tricky, because sometimes the person with the great idea isn’t the person with the discipline to make it happen.

3. Confident

People aren’t going to buy from someone who isn’t confident in her own ability to deliver. So even if it’s a ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ situation, entrepreneurs must demonstrate confidence in their expertise, product, or programme. Some people would say that an entrepreneur is always confident that they will succeed —  I’m not sure that’s completely true, but it requires a certain measure of confidence even to get started.

4. Creative

An entrepreneur has to be a good creative problem solver — especially at the beginning. Don’t have money for X, Y, or Z?  Get creative! Entrepreneurs also tend to be creative because they’re creating something new — a new product, service, or twist on an existing one.

5. Risk-taking

Starting a business is a risk in and of itself, so entrepreneurs are natural risk-takers. Of course, there’s a fine line between incremental, rational risks and just risky behaviour. The best entrepreneurs know when to take a calculated risk — and when not to.

6. Relationship-building

Entrepreneurs need to have good people skills, because often at the beginning they are the sales, marketing, HR, PR and customer service departments all rolled up into one. They also tend to be good at building and facilitating relationships with others, which can lead to new opportunities.

7. Open-minded

It’s important for an entrepreneur to be open minded so that she or he can spot those new opportunities when they present themselves. Small businesses in particular need to be agile and adapt to customer feedback quickly to be able to grow. In bigger, established businesses sometimes things are done just because that’s the way it was always done. Entrepreneurs have the ability and responsibility to look for a better way.

8. Planners

The most successful entrepreneurs also tend to be planners. This could include everything from making a 5-year plan to planning how to grow revenue or even just planning their content marketing strategy. The ability to plan and then execute on that plan is incredibly valuable for entrepreneurs.

9. Money-wise

While there are lots of examples of entrepreneurs who are not particularly money-wise, the most successful will understand and manage their cash flow carefully. They’ll be able to plan ahead for big expenses and are much more likely to be profitable.

10. Natural sellers

No matter what your business is, you must be able to sell yourself, your product, or your service for it to be a business. Even if an entrepreneur is pitching himself to a bank or venture capital group, he must be able to sell them on his ideas. The best entrepreneurs have some natural salesmanship about them — or take great pains to learn it quickly.

11. Lifelong learner

Successful entrepreneurs also tend to put a high priority on learning and knowledge. This can keep them at the forefront of their industry but also help them bring in ideas and techniques from other industries to innovate in their own businesses.

These are just my top 11 picks for traits that successful entrepreneurs tend to exhibit.  But I’m curious what you might add to the list: What do you think makes a true entrepreneur? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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At Hiscox, we want to help your small business thrive. Our blog has many articles you may find relevant and useful as your business grows. But these articles aren’t professional advice. So, to find out more on a subject we cover here, please seek professional assistance.

Bernard Marr

Keynote speaker and strategic advisor to companies and governments. Bernard is one of the world's most highly respected voices when it comes to data in business; LinkedIn have ranked him as one of the world's Top 5 Business Influencers. Marr is also the founder and CEO of Bernard Marr & Co, an independent think tank and consultancy organisation.