Identifying The Traits of a True Entrepreneur
I’ve spent many months thinking about how it is possible to identify people with real entrepreneurial ability who are attempting to build a business, compared to those who are “just giving it a go”. I’ve spent 15+ years now surrounding myself with fellow entrepreneurs (as a peer and as an investor in their businesses), and I believe this has given me a bit of insight into what these traits might be. Ultimately, there might never be a true definitive answer to this but there does appear to be some commonality which can be looked for, which the truly successful entrepreneurs seem to embody.
A True Vision and Belief
The best entrepreneurs have a clear purpose and mission in why they’re doing what they’re doing. At a macro level it may be about non-conforming and that they understand the world can be changed and they want to play their part in doing so; often to make it better and fix things or just to make a difference. At a micro level it’s a fundamental belief in the business idea being pursued and that they’re solving a problem they specifically have and feel the overwhelming desire to improve it.
Ability to Create a Selective Reality
Let me unpack this one a bit. It’s about being able to clearly communicate the vision you have and get others to believe in it and be keen to want to help. Sometimes your vision might be so far out there that people will feel it is unrealistic and you might be deterred from the path. The entrepreneur’s job is to pitch just the right level of vision to create a reality which is a far enough stretching goal, is inspirational, but also believable by others. You all know the famous example of this right… “Apple” anyone.
Hustle and Drive
It’s expecting obstacles to be put in your way and that you will do what is necessary to overcome them. This may take a variable amount of time and many different approaches — but a true entrepreneur will not be deterred. It’s that persistence and drive which gets them past each and every hurdle that comes to them.
This is often misinterpreted because it’s really about exuding confidence (whether you’re feeling it or not). Entrepreneurs need to develop a hard skin because there will be constant doubters along the way and they have to quickly establish whether they should be listening to the feedback at all and brush it off and continue
Markets change, your team will be fluid, new challenges will present themselves at every turn… you need to be ready for the unexpected and adapt. Every business plan ever written by an entrepreneur is out-of-date literally at the point they finish it. It’s all a work in progress.
Balance of Breadth & Depth
This is the ability to approach a new field with a clear and fresh perspective. Having a broad generalist knowledge in many different things that enable you to put the pieces together and see connections others might not have been able to do. At the same time, being able to deep-dive into a particular topic — understand it quickly, break it down, and look for opportunities.
For example, machine learning experts will be head of their field and able to know what the latest work is and build it.. but a true entrepreneur can get themselves up to speed then convince the expert to work on it for them.
Building a business is such a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, that an entrepreneur needs to have developed coping mechanisms to deal with it, or do so very fast. This can be through a support network such as friends, family, and co-founders; and/or a set of skills and habits such as meditation, and understanding what brings you back up again or calms you down. It’s such an intense thing, that most serial entrepreneurs need a least few years (not weeks) off before they do it again.
A Child-Like Curiosity and Wonder
Never being afraid to keep asking questions, to know what you don’t know, and truly be inspired and in awe of the opportunities ahead and things yet to learn. When David Attenborough ever gets asked why he loves nature so much — he always answers that he never lost his childlike curiosity about the world around him; something that most adults seem to lose sight of.
A Love of Science Fiction
This is more of a hypothesis at this point. Was it reading about these amazing ideas, worlds, characters, and journey’s that truly inspired an individual to think differently and shape their future…?
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