What attributes make a successful entrepreneur?
The ERDF funded Digital Business Acceleration Hub has been running now for 2 years. In that time, over 370 start-ups have taken part in the two-day Entrepreneur’s Programme, 144 of which have gone on to be offered ongoing business support from SETsquared.
Overseeing this programme has meant I’ve had the opportunity to meet all of these entrepreneurs and I have definitely observed some common traits in those that have gone on to be successful.
We’ve had an incredibly diverse range of people and business ideas come through the programme and one of the common mistakes I see is clearly defining the problem that the business is attempting to solve. The challenge for the entrepreneur is to identify a potential market for their product/service that has a common set of problems and there are sufficient numbers of potential customers that are willing to pay to have the problems solved.
All too often the entrepreneur assumes that a problem they have identified is a common problem faced by a wider market. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As a consequence the entrepreneur’s natural inclination is to get buoyed by enthusiasm and go off and build a product before establishing market need.
Here are my top five traits that define a successful entrepreneur:1. Grit
In my opinion, this is the most important trait for an entrepreneur. There are many definitions of what grit means in an entrepreneurial context. To me it means having passion, determination alongside patience.
It’s about having a plan A but also a plan B and C. It’s not relying on that one deal to happen, it’s about mapping out multiple routes to success and being able to switch track when needed.
There are some fantastic TedX talks on the subject of grit, particularly Angela Lee Duckworth’s: Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Like an actor, daily rejection can be a reality for an entrepreneur. You have to remain true to your vision and take the knocks in your stride. A start-up journey is filled with stops and starts. You’ll be on a roll and then suddenly there will be radio silence. It may take thousands of emails to get one positive outcome. When you’re on a high it’s important to ride the momentum but not to get disheartened when you face a hurdle.
An investor will often back the individual or team behind an idea rather than just the technology itself. If they can see energy, p
assion and drive, backed up by a sound business plan, it inspires them to trust your vision. It’s not only about investment though, believe me you’ll need it day-to-day as well. When you’ve only got yourself to rely on, you need to ensure you’ve got the energy to network, promote your idea, send those emails and set-up those meetings. I would advise anyone on this path to integrate themselves in an entrepreneurial community and get some credible mentors and advisors.
4. Willing to take a risk
Many people take a huge leap of faith when they quit their day job to start-up on their own and that’s exactly the type of nature needed to tough it out as an entrepreneur. Often people stake everything they have on their start-up, if you can do that and be willing to not earn any money in the initial years – then maybe your risk can pay off.5. Vision plus practical skills
I’ve met some innovators who have a real clarity of vision for their start-up and see the big picture, but who lack very basic maths skills. Having the practical skills to turn your vision into a reality and take care of the little details which make the big details happen is really important. And if you don’t, you need to surround yourself with the right people who can do this for you.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and everyday isn’t filled with success but it can be incredibly rewarding and a thrilling ride.
I would advise anyone with an idea for digital start-up to take part in SETsquared’s Digital Entrepreneur’s Programme. It will very quickly help you assess whether your idea is solving a real problem, will achieve product/market fit and whether it’s likely to attract investment.
Some participants come away having completely pivoted from their original idea. To me this is a good outcome, as it will save them time and money in the long run.