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10 Key Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

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10 Key Characteristics of a Successful Entrepreneur

Countless millions dream of one day achieving their commercial dreams by making it as a successful entrepreneur, yet most people who foray into the business world for the first time often do so without adequate preparation.

Despite the many allures of becoming a successful entrepreneur, you’ll have many hurdles to surmount before you can claim victory. And entering into the market without doing your homework is a surefire way to doom your prospects before you even really get started.

So, what do you need to make it as an entrepreneur in a tight market? And why do so many fledgling business gurus fail to achieve their dreams?

Here are 10 key characteristics of an entrepreneur to review before starting your own company:

1. Organizational Skills Are Key

For many entrepreneurs, life is a take-it-as-it-comes adventure, wherein they roll with the punches instead of planning things out well-ahead of time. This is a dangerous path to tread, as countless business endeavors have failed due to a lack of foresight.

Furthermore, rapid changes to the market conditions you’re operating in can seldom be weathered without ample preparation. So focusing on your organizational skills now will surely help you later down the line.

Nevertheless, most entrepreneurs struggle with honing their organizational talents because they’re so caught up in the daily grind of running their company from the big-picture perspective, which seldom if ever permits you to plan the nitty-gritty details of your commercial future. That’s why it’s important to set some time aside for planning purposes or consider hiring an assistant to help you manage your hectic schedule.

Hiring someone to keep track of your calendar, meetings, and other crucial deadlines isn’t always easy for entrepreneurs trying to cut down on the operational costs of doing business, yet having a dedicated professional help you bolster your organizational talents will pay off in the long run.

You won’t be able to model the way for your employees without adequate organizational skills, so don’t let them fall on the backburner as you seek commercial success.

2. An Innovative Mindset Is Mandatory

Some entrepreneurs who think their organizational skills are highly refined may be breathing easy, but the truth of the matter is that, there are other key characteristics you’ll need to possess if you want to succeed, too, such as an innovative mindset.

Being able to foresee and tap into disruptive changes which are hurtling your way is more important now than ever before, especially since digital technology has rendered virtually every industry ripe for operational overhauls. Whether you’re a small business, budding corporate empire, or small time crafts shop, there’s a good chance innovation is heading your way for better or for worse.

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It’s thus imperative to master the art of appealing to emotions[1] in an effort to help your ideas cut through the noise and receive the attention they deserve.

An innovative mindset is insufficient in and of itself unless you have the savviness to pass off your innovative ideas as being desperately needed. So spend some time honing your appealability if you want innovation to be a friend rather than a foe. This is why it’s also crucial to focus on…

3. Empathy for Everyone

Most businesses don’t start out because people want to turn the world into a better place, but rather, in the pursuit of profit so that you can earn an honest living for yourself.

For many entrepreneurs, honorable intentions and helping people must come second to profits because a failure to earn a buck means bankruptcy and an inability to help anyone ever again.

Nevertheless, it’s important that you don’t allow profit motives to consume your entire entrepreneurial personality, as those business leaders who find success most easily are empathetic and capable of connecting with people on a deep, emotional levels.

Empathy is worth speaking at length about, because it’s something that most entrepreneurs lack. By honing your empathic abilities and opening yourself up to the experiences of others, you’ll quickly find an ability to cultivate deep employee loyalty to your commercial cause. Furthermore, your workers will understand that they can approach you as a friendly source of inspiration when they’re down rather than treating you as a harsh boss to be avoided whenever there’s bad news.

Genuine empathy is good for business because it humanizes your otherwise robotic commercial operations and gives customers, workers, and investors alike plenty of reasons to have confidence in your leadership abilities.[2]

If you’re struggling to lure in new customers, your inability to exercise empathy could be the root cause of your issue. Given that so many entrepreneurs struggle with empathy, making it a key characteristic of your personality is a fantastic way to stand apart in the marketplace while luring in the best and brightest of workers.

4. Interpersonal Communication Skills

You don’t have to be a business mastermind to understand that a strong communicative arsenal is needed to survive and thrive for long in the cutthroat commercial marketplace. What too few entrepreneurs realize, however, is that some forms of communication are more valuable than others, and that interpersonal communication must rise above all else if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Interpersonal communication is face-to-face communication, which is crucial to remember. There’s such thing as technologically intermediated interpersonal communication, wherein you’re talking face-to-face over video services, but the real deal entails you and the person you’re communicating with seeing one another in the flesh.

Entrepreneurs who don’t actively labor to refine their interpersonal communication skills will find themselves struggling to succeed in a number of crucial commercial areas, not least of which include employee recruitment and retention.

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You may think your employees are dreading a face-to-face sit down with the boss, but the truth of the matter is that human beings need human contact if they’re to remain happy, healthy, and productive. Introducing yourself to your workers in a normal human fashion and frequently engaging them in a face-to-face manner will bolster your personal ties while making it easier for you to read body language and other important cues that are lost in the midst of tech-intermediated communication.

In other words, try to remember that digital communication skills aren’t the only thing that matters.

5. Self-Discipline and Management Skills

Far too many entrepreneurs spend too much time worrying about the company’s well being and too little time looking after their own health. It may seem obvious, but failing to take care of your body and mind through a wholesome self-discipline will surely be your downfall sooner rather than later.

The human body can only deal with so much stress, and the long hours that most entrepreneurs work will inevitably be their undoing unless some downtime is scheduled in.

Take some time to familiarize yourself with self-management techniques which can enable you to make the most out of both your downtime and productive hours. Take caution not to approach your personal downtime like a business endeavor, however. Far too many entrepreneurs don’t know how to go into “off mode,” and refuse to gain the wholesome self-discipline sometimes required to force yourself to take a break.

Remember that too much stress can destroy your abilities to make it as a successful entrepreneur, and soon you’ll be approaching self-management with a new appreciation for its importance.

6. You Must Be an Avid Reader

Lots of struggling business owners laugh at the idea of reading books in their downtime, mostly because it’s a time-consuming process that takes them away from their commercial pursuits. Even those who would love to pick up a book every now and again confess that the hectic nature of their daily schedules often prevents them from turning the pages of their favorite novel, magazine, or short story.

It’s nevertheless imperative for entrepreneurs who want to achieve success to read as often as possible, as a voracious appetite for the literary word is one of the common denominators of success in any walk of life.

There are two major reasons to read more in your everyday life: the first is that it will broaden your horizons by introducing you to new and exciting perspectives, and the second is that it will likely increase your overall lifetime earnings.

While most people understand that reading makes you more intelligent, few of them appreciate the extent to which bookworms out-earn their non-reading colleagues. An extensive study found that boys who were surrounded by books from a young age grew up to become men who earned more, on average, than their peers who didn’t have such robust literary roots.[3]

Besides bolstering your paycheck or accounts on bitcoin, becoming a bookworm will also help you hone your writing skills and ability to analyze complex texts. What’s more, reading is incredibly cheap and easy; with a free library card being the only thing you need to enjoy what’s essentially a limitless volume of classical texts and modern marvels of the literary world.

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Finally, books just make you appear smarter than the average bear, and those who have a hefty leather companion tucked under their arm give off an intelligent vibe. If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, start bringing a book with you wherever you roam.

7. Learn How to Delegate

Another key characteristic of entrepreneurial success is the ability to delegate, as even the savviest business owners can’t do everything by themselves.

If you’re incapable of learning the hidden talents of your employees so that you can delegate specialty work to them when the need arises, you’ll fail to ever maximize the potential of your workforce, something all successful business owners must do sooner or later.

Delegating isn’t always easy for entrepreneurs, especially those who started from the bottom by themselves before clawing their way to the top of the dogpile. But a failure to let someone else take control every now and then can lead to stress-related burnout.

Avoiding burnout is essential if you want to make it as a business leader, as there won’t be anyone else ready to take the reins of your company if you suddenly find yourself overworked and incapable of leading.

Learn how to cultivate talented workers and turn them into clever managers, and your job as an entrepreneur will be much easier than if you tried to do everything yourself.

Take a look at this guide and learn how to delegate: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

8. Being Decisive Is Key

Many people dread being forced to make an important decision. After all, what if you mess up and the consequences of your poor choice continue to haunt you for years to come?

While it’s perfectly natural to fear making a crucial mistake whenever a major decision must be made, entrepreneurs who find themselves incapable of being decisive when it counts the most are inevitably leading their business towards failure.

As the leader of the enterprise, it’s your role to make the tough calls when the budget starts dwindling and the deadline starts approaching. Some things can and should be delegated to others, but when it comes to being a decisive leader, all would-be entrepreneurs need to stand up and learn how to be decisive.

These tips can help you make better decisions: 5 Tips for Lightning-Fast Decision Making

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9. Analytical Problem Solving

Far too many entrepreneurs dismiss the importance of analytical problem solving because they mistakenly believe that crunching the numbers is best left to someone else. True entrepreneurs, so this logic goes, focus on big-picture scenarios and don’t allow themselves to get bogged down crunching the numbers.

In reality, however, analytical problem solving is a key characteristic of the successful entrepreneur because we now live in a data-driven age where collecting and analyzing tidbits of information is an essential part of most commercial activities.

Whether you’re selling insurance, designing new software, or working in a myriad of other sectors, having analytical problem solving skills will help you make sense of the ever-growing flurry of numbers that pervades the business world. With big data analytics becoming an ingrained part of the market, these analytical skills will only grow more and more important towards the long-term wellbeing of your entrepreneurial pursuits.

Yes, even entrepreneurs need analytics,[4] so don’t shun that which you don’t understand if you want to earn a profit someday.

10. Eagerness and Spirit

Finally, entrepreneurs can’t discount the importance of eagerness and sound spirit when it comes to pursuing commercial success. As the entrepreneur, an important part of your job is to inspire others and lead the way by example, so having a spring in your step everywhere you go is important.

It’s not always easy to smile when the world around you is full of misery, or when new business hurdles. But remaining optimistic in the face of adversity is the quintessential characteristic of any successful entrepreneur.

Don’t let temporary setbacks put you permanently behind. Eagerness and high spirits are often the last weapons to which entrepreneurs resort to in their darkest hours, yet remaining confident and bold at all times is the real key to success.

Whether things are looking sunny or sour, a positive disposition will carry you far in the commercial arena while inspiring your employees to take heart and keep working their hardest.

The Bottom Line

Entrepreneurs must be self-disciplined, flexible, and capable of relying on others when it’s necessary to delegate. Above all else, however, the key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is an ability to roll with the punches without ever losing the smile on your face.

More Articles About Entrepreneurship

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

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8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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