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10 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

10 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

As a human capital strategist who has worked with entrepreneurs from all industries and company sizes, I’ve pinpointed shared attributes that separate growing companies from stagnant ones. Helping organizations identify and develop impact performers has given me a unique insight into the minds of various entrepreneurs, specifically how they approach their business holistically. While each entrepreneur has a product or service they’re passionate about, how he or she approaches plans for growth is always very different. I watched many owners continue behaviors that worked in the infancy stages of their business but hasn’t been successful long-term.

1. Adopt a growth-oriented mindset.

There’s an open-mindedness to the modern-day innovator that’s based more on facts than on emotions. They embrace the power of scientific data to make well-rounded decisions and are always consulting experts. Those that don’t tend to view any belief system outside their comfort zone, even if it’s backed by empirical data, as new-age hooey. Billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, exercises a management style that doesn’t go by the book. He focuses on the value his employees bring to the table rather than criticizing their faults.

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2. Be a ferocious learner.

Not only do successful entrepreneurs read everything they can get their hands on that relates to emerging trends in their industry, but they also encourage a company culture of curiosity, which leads to workers who are more productive, innovative, and engaged in their roles. Those that don’t, however, are often stuck in the past, and their lack of awareness on changing market needs often moves their business backwards. Bill Gates, co-founder and CEO of Microsoft, for example, places a major emphasis on enriching lives through learning. Because he believes in a holistic learning process to expand the mind beyond one’s specialty, he recommends books ranging from nonfiction to information technology.

3. Approach everything from a “we” lens rather than an “I” lens.

They treat the business as a living entity that must be protected and cared for at all costs. They often eliminate themselves from the equation during staff meetings to focus on team members and maintain an open-door policy. Those that don’t see the world only in relation to how it affects them and considers new or opposing ideas as a direct attack on their egos. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is concerned with delivering an unmatched customer experience through an engaged and positive company culture. He’s so committed to the cause that he compensates employees who decide they aren’t satisfied in their roles.

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4. Hire the right person, not the best person.

I’m not talking about the obvious pick here. I’m referring to the candidate who best aligns with the company’s strategic growth plan and demonstrates the soft skills required to fit into their unique company culture versus the “friends and family plan.” They’re also not afraid to develop creative new job titles that reflect organizational needs rather than traditional titles that no longer represent the direction the company is moving in. Although they may not be the most qualified, they coach them to do a great job and make a personal commitment to their success. Kevin Ryan, an internet entrepreneur who founded several New York-based businesses, including Gilt Groupe, Business Insider, and MongoDB, gave up all other duties as CEO in favor of identifying impact performers who fit his company culture. Why? Because he believes that recruiting is the most important responsibility a leader has.

5. Change is a process, not an event.

They set up small milestones that naturally fit into the big-picture company plan, monitor progress on growth, implement next-phase steps appropriately, and demonstrate flexibility. Those that don’t usually have a massive 3-ring binder strategy plan that sits on the top shelf of a filing cabinet collecting dust. Marissa Meyer accepted the role as President and CEO of Yahoo! with high hopes that she’d turn things around. However, she recognized that several steps needed to be taken in order to see serious results. Since then, she led Yahoo! to acquire Tumblr in a $1.1 billion acquisition, rose profits from the previous year (2013), and implemented positive human capital changes, such as extending maternity leave and employing performance reviews.

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6. Create shared vision and mission statements.

The company vision and mission statements are repeated often and are written in a language that everyone in the organization can understand. They remind their staff to be living representations of the vision and mission every day. Those that don’t usually refer to a half-complete oral statement that reinforces the disjointed approach the company takes when it comes to their internal customers (staff members) and external customers (clients). Burt and John Jacobs, co-founders of Life is good, Inc., successfully built their vision and mission into each and every t-shirt they sell. So much so that their customers have embraced their simple message of optimism, leading to about 4,500 retail stores in the U.S.

7. Develop company-wide behaviors and job-specific behaviors.

These successful entrepreneurs create behaviors for the company to prescribe to as a whole in order to reinforce an empowered, positive, and innovative work culture. But they also recognize that each role requires it’s own set of behaviors in order to produce high-functioning top performers. Those that don’t write down behaviors for the company and for each role leave the guesswork to their staff members, often leading to high turnover rates, poor results, and lower levels of engagement. After Danny Wegman became CEO, the modest upstate New York grocery chain, Wegmans, which now has 85 stores in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, has ranked among the top 10 on Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” for eight consecutive years and was recognized with its reward for Best Grocery Store by the Food Network. Danny didn’t leave anything to chance, ensuring that he instills the company-wide behaviors that employees of all levels prescribe to, resulting in a superior customer experience we’re fondly reminded of when we hear, “Did you find everything you’re looking for?”

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8. Build a culture of accountability.

They also understand that the happiest employees are the ones who know their place within the workforce and how their work contributes to the company’s overall mission. Expectations are clearly written in their job description and reinforced in meetings with superiors. When employees understand exactly where they stand and what needs to get done, not only do they feel more fulfilled at work, but they’re also more successful at their jobs. Because they’ve built an infrastructure that supports growth and innovation, everyday isn’t a cluster@#$% where fires need to constantly be put out. Business owners that don’t hold their employees accountable simply don’t move forward. Tory Burch, Chairman, CEO, and Designer of Tory Burch LLC, has created a multi-billion dollar fashion conglomerate. Her secret is that she encourages her employees to work smarter, not longer. She argues that it’s not about the quantity of work; it’s about the quality. By focusing on the results that matter rather than time put in, she has created a successful and supportive work culture.

9. They provide employee development at all levels.

They commit to a hybrid-training approach from entry-level to upper management because they recognize that everyone doesn’t have the same strengths and others need customized training programs to grow and succeed long-term. Those that don’t usually must find talent elsewhere to fill higher-level jobs rather than promote from within. More importantly, the new hire is usually a mirror image of their own personality rather than one that compliments the business. Jim Collins, American business consultant, author, and lecturer on the subject of company sustainability and growth, made it his business to educate growth-oriented companies on the vital importance of employee development.

10. They never give up, even on their darkest days.

Tenacity is the number one trait successful entrepreneurs have in common. Being negative or blaming others for failures is the worst approach for getting to the root of any issue. James Dyson, founder of the Dyson company, was fiercely committed to inventing the best vacuum cleaner on the market. Dyson never settled for mediocrity. He became frustrated with his Hoover Junior’s diminishing performance so he created 5,127 models before he reached perfection, truly emulating a “no quitter” mentality.

It’s no coincidence that these entrepreneurs are consistently more profitable and accomplish the strategic goals they set out for their companies.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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