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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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Published on September 16, 2020

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

12 Practical Interview Skills to Help You Land Your Dream Job

Today, with many companies going remote—at least until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine—technical proficiency is a vital skill for every interviewee to master. You may be asked to interview for a job on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The way you handle yourself in the online interview (your interview skills) will say much about your ability to work from home efficiently.

Does your workspace look clean or cluttered? Is the area free from noise? Is your home office well lit?

Once hired, you may be asked to organize meetings on Zoom and other platforms. Along with mastering the technology, you will have to learn to follow certain protocols.

Now is the time to get up to speed on your technical skills. Learn which interview skills are needed for the particular job for which you are applying and practice them.

Online learning sites, such as LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, offer courses for free or a nominal membership fee. If you are a DIY type, make use of training videos offered through your particular digital tools.

Additionally, demonstrating that you have these 12 interview skills will help you land your dream job.

1. Organization

When you work in a brick-and-mortar office, some of the organizing is left to others. Your direct supervisor may host a Monday morning quarterback meeting where each worker reports on the progress on their tasks.

When you work from home, much of the organizing will be left up to you. To a much greater extent than before, you will need to develop a schedule and stick to it. Some tasks may be faster to complete from your home office where you don’t have other workers competing for your attention.

Conversely, you may find that some tasks that would have gone quickly in an office seem to take forever from your home computer. Your phone may ring a lot, which can distract you, or you may have kids and a spouse who inadvertently disrupt your schedule.

To do: Set a schedule and stick to it.

To discuss during your interview: Be specific. Point to the interview skill you utilized to create a schedule for a complex work project and followed it.

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2. Flexibility

You set a schedule for the completion of your tasks, but your prospective boss gets their work done between the hours of 2:00 and 8:00 a.m. Your West Coast partners are three hours behind your East Coast partners, and one of your partners lives in England while another lives in Australia.

Feedback and collaboration (see point 3) may need to happen asynchronously. Be the flexible candidate—the person who is willing to occasionally disrupt their schedule for the greater good of the team.

For extra credit: don’t just look up time zones, look up whether they observe Daylight Savings Time.

To do: Be flexible about meeting times.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a time when you worked on a team where members lived in different time zones. Discuss your processes.

3. Collaboration

As recently as six months ago, before the pandemic raged around the world, collaboration wasn’t quite as essential as it is today. In a remote office setting, collaboration doesn’t just mean working well with others—but actually sharing documents and editing them online on time.

Several cloud-based tools, such as Google Drive, Basecamp, and Trello, enable the type of collaborative teamwork that most companies want today.

To do: Download the correct software and practice using it.

To discuss during your interview: Discuss how you worked remotely with a group. Share how you overcame certain challenges.

4. Poise

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

When things do go awry, keeping your wits about you will demonstrate your consummate professionalism under fire. This will show your future bosses that you will be able to work well under the pressures of remote work.

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What could go wrong, you ask? You might be muted without realizing it—your Internet connection may not be robust, your headphones may blip out, your cellphone may ring, Zoom could have an outage. The list goes on and on.

To do: Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of Skype and Zoom uploaded.

To discuss during your interview: Consider highlighting a time when a project did not go as planned. Demonstrate the interview skills that allowed you to rise to the challenge.

5. Communication

Your ability to handle online communication is one of the top critical skills you will need to thrive in today’s remote workplace. Download Slack if you haven’t already. Get used to toggling to a different form of online communication if one of your tools fails.

When it comes to the preferred format for your online interview, demonstrate proficiency by offering several different options. Give your phone number, Google Chat Hangouts name, and Skype ID.

To do: Familiarize yourself with video conference and online chat tools, such as Slack, Fleep, or Workplace by Facebook.

To discuss during your interview: Be prepared to share the online communication tools you’re using and examples of how you use each one.

6. Good Computer Hygiene

Setting up a backup system for your computer files is one of today’s crucial requirements for working in the digital age. Storing documents that can be shared by team members is also an efficient way to work together on presentations, articles, and reports—although studies show nearly one-third of employees avoid them because of the time it takes to find documents.

Be prepared in your interview to indicate your experience utilizing this technology, describing how you organize and store files using cloud-based collaboration tools. How do you keep track of links and tabs? Do you use Dropbox? Google Docs? Confluence? Others?

To do: Take inventory of the cloud-based document sharing and storage systems you know and use.

To discuss during your interview: Describe the document sharing tools and backup systems you utilize—both for personal protection and professional file sharing.

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7. Proper Meeting Etiquette

Today, presenting yourself virtually has its pros and cons. While you only have to show a professional persona from the waist up (make sure to straighten up your office space behind you), you must boost your energy to show that you’re engaged in the discussion.

Make your voice as upbeat as possible. Have your talking points at the ready and be careful not to ramble on, as long virtual meetings easily become tiresome. Use the mute and chat features to avoid interruptions.

To do: Once you know the meeting platform, make sure you have it mastered before your interview.

To discuss during your interview: Offer to share your screen to show an example of a work project— while at the same time demonstrating your prowess with video conferencing tools.

8. Respecting Feedback

In the age of working remotely, there may not be as many systems in place to obtain feedback (such as yearly performance reviews). Workers may need to ask for feedback, while managers may need to give more feedback than usual as the team adjusts to working off-site. Respecting feedback is on top of the interview skills list that you should learn.

Taking a proactive approach with giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your work style is a desirable quality that your employers will note.

To do: Reflect on the positive feedback you’ve received from past employers to bolster your confidence.

To discuss during your interview: Share a time when you received feedback that made you grow in the job. If you’re a manager, share a time when you gave feedback to an employee who needed to better their job performance.

9. Project Management

Staying on task with projects has evolved far past a to-do list, with electronic tools that can track time, manage team workloads, and even do the client billing. While your prospective employer may have its preferred project management program, your experience with any of the various options—whether it’s Basecamp, Teamwork, Smartsheet, or another—will be applicable.

To do: Know which project management software is likely to be used by the industry in which you’re interviewing, and familiarize yourself with its features.

To discuss during your interview: Highlight a project management feature that is particularly useful in helping you excel in your work, and explain how you utilize it.

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10. Staying up to Speed

Employers expect their remote workers to be technically proficient so that technology runs smoothly and doesn’t create work disruptions. Bosses count on remote workers to know enough about their systems to manage them without relying on the help of overworked IT staff.

To do: Make sure you have a fast internet connection and have a back-up plan, such as a second computer or other tethered devices.

To discuss during your interview: Note that you are diligent about keeping your computer and software up to date.

11. Attention to Cybersecurity Issues

“Virus” is a loaded term these days. Spreading a computer virus in your company, however, will not only bring productivity to a halt, but it will also make you a pariah. While working from public places using free Wi-Fi (with uneven security provisions) has waned, in pre-pandemic times, coffee shops accounted for 62 percent of Wi-Fi security breaches.

To do: Keep antivirus software updated and don’t download software without verifying its authenticity.

To discuss during your interview: Emphasize your awareness of cybersecurity risks and your care in taking necessary safety measures.

12. Teamwork

Work relationships now mostly happen in virtual settings, yet employers value team-oriented workers.

Being a part of a team gives you a sense of connection and shared purpose. A well-honed team understands how mutual reliance makes the sum of its parts greater than when individuals act on their own, improving the end product.

To do: Take stock of your attributes as a team player and where you can cultivate skills that will enable you to work more collaboratively.

To discuss during your interview: Inquire about the company’s culture and how it encourages a sense of community despite working remotely.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for remote positions available in today’s job market will mean honing your interview skills to highlight your technical abilities as well as your adaptability. By adhering to these To-Do’s and perfecting your online interview skills and charisma, you will rise above the competition and win over any prospective employer.

More Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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