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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 July 16, 2019

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

7 Powerful Habits To Win In Office Politics

Office politics – a taboo word for some people. It’s a pervasive thing at the workplace.

In its simplest form, workplace politics is simply about the differences between people at work; differences in opinions, conflicts of interests are often manifested as office politics. It all goes down to human communications and relationships.

There is no need to be afraid of office politics. Top performers are those who have mastered the art of winning in office politics. Below are 7 good habits to help you win at the workplace:

1. Be Aware You Have a Choice

The most common reactions to politics at work are either fight or flight. It’s normal human reaction for survival in the wild, back in the prehistoric days when we were still hunter-gatherers.

Sure, the office is a modern jungle, but it takes more than just instinctive reactions to win in office politics. Instinctive fight reactions will only cause more resistance to whatever you are trying to achieve; while instinctive flight reactions only label you as a pushover that people can easily take for granted. Neither options are appealing for healthy career growth.

Winning requires you to consciously choose your reactions to the situation. Recognize that no matter how bad the circumstances, you have a choice in choosing how you feel and react. So how do you choose? This bring us to the next point…

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2. Know What You Are Trying to Achieve

When conflicts happen, it’s very easy to be sucked into tunnel-vision and focus on immediate differences. That’s a self-defeating approach. Chances are, you’ll only invite more resistance by focusing on differences in people’s positions or opinions.

The way to mitigate this without looking like you’re fighting to emerge as a winner in this conflict is to focus on the business objectives. In the light of what’s best for the business, discuss the pros and cons of each option. Eventually, everyone wants the business to be successful; if the business don’t win, then nobody in the organization wins.

It’s much easier for one to eat the humble pie and back off when they realize the chosen approach is best for the business.

By learning to steer the discussion in this direction, you will learn to disengage from petty differences and position yourself as someone who is interested in getting things done. Your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is mature, strategic and can be entrusted with bigger responsibilities.

3. Focus on Your Circle of Influence

At work, there are often issues which we have very little control over. It’s not uncommon to find corporate policies, client demands or boss mandates which affects your personal interests.

Gossiping and complaining are common responses to these events that we cannot control. But think about it, other than that short term emotional outlet, what tangible results do gossiping really accomplish? In most instances, none.

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Instead of feeling victimized and angry about the situation, focus on the things that you can do to influence the situation — your circle of influence. This is a very empowering technique to overcome the feeling of helplessness. It removes the victimized feeling and also allows others to see you as someone who knows how to operate within given constraints.

You may not be able to change or decide on the eventual outcome but, you can walk away knowing that you have done the best within the given circumstances.

Constraints are all around in the workplace; with this approach, your boss will also come to appreciate you as someone who is understanding and positive.

4. Don’t Take Sides

In office politics, it is possible to find yourself stuck in between two power figures who are at odds with each other. You find yourself being thrown around while they try to outwit each other and defend their own position; all at the expense of you getting the job done. You can’t get them to agree on a common decision for a project, and neither of them want to take ownership of issues; they’re too afraid they’ll get stabbed in the back for any mishaps.

In cases like this, focus on the business objectives and don’t take side with either of them – even if you like one better than the other. Place them on a common communication platform and ensure open communications among all parties, so that no one can claim “I didn’t say that”.

By not taking sides, you’ll help to direct conflict resolution in an objective manner. You’ll also build trust with both parties. That’ll help to keep the engagements constructive and focus on business objectives.

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5. Don’t Get Personal

In office politics, you’ll get angry with people. It happens. There will be times when you feel the urge to give that person a piece of your mind and teach him a lesson. Don’t.

People tend to remember moments when they were humiliated or insulted. Even if you win this argument and get to feel really good about it for now, you’ll pay the price later when you need help from this person. What goes around comes around, especially at the workplace.

To win in the office, you’ll want to build a network of allies which you can tap into. The last thing you want during a crisis or an opportunity is to have someone screw you up because they harbor ill-intentions towards you – all because you’d enjoyed a brief moment of emotional outburst at their expense.

Another reason to hold back your temper is your career advancement. Increasingly, organizations are using 360 degree reviews to promote someone. Even if you are a star performer, your boss will have to fight a political uphill battle if other managers or peers see you as someone who is difficult to work with. The last thing you’ll want is to make it difficult for your boss to champion you for a promotion.

6. Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

The reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting the others to understand us than to understand them first. Top people managers and business leaders have learned to suppress this urge.

Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept.

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Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult – there’s little trust and too much second-guessing.

7. Think Win-Win

As mentioned upfront, political conflicts happen because of conflicting interests. Perhaps due to our schooling, we are taught that to win, someone else needs to lose. Conversely, we are afraid to let someone else win, because it implies losing for us.

In business and work, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Learn to think in terms of “how can we both win out of this situation?” This requires that you first understand the other party’s perspective and what’s in it for him.

Next, understand what’s in it for you. Strive to seek out a resolution that is acceptable and beneficial to both parties. Doing this will ensure that everyone truly commit to the agreed resolution and will not pay only lip-service to it.

People simply don’t like to lose. You may get away with win-lose tactics once or twice but very soon, you’ll find yourself without allies in the workplace.

Thinking win-win is an enduring strategy that builds allies and help you win in the long term.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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