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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 November 5, 2020

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Why You Have the Fear of Failure (And How to Overcome It)

Nobody enjoys failing. Fear of failure can be so strong that avoiding failure eclipses the motivation to succeed. Insecurity about doing things incorrectly causes many people to unconsciously sabotage their chances for success.

Fear is part of human nature. As an entrepreneur, I faced this same fear. My ego and identity became intertwined with my work, and when things didn’t go as planned, I completely shut down. I overcame this unhealthy relationship with fear, and I believe that you can, too.

Together we’ll examine how you can use failure to your advantage instead of letting it run your life. We’ll also look at how to overcome fear of failure so that you can enjoy success in your work and life.

What Is Fear of Failure?

If you are afraid of failure, it will cause you to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Fear of failure keeps you from trying, creates self-doubt, stalls progress, and may lead you to go against your morals.

What causes a fear of failure? Here are the main reasons why fear of failing exists:

Patterns From Childhood

Hyper-critical adults cause children to internalize damaging mindsets.[1] They establish ultimatums and fear-based rules. This causes children to feel the constant need to ask for permission and reassurance. They carry this need for validation into adulthood.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is often at the root of a fear of failure.[2] For perfectionists, failure is so terrible and humiliating that they don’t try. Stepping outside your comfort zone becomes terrifying.

Over-Personalization

The ego may lead us to over-identify with failures. It’s hard to look beyond failure at things like the quality of the effort, extenuating circumstances, or growth opportunities.[3]

False Self-Confidence

People with true confidence know they won’t always succeed. A person with fragile self-confidence avoids risks. They’d rather play it safe than try something new.[4]

How the Fear of Failure Holds You Back

Unhealthy Organization Culture

Too many organizations today have cultures of perfection: a set of organizational beliefs that any failure is unacceptable. Only pure, untainted success will do.

Imagine the stress and terror in an organization like that. The constant covering up of the smallest blemishes. The wild finger-pointing as everyone tries to shift the blame for the inevitable messes onto someone else. The lying, cheating, falsification of data, and hiding of problems—until they become crises that defy being hidden any longer.

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Miss out on Valuable Opportunities

If some people fail to reach a complete answer because of the lure of some early success, many more fail because of their ego-driven commitment to what worked in the past. You often see this with senior people, especially those who made their names by introducing some critical change years ago.

They shy away from further innovation, afraid that this time they might fail, diminishing the luster they try to keep around their names from past triumph.

Besides, they reason, the success of something new might even prove that those achievements they made in the past weren’t so great after all. Why take the risk when you can hang on to your reputation by doing nothing?

Such people are so deeply invested in their egos and the glories of their past that they prefer to set aside opportunities for future glory rather than risk even the possibility of failure.

High Achievers Become Losers

Every talent contains an opposite that sometimes turns it into a problem. Successful people like to win and achieve high standards. This can make them so terrified of failure that it ruins their lives. When a positive trait, like achievement, becomes too strong in someone’s life, it’s on the way to becoming a major obstacle.

Achievement is a powerful value for many successful people. They’ve built their lives on it. They achieve at everything they do: school, college, sports, the arts, hobbies, work. Each fresh achievement adds to the power of the value in their lives.

Gradually, failure becomes unthinkable. Maybe they’ve never failed yet in anything that they’ve done, so they have no experience of rising above it. Failure becomes the supreme nightmare: a frightful horror they must avoid at any cost.

The simplest way to do this is never to take a risk, stick rigidly to what you know you can do, protect yourself, work the longest hours, double and triple check everything, and be the most conscientious and conservative person in the universe.

If constant hard work, diligence, brutal working schedules and harrying subordinates won’t ward off the possibility of failing, use every other possible means to to keep it away. Falsify numbers, hide anything negative, conceal errors, avoid customer feedback, constantly shift the blame for errors onto anyone too weak to fight back.

Loss of Creativity

Over-achievers destroy their own peace of mind and the lives of those who work for them. People too attached to “goodness” and morality become self-righteous bigots. Those whose values for building close relationships become unbalanced slide into smothering their friends and family with constant expressions of affection and demands for love in return.

Everyone likes to succeed. The problem comes when fear of failure is dominant, when you can no longer accept the inevitability of making mistakes, nor recognize the importance of trial and error in finding the most creative solution.

The more creative you are, the more errors you are going to make. Deciding to avoid the errors will destroy your creativity, too.

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Balance counts more than you think. Some tartness must season the sweetest dish. A little selfishness is valuable even in the most caring person. And a little failure is essential to preserve everyone’s perspective on success.

We hear a lot about being positive. Maybe we also need to recognize that the negative parts of our lives and experience have just as important a role to play in finding success, in work, and in life.

How to Overcome Fear of Failure (Step-by-Step)

1. Figure out Where the Fear Comes From

Ask yourself what the root cause of your negative belief could be.[5] When you look at the four main causes for a fear of failure, which ones resonate with you?

Write down where you think the fear comes from, and try to understand it as an outsider.

If it helps, imagine you’re trying to help one of your best friends. Perhaps your fear stems from something that happened in your childhood, or a deep-seated insecurity.

Naming the source of the fear takes away some of its power.

2. Reframe Beliefs About Your Goal

Having an all or nothing mentality leaves you with nothing sometimes. Have a clear vision for what you’d like to accomplish but include learning something new in your goal.

If you always aim for improvement and learning, you are much less likely to fail.[6]

At Pixar, people are actually encouraged to “fail early and fail fast.”[7] They encourage experimentation and innovation so that they can stay on the cutting edge. That mindset involves failure, but as long as they achieve their vision of telling great stories, all the stumbling blocks are just opportunities to grow.

3. Learn to Think Positive

In many cases, you believe what you tell yourself. Your internal dialogue affects how you react and behave.

Our society is obsessed with success, but it’s important to recognize that even the most successful people encounter failure.

Walt Disney was once fired from a newspaper because they thought he lacked creativity. He went on to found an animation studio that failed. He never gave up, and now Disney is a household name.

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Steve Jobs was also once fired from Apple before returning as the face of the company for many years. [8]

If Disney and Jobs had believed the negative feedback, they wouldn’t have made it.

It’s up to you to notice your negative self talk and identify triggers[9]. Replace negative thoughts with positive facts about yourself and the situation. You’ll be able to create a new mental scripts that you can reach for when you feel negativity creeping in. The voice inside your head has a great effect on what you do.

How To Be A Positive Thinker: Positivity Exercises, Affirmations, & Quotes

    4. Visualize all Potential Outcomes

    Uncertainty about what will happen next is terrifying. Take time to visualize the possible outcomes of your decision. Think about the best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll feel better if you’ve already had a chance to mentally prepare for what could happen.

    Fear of the unknown might keep you from taking a new job. Weigh the pros and cons, and imagine potential successes and failures in making such a life-altering decision. Knowing how things could turn out might help you get unstuck.

    5. Look at the Worst-Case Scenario

    There are times when the worst case could be absolutely devastating. In many cases, if something bad happens, it won’t be the end of the world.

    It’s important to define how bad the worst case scenario is in the grand scheme of your life. Sometimes, we give situations more power than they deserve. In most cases, a failure is not permanent.

    For example, when you start a new business, it’s bound to be a learning experience. You’ll make decisions that don’t pan out, but often that discomfort is temporary. You can change your strategy and rebound. Even in the worst case scenario, if the perceived failure led to the end of that business, it might be the launching point for something new.

    6. Have a Backup Plan

    It never hurts to have a backup plan. The last thing you want to do is scramble for a solution when the worst has happened. The old adage is solid wisdom:

    “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.”

    Having a backup plan gives you more confidence to move forward and take calculated risks.

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    Perhaps you’ve applied for a grant to fund an initiative at work. In the worst-case scenario, if you don’t get the grant, are there other ways you could get the funds?

    There are usually multiple ways to tackle a problem, so having a backup is a great way to reduce anxiety about possible failure.

    7. Learn From Whatever Happens

    Things may not go the way you planned, but that doesn’t automatically mean you’ve failed. Learn from whatever arises.[10] Even a less than ideal situation can be a great opportunity to make changes and grow.

    “Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.”

    Dig deep enough, and you’re bound to find the silver lining. When you’ve learned that “failure” is an opportunity for growth instead of a death sentence, you conquer the fear of failure.

    For more tips on how to overcome fear of failure, check out the video below:

    Final Thoughts

    To overcome fear of failure, we can start by figuring out where it comes from and reframing the way we feel about failure. When failure is a chance for growth, and you’ve looked at all possible outcomes, it’s easier to overcome fear.

    Stay positive, have a backup plan, and learn from whatever happens. Your failures will be sources of education and inspiration rather than humiliation.

    “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas A. Edison

    Failures can be blessings in disguise. Go boldly in the direction of your dreams and long-term goals.

    More Tips for Conquering Fear

    Featured photo credit: Patrick Hendry via unsplash.com

    Reference

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