If you look up the definition of entrepreneur, you will find something similar to:

“a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk”

From my experiences, there are a few characteristics that most entrepreneurs have:

Courage, Work Ethic, Creativity, Leadership, Organized, Confidence

This doesn’t mean that they possess all of these characteristics from day one, but it helps.

Let’s look at these characteristics in more detail.

ConfidenceCourage – Virtually all small business ventures involve risk.  At risk are money, ego, and a substantial amount of time.  Successful entrepreneurs have the courage to accept the risks.  Courage is also needed to know and accept failure.  If you speak to successful entrepreneurs, you will find that their success was probably not their first small business venture.

Confidence – As strange as it may sound, lack of confidence is one of the most common inhibitors of success.  Many of us look at those who have been successful and say to ourselves, I wish I had their abilities.  If you have or can quickly develop the characteristics above, you have their abilities .. at least the abilities they had when they started.  If you see yourself as successful, your chances of becoming a successful business owner are greatly increased

Work Ethic – Starting and running a small business is a LOT of work!  If anyone feels that being your own boss is easier than working for someone else, you need to reconsider becoming an entrepreneur.  Starting a small business will require long days and the drive to press on when you are tired and lose motivation.  Many businesses fail because the owner is unwilling to put the necessary effort into the business.

Business Idea
Business Idea

Creativity – Small business begins with a problem to solve and an idea to solve the problem better than others.  This requires the ability to look for solutions outside the box; to look at the problem from the perspective of the people who need the solution.

Leadership – As the owner of a small business, you are the boss.  The decisions are yours.  If you have employees, you will lead them.  The ability to quickly assess situations, devise a strategy, and act quickly is essential in running a business.   You must be able to strike a balance between taking time to get enough information for a decision and acting quickly to avoid delays.

Organized – Many of us work and live using our memory and perhaps a “to-do” list.  With a small business, there are too many tasks and dependencies for a simple list.  Planning is essential so that tasks are completed in the correct order with the right resources within the required time.  There is precious little time available when you are running a business and poor planning is the reason for many small business failures.


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You may be thinking that some things are missing.  What about working with numbers, legal knowledge, marketing, etc.?  Those are not character traits, they are skills and skills can be learned or outsourced (see next article “Recipe for Business Success“).  The characteristics above are molded into someone throughout their life including their childhood, education, influences from others, life experiences, and personality traits.  Some develop these traits early in life and some develop through a series of course corrections.  No matter how they are developed, I believe these are essential elements of a successful entrepreneur.

Do you have what it takes to be an Entrepreneur?

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Dan Gillingham is a retired executive, business owner and is currently volunteering as a small business counselor and mentor with SCORE

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