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BFS Capital Blog

Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

June 13, 2013

Tonight, our very own Marc Glazer will be honored along with several other business owners at the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year awards gala at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach. While of course I am confident Marc will win the award (check out my earlier blog post on why he’s already a winner in our eyes), the event and the caliber of the other finalists got me thinking. All of the finalists are very successful entrepreneurs. They took a leap of faith and through hard work, dedication and a little luck and good timing, saw their business dreams become a reality.

So, what are the characteristics that made these entrepreneurs so successful? First, you must define what being an entrepreneur actually means.

While some debate the differences between entrepreneurs and small business owners, many view anyone who starts, runs and owns an enterprise of any sort “entrepreneurial.” That designation carries with it a number of connotations about what it means to be an entrepreneur. Are there must-have characteristics that entrepreneurs share? Are there traits that would prevent someone from being an entrepreneur? Everybody, it seems, has an opinion. contributor Meghan Casserly says there are four essential personality traits of every entrepreneur, based on a book called Heart, Smarts, Guts & Luck. The authors don’t attempt to put entrepreneurs into neat little buckets—that’s impossible. Instead, they’ve written a guide for understanding personal strengths and those of others; how those can change over time; and how these strengths can be useful at different points of a business’s life cycle.

The four traits—hearts-dominantsmarts-dominant, guts-dominant and luck-dominant—don’t mean entrepreneurs are all or nothing. Notice the word “dominant.” Many, if not most, have all four traits, but this is about where their greatest strengths lie at a given point in time. You’ll definitely want to read more of this thought-provoking and insightful commentary that also includes well-known examples of each type.

On the other hand, describes a much broader spectrum of entrepreneurial traits in 25 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs, excerpted from the Ultimate Home Based Business Handbook by James Stephenson. While the author targets home-based business owners, the traits really apply to anyone starting up or running their own thing.  And if you don’t stack up in some of these areas, Stephenson says that most of them can be learned with focus and practice.

Some of the characteristics on the list may seem too obvious like Do what you enjoy and Take what you do seriously. But look further to things like Be a shameless self-promoter and Become known as an expert. Nearly all of us can do more in these areas, and Stephenson suggests setting some goals for each characteristic you want to perfect and periodically monitoring your progress. Two other good ones—Take time off and Get and stay organized—characteristics many entrepreneurs say they’re constantly working on! contributor Ilya Pozin says that entrepreneurs frequently come up with solutions to some of society’s most difficult problems, and there are great lessons to be learned from them. Pozin profiles five such entrepreneurs. We love these, especially the lessons that range from incorporating empathy into your business to using your own pain points to inspire business ideas.

So can entrepreneurial success be predicted? contributor Kate Harrison says yes, but it’s not what you’d expect.

While you’d think that intelligence, ingenuity and industriousness would top the list, the world’s largest startup accelerator, the Founder Institute (FI), has found that there is little to no correlation between these traits and an entrepreneur’s statistical chance of success. IQ, in particular, has almost no predictive value.

Instead, FI found four traits that do predict entrepreneurial success, with 85 percent accuracy:

    1. Professional experience. Real-world experience and project completion skills are key predictors.


    1. Creative (and positive) thinking. There is a “magic mix” of creativity, positive thinking and curiosity that are demonstrated in thinking outside the box, moving away from the status quo and exploring new opportunities.


    1. Fluid intelligence. Adaptive intelligence includes being able to think logically and abstractly and having the ability to recognize patterns.


    1. Agreeableness. Media and popular culture may say otherwise, but those who are straightforward, considerate and cooperative tend to do best.

I can confidently say that most, if not all, of the finalists in the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year award program possess these characteristics. And I couldn’t be more excited to cheer on our successful entrepreneur tonight at the awards gala.

So, how about it, business owners? Do the good guys really do better as entrepreneurs than those types we love to hate? Do you have personal characteristics that have made it easier or more difficult to run your business?