What makes an entrepreneur?
Statistically, the average UK entrepreneur is a 36-year-old white male working in the construction industry. But statistics can be very misleading. Because in fact, successful entrepreneurs and business owners come in absolutely all shapes and sizes: aged between 9 and 109, male, female, rich, poor, people with multiple doctorates and people who left school at 13, and from every ethnic background you can think of.
What they have in common is the drive to make things happen. This guide explains the personality traits that make entrepreneurs who they are. And if the below sounds like you, you could well make a great one. If you're interested in becoming an entrepreneur and starting your own company, download our free e-book, or browse our FAQ's page for further information on start up loans.
Starting and running a business is incredibly hard work and is usually riddled with complications, frustrations and constant setbacks. You have to be determined to succeed to pull yourself through these obstacles. You also have to be ready to put in incredibly long hours, every day of the week, for months - if not years.
Determination is also what will keep you searching for the best contracts and deals for your business, or that one material you just can't seem to find - which often takes hundreds of phone calls for days on end. It's also vital for forging commercial partnerships with the people you want to - your perseverance will prove a lot about you and encourage others to trust in your ability.
It is only with strong determination that you will plough on trying to find the business model, marketing technique, and sales strategy to make your business a real success - as these things can take years to refine and perfect. If you're not determined to make your business a success, you need to seriously question whether starting up is right for you.
You've got to be confident to be able to get through the hard times. And there will be hard times: when you're working 14-hour days, it looks like you've just lost your life savings, and you're still not getting any customers. You need deep emotional reserves and inner confidence in yourself and your business idea to get through that. Confidence also enables you to approach the people you need: commercial partners, lucrative clients, target customers, suppliers.
Confidence will be an invaluable asset in any pitch or presentation you have to make. If you doubt your own confidence, fear not - there are ways to improve it. Try one of the multiple self-help books or website tutorials out there aimed at improving esteem.
Ideas are absolutely worthless unless you do something about them. You need to be a go-getter to make any aspect of your business happen. Entrepreneurs are the kind of people who just get on with things, rather than sitting around talking about them. You need, though, to be able to structure to your action. Just leaping in for the sake of it is foolish - you need to have clear paths of action to make a business idea a reality.
Being passionate in business doesn't mean that you're a fiery, emotional, romantic hot-head - it means that you truly believe in the business you're building, that the idea behind it excites you, and that when you talk to people about what you're doing, it's obvious you're really into your new business and determined to make it work. Passion for a business idea - and the ability to communicate it - is what gets staff, investors, banks, customers and commercial partners interested in your idea. It can be fantastically convincing, and will always help you strike deals and bring in custom. It is also your passion that will motivate staff and suppliers when times are tough - you need to inspire them to keep working hard to make things happen.
Ability to see the bigger picture
When you're running your own business, you'll face constant setbacks.
You need to the kind of person who can see the bigger picture so these don't get you down. You also need to view finances, strategy and growth from a more holistic point of view so you can plan years into the future - as all businesses should - rather than just weeks or months. This is invaluable for your budgeting and business planning, and, so, for the survival of your business.
Business is all about relationships.
To be successful, it'll really help if you're the kind of person who can build rapport easily and isn't afraid to strike up a chat. You also need to build a relationship with customers and make them want to do business with you because they like you. When people like you it also increases their loyalty to your business - a crucial tool to help pull you through the darker times, or when a new competitor starts up just around the corner.
The very best entrepreneurs, with strings of companies and millions in the bank, are almost always the biggest risk-takers. Without risk, there is no reward.
That means grabbing an opportunity when you see one and not being afraid of failure. That said, entrepreneurs take calculated risks - which their actions may look flippant, you can rest assured that they're doing the maths inside their head to always make sure they've got a high chance of succeeding if they take a risk. Only a fraction of business owners become full-blown entrepreneurs - the type who run hundreds of businesses all over the world. But you can take inspiration from them, by trying to always remember to push yourself and your ideas that little bit further.
Not afraid of failure
If you worry too much about failing, you'll never start a business. You have to be willing to fail if you want to succeed.
Banishing a fear of failure also gives a massive boost to your confidence and risk-taking ability - after all, if the worst option isn't to be feared, you might as well have a go. You need to try to banish fear not just of your business failing, but also of an important contact turning you down or a client deciding not to do business with you. If you're always worried about this, it will stress you out far too much and make you seem much less confident.
Remember - you learn best from your mistakes in business. Don't fear them - embrace them!
Becoming an opportunity spotter is key for being able to identify market gaps, new customers, new product possibilities and new business opportunities.
Opportunity-spotting often comes hand-in-hand with optimism - and the ability to take calculated risks. It'll help you find more inventive sales, PR, marketing and partnership ideas too. If you think a specific area needs work, start noticing how big companies are spotting new opportunities - how they capitalise on trends and target their advertising. And start reading books on how businesses have developed in new and creative ways.
Entrepreneurs always think of profits and the bottom line. If you're not focused on making money or at least breaking even, you're not going to have a business for very long - just a cash-drain. Being able to calculate figures quickly will help, but it's not imperative. What is vital is that you always remember to work out costs and profit margin on everything you buy and sell and add or deduct it from your budget. Thinking through any financial decision carefully is far more important than doing so quickly.
What if I don't think I have all these traits? Can I still run a business?
This guide is just a round-up of the most common entrepreneurial traits. But some very successful business people are painfully shy, and some perfectly competent business owners never take risks and aren't too hot in the maths department either. However, if you feel that you lack most or all of these personality traits, you might want to think about whether you're really ready to start a business now, or whether it would be better to try to develop your skill-set for a few years first so you know you have the best shot at things when you do eventually start.
Does it matter that I've never run a business before?
Of course not - everyone's got to start somewhere. That said, there are some key skills that will really help you out if you don't have former business experience. Find out more in our guides on business experience and skills.