After reading countless books, blog posts, interviews, podcasts with leaders, I have distilled 3 simple traits that successful entrepreneurs possess. These traits are also in line with my own observations as a business owner. These are the conclusions I draw at the end of the year 2020. I am curious to see if new insights I gain in the future will change my mind on this topic, or if these will continue to hold true.
Behind every success story stands a mountain of sweat equity. In the media, we usually only get to see the success of a startup in the spotlight. Of course, the rewards are the most interesting highlight of the journey and they make for a good story. What is rarely shown, is how many attempts it took the founder to get there and the exorbitant amount of time that was spent in silence building a great product. That time spent on making – often without any short-term or even medium-term gratification – is time intentionally sacrificed. The time spent working behind the desk well beyond working hours is the time others spent on Netflix, YouTube, Instagram, partying, friends etc.
I today’s world, where there are more apps and websites competing for our attention than ever before in the history of mankind, this trait becomes invaluable if you want to build a successful company:
The ability to focus on one high-impact thing at a time and blend out the rest.
This is perhaps the most simple trait, but it’s also a very important one. Starting a business is a risky ordeal and many people find themselves stuck in the planning phase, trying to minimise risk upfront by creating the “perfect plan”. This goes hand in hand with a lot of talking and a lot of theory – but no action. But the reality is: Nobody can foresee the trajectory of any project. You don’t know in-advance which tweet is going to get you into the media, or which partnership ends up doubling your business. And that’s ok. It’s really important to just start, even when you barely have clue about the direction you’re going in. Take daily action and slowly but surely, you will stumble upon the right information and the right people that will help you reach your end goal. And so the second trait is:
The ability to take immediate action and figure things out along the way.
I believe that this is a trait that is universally found in every entrepreneur. The reality of running any kind of business is that it’s a stressful endeavour. It’s never perfect: Things don’t go as planned, deals break, client leave…there is a myriad of things that go wrong all the time. I like to think of a startup as a sailing boat that’s trying to reach distant islands, each island representing a company milestone. Some days will be sunny, some days will be rainy, some days…there will be storms that threaten the life of the entire crew. It doesn’t matter which boat sails the fastest on a sunny day if it sinks with the first storm. What matters is the boat that finally reaches the island, persevering through all conditions the sea throws at it. In business, it doesn’t matter if on a particular day you have made 10% progress or 0.01% progress – as long as you chip away and keep taking steps, however small, in the right direction – you will succeed. And thus the third trait is:
The ability to persevere through difficult times and keep going.