We’ve been chatting rather a lot with our pals at the New Entrepreneur Foundation recently, as they open their cohort for the next year of entrepreneurial super-stardom. But how do you know whether you’re right for such a challenge?
Sure it’s easy to look back at the glittering careers of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and say “ahhh yes! They were always meant for stardom!” – but are there core traits that appear again and again in great entrepreneurs? Traits that you could match against your own outlook, to see whether a life of entrepreneurship might be for you?
According to our research, yes there are.
The Entrepreneur Test
Together, we’ve taken an in-depth look at a few different studies of the psychological make-up of great entrepreneurs. We’ve focussed on traits rather than actions, so that you can get a clear picture of the kind of person they are. And then, helpfully, we’ve distilled them into nine key qualities.
Now the question is, do you recognise them in yourself? Let’s do this.
“Tenacity is No. 1. So much of entrepreneurship is dealing with repeated failure. It happens many times each week.” – Mike Colwell, head honcho at Plains Angels, a top Angel Investment forum.
Does the idea of quitting repel you? The road of entrepreneurship is paved with challenges, and you need to have the capacity to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on regardless. It’s not about avoiding failure – in fact it’s almost the opposite, it’s using failure as a spring-board to push from, feeding off it, feeling like it cannot defeat you. It’s the belief that – in the end – these failure will only make you stronger. Because ultimately, you’re a winner.
Sound like you? Give yourself a point.
Do you ask a lot of questions? Like to know how things work? Can you get almost obsessive and passionate about certain topics, filled with a desire to really understand how they tick? Great. Consider this one a point in the bag.
Entrepreneurs are innately driven by curiosity and passion; wanting to know more, they are determined to take things apart, questioning why it is we do things the way we do. They like to learn, they like to understand. They like to feel as though they can master certain topics, and manipulate information to find new solutions. The idea of creating something new, something that no-one else has thought of is really exciting to them.
Exciting to you too? One point.
One of the key and enduring traits of successful entrepreneurs is the ability to think in the short and long term. To be able to see with real clarity the situation at hand, and not only see the opportunities it presents now, but be able to predict the emerging opportunities it will throw out further down the line.
It’s why so many great thinkers also enjoy strategy games like chess – it exercises clear decision making skills, whilst keeping an eye on the decisions that have to be made in three or four moves time.
Do you feel like the kind of person who can stay one step ahead of the game? When working on projects, do you enjoy thinking about the whole picture, as well as the task at hand? If yes, hand yourself a point.
This trait is linked to vision, but has a few key differences that are just as important. Vision is the ability to find clarity in a long-term goal, ambition is the innate need to achieve it.
Entrepreneurs are very rarely satisfied with their current state of being. They are impatient, they are determined, and they are energised to achieve. This often results in them never quite content, as their ambition always seems to dominate – there will never be a point where they have ‘done enough’. And although this can be frustrating – both for them and their team – it means that they will never stop fighting to be better, to do more. Which in itself is pretty inspiring.
Sound familiar? No matter how well you do, do you find yourself thinking ‘yeah, ok, but what next?’ Annoying, isn’t it? But still, hand yourself a point.
Again, this trait is closely linked with vision, as well as ambition, but it stands in its own right as a vital trait. Fundamentally, an entrepreneur has to believe they are capable of great things. They have to believe that they just might change the world.
They don’t have to believe they can do it on their own, or that one particular idea is going to be the one to do it, but unwavering, at their core, they know they have what it takes to get the job done. Because they know that if they don’t believe it, no-one else will.
Do you believe you have what it takes to succeed? And remember, that doesn’t mean you think you can do everything, it means that you have faith in the abilities you have. If yes, award yourself a point.
That Darwin bloke had a lot of good stuff to say, you know. Survival of your business – much like survival of a species – depends on adaptation. It’s being aware of changes – in tastes, in the market, in the people around you – that will affect your product or service, and having the ability to react to those changes quickly and intelligently, sometimes at the expense of your own ego.
Bullishly sticking to an incarnation of your idea no matter return you are getting what is a recipe for disaster, you have to have the wherewithal to choose your battles, see when you need to pivot, when you need to retreat, and when you need to throw the plan out the window completely.
Have you had to think on your feet, and change what you’re doing in order to come out on top? One point to you.
7. The desire to lead
Though you value input from people who know specifics better than you do, and are more than willing to change direction based on new information, ultimately, you have to want to be at the helm of your enterprise. This aint no game for someone happy to sit back and let other people make decisions. The buzz has to come from feeling like you’re the one with the power to lead this ship either to port or onto the rocks.
Do you consider yourself to be a little bit of a control freak? Do you see yourself as someone with opinions that deserve real consideration? Hell, do you like delegating? Chalk up a point.
8. The ability to communicate
You could have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t get others on board, you’re screwed. Communication is at the centre of all good business – it will get you the team you need to bring your idea to life, it will get investors passionate about your product, it will get customers interested to use what you’re selling.
And, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a great speech-maker, or love a good performance. Sure, those things might come in handy, but at its root, good communication skills boil down to the ability to translate your idea to a number of different audiences, to be able to see the best and most attractive way to describe what you’re doing and what you need, in other to get other people enthused. It can be as simple as a combination of passion, honesty and smarts. But hell, if you’re a charmer, that helps too.
Like talking over your ideas with people? Are you good at getting other people excited about projects, and feel comfortable about spotting what information is relevant to different groups? One point to you.
One person can’t build an entire empire alone. Possibly the most important trait of all is the ability to know your own strengths, your own weaknesses, and shape how you work and who you work with accordingly.
A lot of great ideas and great teams fall by the wayside because the person leading cannot see how their own weaknesses affect the business. This way madness lies. A truly great entrepreneur can see what they bring to the table, and see what they lack. They build teams according to what they need, and have faith that those with the skills they lack must help shape the business.
Fundamentally, they don’t let their other dominating traits – vision, leadership, ambition – become greater than the project itself. It’s about humility, and about understanding what is required to make an idea soar.
Reckon you know what you’re good at, and where you need help? Do you have people you call on for advice, that you really, truly listen to – to the point where you would consider changing your behaviour off the back of what they say? We’ll take you as self-aware. Give yourself a point.
So, are you a natural entrepreneur?
Time to count your points.
Of course, this is not an exact science, and many entrepreneurs have some of the above traits in abundance, whilst relying on others to plug the gaps elsewhere. However, if you have given yourself 5 points or above from the list, you are well on your way to a true entrepreneurial mindset. You’ve come to the right place.
5 points or above? You are ready. Time for your next challenge, and good luck!
The New Entrepreneurs Foundations are currently recruiting 30 young entrepreneurial minds for a 12 month paid programme – what are you waiting for? Find out more.