There’s an entrepreneurial spirit that runs through anyone who’s ever dreamed of starting their own business. That spark is the catalyst for taking a great idea and making it a reality. Beyond launching, a founder requires a certain set of skills and personality traits to run a thriving business.
While each entrepreneur is unique, there is a set of characteristics common to those who find success. The entrepreneurial mindset describes an attitude toward calculated risk taking, critical thinking, and long-term planning.
What else do you need to thrive as a business owner? Ahead, learn the characteristics of entrepreneurship, including how to tap into the right mindset and acquire the necessary skills to find success.
Table of Contents
What is entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of starting, managing, and scaling a business. Entrepreneurs use innovation, skills, and vision to develop new products, services, or ideas that meet market demand and create value for a target audience. Those who choose this path often take on financial risks and require resilience and problem-solving skills.
Entrepreneurship is a mindset rather than a vocation. It is defined by a set of characteristics like passion, grit, a desire to bring ideas to life, and the drive to solve a problem.
12 essential characteristics of entrepreneurship
- Risk tolerance
- Attention to detail
You already might possess some or all of the entrepreneurial skills it takes to start a business. If you don’t, you can develop them over time. Let’s walk through a few traits that are common to an entrepreneurial mindset.
Every venture starts with a vision: the desired direction of the business. Stakeholders, including your employees and investors, look to you—and your vision—for guidance, motivation, and decisive leadership, especially when the going gets tough. While your mission statement defines your organization’s business objectives and how it intends to reach them, you can also create a vision statement to declare your aspirational goals.
Passionfruit founder Liz Bertorelli’s vision was clear when she started her LGBTQ+ merch brand. “I wanted to start something that would feel like there were people backing it: queers designing queer products,” she says.
2. Risk tolerance
You’ve likely heard the adage, “No risk, no reward.” That can be true when launching any business venture. The primary reward of starting a successful business may be profit or independence, while the inherent risk is failure—and the personal and financial setbacks this might entail.
Almost half of businesses fail by their fifth year. This is due to a number of reasons: cash flow problems, supply chain issues, high employee turnover, and even unforeseen events like a global pandemic. Successful entrepreneurs have some level of risk tolerance including the ability to make calculated decisions.
Many entrepreneurs take steps to actively manage their risks and protect their business. To reduce risk, Edwin Broni-Mensah launched his social impact company, GiveMeTap, as a side hustle before jumping in full-time.
Innovation drives entrepreneurship, and bold new ideas propel successful startups into household names. With big companies dominating crowded markets, new founders need to find innovative opportunities to break in. Make an existing product better, or develop something totally new.
This is what Hannah Mendoza did when she broke into the beverage market with her innovative product. She built Clevr Blends with the new idea of adding more nutrients to the daily ritual of drinking coffee and tea. “It took a year in my kitchen, surrounded by hundreds of different ingredients, trying to nail that barista quality and texture, while also having these incredible functional ingredients,” Hannah says.
When running a new venture, you sometimes get tired or run low on self-motivation. Entrepreneurs need the discipline to move forward and do the work—even when they don’t feel like it. Being disciplined can be especially helpful if you’re developing an entirely new business concept.
Sarah Paiji Yoo required discipline to find the right partner for her new business, Blueland. “We kept this master spreadsheet of hundreds of chemists and their backgrounds,” Sarah says. “And then we just started cold [messaging] them on LinkedIn.”
To develop discipline, establish healthy routines like writing down your goals, creating a schedule, or exercising regularly. When new challenges arise, be persistent in moving forward until you reach your goal. Part of what makes a leader successful is the ability to see failures as opportunities to learn and grow.
When you’re building a new venture, you’re often on your own, wearing many hats to maintain all the moving parts. Having self-reliance means you’re deft at problem solving to get things done.
Two Wheel Gear founder Reid Hemsing found himself building his business alone after his co-founder backed out. He took over the business as a solopreneur, making a comeback from the loss. Only then was he able to grow, finding complementary talents to shape his team.
Remember that self reliance can sometimes run out, and a good entrepreneur knows when it’s time to bring in others for advice or backup. “I try to do everything on my own,” says Reid. “But I realize that you need to ask for help sometimes.”
While being prepared for every scenario is nearly impossible, the best entrepreneurs adjust to change with a positive attitude. Adaptability is an essential personality trait in a world of evolving business practices and changing consumer trends. Versatile leaders are comfortable with failure and have the resilience to overcome challenges quickly.
When entrepreneur Mike Salguero realized one of his businesses wasn’t finding success, he noticed a different opportunity in the marketplace—shipping high-quality meat products through a subscription model—and launched ButcherBox. “Try to deconstruct things and don’t just use the playbook everyone else has, but really come up with your own,” he says. Adapting his approach led to massive success with his second business.
Leadership is the ability to influence and guide others, whether a small team or a large company. Good leaders share their vision, develop well-rounded teams that complement their abilities, and have confidence in themselves and what they sell—skills that apply to every type of business.
LA stylist and founder of The Period Company Karla Welch exhibits leadership by using her platform to shift ideas about period products and their impact on the environment, and addressing customer needs through inclusivity. “If we can shift the ideas people have had for the last several hundred years regarding our periods, that’s way more important than a pair of underwear,” she says.
Creativity encompasses more than proficiency in a specific art form. Creative entrepreneurs find inspiration or use their imaginations to solve problems—often with limited resources.
Business coach and #CultureFix founder Nora Rahimian describes creative entrepreneurs as those who start a business on their own terms. “We often think of creativity as the outcome or the product,” she says. “But you can get creative with what entrepreneurship looks like for you.”
You can develop creative skills by discovering what inspires you, reading and learning some of the best entrepreneur books, and forming habits that support creativity.
9. Attention to detail
Attention to detail is important, especially if you’re entering a saturated market. How can your idea solve a problem? What unique details and features help you stand out from the competition? How do you anticipate customer needs?
Little Chonk founder Bryan Reisberg conducted market research and was obsessive over every detail of his prototype during product development. It was his goal to address what was missing from traditional dog carriers. “We tested with people in the wild. We did product testing overseas to make sure that it was safe and it was comfortable. We asked people’s opinions,” says Bryan.
The hard work paid off—Little Chonk’s inaugural product sold out in four minutes.
An entrepreneur’s curiosity allows them to continuously learn and discover new opportunities. Rather than settling for the status quo, entrepreneurs ask challenging questions and explore ways to deliver solutions to their customers.
Founder Ross Mackay saw that many plant-based meats contained too many processed ingredients and wondered if it was possible to remove chicken from the food system while offering a healthy replacement.
Mackay’s curiosity and drive helped him launch Daring, a food business selling chicken alternatives made with just six ingredients and plenty of nutrients.
Many successful entrepreneurs start their own business from a passion. Whether that’s a profitable hobby, a unique idea, or a drive to make change, passion drives entrepreneurship. Caring deeply about what you do means you’ll be better equipped to handle the highs and lows of starting a business. Passion keeps the entrepreneurial spirit alive through challenge.
Serial entrepreneur Wil Yeung’s passion for good food, photography, and travel helped him build his successful YouTube channel—even after a slow start. “At the time, I was making maybe 200 bucks a month from the YouTube channel,” he says. “It didn’t even pay for the ingredients that I had to purchase.”
Today, more than a million people tune in to watch Wil cook.
Motivation is critical for new entrepreneurs, as it drives you forward through the ups and downs of your business. Understand what motivates you and tie that into your business goals.
Motivation is also important for leaders—keeping your team motivated to bring your dream to life can be even more challenging. “There has to be a level of authenticity and transparency from the leader,” says Michael Perry, founder of Maple. “It’s important to own that and really solidify trust.”
5 tips for being a successful entrepreneur
- Understand your target market
- Develop a strong brand
- Build relationships with customers and clients
- Make a budget and stick to it
- Set goals
Having the characteristics of entrepreneurship is only the first step. If you’re looking to start a business, there are concrete actions you can take to help you become a successful entrepreneur.
1. Understand your target market
A target market is the group of customers most likely to buy your goods or services. Once you define this core audience, market research can help you understand what they need, want, like, and dislike. This understanding will help you follow the right business opportunities.
2. Develop a strong brand
Your branding goes beyond visual identity. It can also position you as the go-to business in your industry. To develop a strong brand, understand your competition, determine your primary audience, develop a compelling story, and build a brand strategy. Investing in brand identity can help your company grow and succeed at scale.
3. Build relationships with customers and clients
Regardless of the type of business you build, your reputation with your clients and customers is important. Building solid customer relationships is rewarding in itself, but it can also help you earn repeat customers, gain valuable word-of-mouth referrals, and increase sales.
4. Make a budget and stick to it
A detailed and realistic budget can help you reduce some of the risks that come with launching a business. The basics of a solid budget include estimates of your available capital, regular expenditures, anticipated revenue, and areas where you can cut costs. Being a disciplined entrepreneur and sticking to a budget puts you in a better position to make your money work for you.
5. Set goals
Goals can give you a clear focus and help motivate your team. Some leaders create goals using the SMART method: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based goal setting. This framework can help you clarify your ideas and focus your efforts. As an entrepreneur, numerous goal-setting tools are available to help you stay on track while tending to day-to-day operations.
Do you have the traits of a successful entrepreneur?
While each entrepreneur brings their unique talents and skills to their business, there are several common characteristics that emerge among the most successful. Put yourself into the entrepreneurial mindset and lean into the traits that are your strongest. Important characteristics such as social skills and innovation will help you stay focused through tough times and achieve your goals.
Characteristics of entrepreneurship FAQ
What makes an entrepreneur successful?
Business owners share many of the same entrepreneur characteristics: leadership, vision, discipline, curiosity, creativity, adaptability, and the ability to take measured risks. Developing these traits can help you become successful when launching your business. Define success for yourself as an entrepreneur. For some, that may mean profit, while for others, it’s building their life around freedom and independence.
What’s an example of entrepreneur characteristics?
Steve Jobs was a great entrepreneur, due to the important characteristics he possessed to help him succeed. He found innovative opportunities in the world of technology to bring Apple to life. His strategic thinking skills, self-confidence, and creativity all led to his success in entrepreneurship. Business leaders often look to his success for inspiration.
Why is risk-taking important for entrepreneurship?
No business is guaranteed to succeed, so entrepreneurs need to feel comfortable with some level of risk to grow. Successful entrepreneurs understand that risk-taking is a calculated process of identifying potential solutions, testing hypotheses, and using methods to mitigate risk. Entrepreneurship always involves some level of risk, whether it’s personal or financial.