5 Key Traits Every Entrepreneur NeedsIf you can cultivate these skills and attributes, you'll increase your chances of success as a business owner.
When you start a business, you think it’s about one thing — say, making killer tacos or hand-knitted hats. But actually running the business turns out to be about a hundred other things, some of which will inevitably involve skills you don’t have or didn’t know you’d need.
To explore some of these “surprise skills,” NCR Silver spoke to Lee Heisman, a board member for Kennesaw State University’s Entrepreneurship Center. He has started multiple successful businesses throughout his career and produces a weekly, nationally syndicated podcast for young entrepreneurs called The Shrimp Tank.
Here are five traits Heisman said young entrepreneurs will need if they want to be a success.
Small business owners are required to wear many hats, and not all of them will be a perfect fit, said Heisman. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to be aware — and accepting — of your strengths and weaknesses. For example, you may be great at selling your product but not as great at bookkeeping.
“If you’re not good at a particular skill set, that’s okay,” said Heisman. “You should learn to understand it, but don’t expect yourself to be great at it.”
Knowing where you’re weak can tell you who you need to hire, or contract, to round out your team. Heisman suggested bringing on someone whose skill set complements your own and fills in the gaps between your strengths.
Heisman likes using the word “relentlessness” to describe the drive of a successful entrepreneur. “Perseverance and commitment are nice, but I want relentlessness. I want very committed and quality employees that would persevere through anything, but my job as the owner of the business is to continue to drive forward. So I’m relentless.”
Because running a business requires so much time and effort, he said passion is also important. “If you’re not opening a business that you believe in, you can’t stand behind it and you won’t want to work the long hours. It’s ultimately about creating a business that you enjoy so much that it doesn’t feel like work.”
Not every entrepreneur is wired to accept criticism. But according to Heisman, it’s better to be uncomfortable with feedback you hear — and learn from it — than let it roll off your back.
“Everybody says entrepreneurs need ‘thick skin.’ I actually think ‘thin skin’ is good because you’re sensitive to everything,” said Heisman. The thicker your skin, he said, the more likely you are to ignore good advice. “You’re not willing to change. You’re not willing to listen. If you thicken yourself up with enough calluses, you start drinking your own Kool-Aid and think you’re right about everything.”
“I think not having thicker skin has helped me be more successful,” he said. “It means I’m listening to people. If someone says they didn’t like what I did, I realize it’s probably going to hurt, but I need to hear it anyway.”
According to Heisman, where most entrepreneurs miss the boat is assuming they are going to be able to close every sale. When failure happens — as it will — you must be able to see past those losses to the big picture.
“I go on appointments all day long. Do you think I close every appointment or have an opportunity for business for every appointment or every action I make? Absolutely not. You see the glory of the one that I land, but you don’t see the 1,000 meetings where I didn’t get the deal.”
Organization and planning
A thousand unexpected things can happen when you run a business, but that’s all the more reason you need to control the things you can. And that takes strategy and planning.
“Schedule and prepare your day the night before,” advised Heisman. “If there’s 100 points that need to happen to make your next day successful and you can control 85 of those the night before, you better control all 85, because you’ll wake up the next day and there’s 15 things happening that you couldn’t control.”