It used to be that only the wealthy and well-connected were able to take a great idea and turn it into something really big. But with the rise of the internet-based economy, the cost of entry for entrepreneurs with a dream has dropped rapidly, and there’s never been more room for invention and innovation, even on a shoestring budget. Despite all this potential, the vast majority of start-ups just don’t make it – whether it’s increased competition from other entrepreneurs, mismanagement of their funds, or simply a case of bad timing.
What hasn’t changed, however, are the underlying qualities that distinguish the entrepreneur who’s set on success, no matter how many hurdles they have to jump, and no matter how many times they fail. When the right mix of skill, passion and perseverance is there, a true entrepreneur is unstoppable. Here are the traits (both learned and innate) that make for a great entrepreneur, and the ones you should be emulating if you want to accomplish great things too.
Be willing to evolve with the times
We live in a period of rapid change, and being able to stay ahead of the curve is crucial to the success of any modern business, especially start-ups. Great entrepreneurs seem to have a built-in ability to predict what people are going to want (and be willing to pay for) before they even realize it themselves. But most of the time, this isn’t some magical talent – it’s the product of being constantly on the lookout for new ideas and inspiration, sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
A willingness to do business differently and embrace new technologies, even if they’re still untested, is one of the defining characteristics of a great entrepreneur. Sometimes new ways of doing things simply don’t pan out, but when they do, they often do so in a major way! Staying abreast of new developments within your industry, and paying special attention to those which have lots of potential but that might seem a little risky to your competitors is key to ‘predicting the future’ and getting ahead.
Know your product, your customer, and the market
You can’t improve on a product or service unless you know it inside out – and you can’t adapt it to suit the mass market unless you understand what people really want. For some entrepreneurs this part seems to come naturally, but if you’re not one of them, it doesn’t mean you can’t use all the other tools at your disposal to gather the information you need. Doing thorough market research, getting a broad sampling of opinions and doing your due diligence will let you know whether your bright idea has real mass appeal, and if now is the right time to launch it. Let’s say you have two product ideas – one which is a much cheaper version of an existing product, and one which is a lot pricier and designed to appeal to customers as a status symbol – which would be better to launch under the current economic climate? You can’t just draw from your own experience, you need to understand the mood of your customers too.
Have a great team of experts by your side
Knowing where to spend your likely limited capital is another instinct that entrepreneurs seem to have in spades, and it’s really all about understanding your own limits. You have the vision and the passion, but it’s important to accept that you can’t be a jack of all trades in every business matter. Luckily, more and more professional services companies are catering for the growing small business market, and having the right experts there when you need them has never been more affordable. Nothing is more disheartening than when a business fails because of a minor oversight such as a legal, financial or tax issue, failing to understand the regulations associated with your industry, or making a bad marketing investment. Making sure you have an excellent boutique law firm on your side, someone to handle your finances professionally, a proven marketing firm, or whatever other services your business requires can be the difference between success and failure.
Learn and grow from past mistakes
Perhaps the most defining trait of all when it comes to entrepreneurs is that they don’t see failure as the end of the road, but as a valuable lesson. Many of us try to cover up and ignore our mistakes, but this is something you can actively work on if you want to become a better entrepreneur. Take the time to really investigate and understand what went wrong, and formulate a plan so you can do better next time. Knowledge is power, and no matter how much a failure stings, the lessons you learn from it can always be turned to your advantage!