What are the characteristics of a true entrepreneur?

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Entrepreneurs find extraordinary things in places other people never think to look.

Entrepreneurs are not maniacs on a mission.

The following characteristics are in no particular order. Try to acquire the most out of each characteristic, or attribute, because it will make you more effective without going over the top. In the main entrepreneurs are very ethical, but there are those who choose to use their attributes fo ill-gotten gains.

While others acquire many of characteristics through life experience, I believe entrepreneurs are ‘wired’ differently. Entrepreneurs possess recognisable skills many of which are inherent within us all. Uncover your hidden entrepreneurial characteristics and develop them sufficiently to become a more successful manager and leader.

Dreamer

Deep down entrepreneurs are dreamers. They dream habitually about the future, how they can solve a problem, how they can create an opportunity. Entrepreneurs dream about what is possible. It is dreaming that makes entrepreneurs good at strategic thinking and formulating a strategy for future directions, because they enjoy flying around the unknown, reinventing and finding.

However, they don’t just dream, they take action on their dreams. They see a goal is a dream with a deadline for its accomplishment. Everybody dreams, but perhaps the big difference with entrepreneurs is they have the ability to think and dream big.

Whether realistic or not, it is dreaming of success that brings life to most businesses, solves most problems and pushes us through challenging and hard times. Big dreams precede big outcomes and most people who have achieved big things were dreamers.

Visioning capability

It always amazes people how an entrepreneur can see things they can’t. “Where did that come from”, and “How did you see that” are common expressions you will hear from others. Visualisation of the future direction is what entrepreneurs are really good at, a key entrepreneurial characteristic. Often people measure success by material things such as money in the bank, cars, houses and so on.

Building a business, a social enterprise, or working to cure a disease, is different because these things are more intangible, not quite so easy to see and therefore unlikely to happen. It is very hard to develop something you haven’t dreamt of first and then tried to visualise it. Seeing the invisible and the impossible are things entrepreneurs do best.

Connecting the dots

This entrepreneurial characteristic is the hardest for anyone to replicate. You either have it or you don’t. Entrepreneurs can see quite unrelated things and make something of it, such as a new product or a solution to an unrelated recurrent problem. They have the ability to look at everything around them and focus what they see toward their goals.

One thing I have noticed, entrepreneurs have the energy to connect the dots. Even when they are going through a trauma themselves. Entrepreneurs are comfortable with making decisions based on apparently conflicting and incomplete information. They have the ability to come to grips with ambiguity. And they don’t need to get agreement on every detail, yet they can apply analytical skills when more rigour is needed.

Action Orientated

An entrepreneur is a self-starter and knows that if something needs to be done, they should start it by taking some action. They frame the issues, set the boundary and get on with it. Entrepreneurs are proactive and hate waiting around for someone to give permission.

Taking consistent and deliberate action can make or break anything. Most people are not action oriented and require a little push from the entrepreneur, in order to get things moving. Their obsession with action does create mistakes.

However, they know that they learn from their mistakes and failures, which is why they consider it important to be generating mistakes.

Confidence

The entrepreneur does not ask questions about whether they can succeed or whether they are worthy of success. True entrepreneurs are confident with the knowledge that will make them succeed, exuding confidence in everything they do. There are and always will be risks in doing anything you undertake. But one of the important characteristics of an entrepreneur is having that ‘gut feeling’ to know when something feels right or wrong.

Dreaming, visioning, persistence and actions are not enough without self-confidence and a high belief level. Having a high belief level can propel you to achieve the impossible. Confidence is a characteristic you will notice about an entrepreneur when they are working.

Entrepreneurs gain confidence in their ability to meet challenges by investing in themselves and being people of action. They improve their belief in themselves by seeing the outcomes they are able to achieve. Entrepreneurs have a positive outlook and learn to see obstructions as valuable firsthand learning experiences.

They know they’re right

This may sound arrogant, but they trust their own judgement. When they know they are right, they move forward quickly. Entrepreneurs don’t easily ‘drop the baton’. While they are open minded they can also be very closed minded and dogmatic when they know they are right.

Entrepreneurs are also comfortable in complex situations and can spot opportunities from what may seem to others a chaotic environment. They often use their intuition and ability to ‘join up the dots’, in order to understand patterns not obvious to others.

Tolerance of ambiguity

Entrepreneurs are change makers and like to get involved with new things, which by their nature can be vague, uncertain and lack a clear focus. Good entrepreneurs handle these situations with confidence and without stress because of their tolerance of ambiguity and indecision.

Generating ideas and opportunities

This is a strong entrepreneurial characteristic, they don’t need all the information before they take action. Entrepreneurs take theirs and others dreams and ideas to reality as they are able to see the pathway more quickly than others. T

hey are best at coming up with ideas and passionately seek new ideas and opportunities as well as looking for the chance to profit from change and disruption in the way business is done.

Entrepreneurs know an idea is worth nothing until it is implemented. They don’t give up easily, or at the first setback. While they don’t like to leave things to chance, they don’t analyse new ideas to death. As soon as they are happy they move forward quickly, they always seem to know what they have to do. Every great achievement was once considered impossible until someone started to implement it.

Planning

Planning is one thing entrepreneurs are good at. This is because they are driven by their visions and goals. Entrepreneurs know they have to plan all the activities that will get them to where they want to go. Always open to change and do not hang on to old plans when they are not working. They continue to pursue only the best objectives, strategies and actions.

They avoid exhausting themselves and their people by chasing every detail of every opportunity. While entrepreneurs tend to keep a lot of ‘balls in the air’, they tend to stay focused on the things that are most important at the time.

Creativity

Entrepreneurs often come up with solutions that are right out of the blue. Ideas are constantly being generated to solve problems, improve products or to help someone. When problems appear, it is usually the entrepreneur’s creativity that will solve them. They do this by turning obstacles into opportunities.

Innovative

They seem always to be seeking new and better ways of doing things, they like going beyond the status quo. Future orientation and a desire to succeed causes them to look for better products and services along with better ways of doing everything. Entrepreneurs know innovation is crucial to continuous improvement and successful outcomes.

You will hear entrepreneurs repeatedly using action words. Words such as change, alteration, upheaval, transformation, revolutionise, transform, remodelling, a new method, modernise, upgrade and let’s try it.

Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.  This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, technologies and customer services and experiences.

“Businesses thrive when there is entrepreneurial thinking, either in the business or close to it”. Peter Sergeant

The above list clearly disputes the impression of an entrepreneur being a loner, sitting in their garage discovering new way-out inventions, without having the skills to create and develop a valuable business from their efforts.

Actions really do speak louder than words. An entrepreneur acts on dreams, ideas and decisions and it is their actions that set them apart from those who just dream of success.

The people who really annoys me, are the ‘gunners’, the people who just talk about doing things, but never actually follow through with actions, they start but usually give up at the first sign of trouble.

Perhaps the one characteristic of an entrepreneur that needs to be developed, is the ability to get over mistakes, learn the lessons of failures and move on to the next venture with their head held high.

Business failures and traumas help entrepreneurs to become more successful the next time around, but only if they learn from it. I have done my best to learn by thinking and reflecting on my mistakes as well as acting on them in a constructive way by writing them down and analysing them. 

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Personal Experience:

After meeting many entrepreneurs and experts on the subject during my life,  I believe I have the entrepreneurial characteristics listed here. Some are well developed, some not. Not all of the entrepreneurial characteristics are active all of the time, you can take the application of the characteristic too far.

Many of the entrepreneurial characteristics are dependent on each other. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your key entrepreneurial characteristics. Focus them on what needs to be done, in order to be highly effective without going over the top.

I believe the entrepreneurial characteristics listed here are characteristics a person is born with, or entrepreneurs have particular genes. Some people may disagree with this, but entrepreneurs do have an aptitude for those qualities that make up the entrepreneurial persona. Some of the entrepreneurial characteristics would be very difficult to learn.

Beware of those people who think they are an entrepreneur just because they are in business. They may exhibit some of the characteristics, but it is in the application of them where they get found out.

The first experience I recall about connecting up the dots, was when I was in high school and was given a ‘Vocational Guidance Test’.  I could join up the dots, work out which levers to pull and I could easily see which way the gears were turning. Where others struggled, I remember doing this easily. It was interesting how the Vocational Guidance people came to the conclusion I should become a motor mechanic.

I find my mind is sometimes like the lens on a camera. Firstly there is something in front of me that is very blurred, then as I turn the lens the vision starts to come into focus and I can see it clearly. When you visualise the wrong thing then you will, more than likely, create the wrong outcome.

I will never forget George Bernard Shaw’s saying “Some people see things and say “why”, I see things and say “why not”.

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