10 Essential Traits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs

Originally published on HuffPost.
 
There isn’t just one characteristic that guarantees an entrepreneur will be successful, but a myriad of traits that when put together and properly balanced, lead to great success. The concept may seem daunting, but don’t let it deter you. With a willingness to work hard and strengthen weaknesses, anyone can cultivate and fortify these character traits within themselves.
 

  1. Strong Sense of Self

“Everyone needs a strong sense of self. It is our base of operations for everything that we do in life.” ―Julia Alvarez
 
When you know who you are and what you stand for, you have goals and direction. These are integral to being effective and successful in business, and life in general. A strong sense of self lays the foundation you need to believe in your dreams and your ability to achieve them. You have to believe in yourself to accomplish anything. Besides, if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. Your confidence level affects the way you are perceived by other people. Show them who you are, and what you are all about. The right people and opportunities will be attracted to you.
 
Self awareness is another critical component because it enables you to be more honest and objective when evaluating yourself. Self awareness also gives you the ability to “know what you don’t know”, which is essential. Only then can you know what you need to learn, or decide what to delegate to someone else. Decisiveness gives you an edge, and is made much easier when you have a strong sense of who you are and how to use your talents. Furthermore, when you really know yourself, you don’t have to care what other people think about you and your goals. Successful people inherently attract haters. Take it as a compliment. It means you either have something they want, or they are threatened by you.
 

  1. Integrity and Honesty

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” ―C.S. Lewis
 
Being honest and ethical are important aspects of being a highly effective entrepreneur, especially in the early stages of your business. This goes along with self awareness and knowing what you don’t know. First and foremost, you have to be willing to be honest with yourself. If you can’t honestly evaluate yourself and your business, you won’t succeed because you can’t correct mistakes you don’t acknowledge. Effective entrepreneurs accept responsibility for their mistakes and immediately start looking for solutions to correct any resulting problems. They are accountable and never shift blame to others.
 
Transparency automatically makes you more trustworthy, so show people why they can trust you. Because people are living more of their lives out in the open on social media today, they are beginning to expect the same level of transparency in every aspect of their lives. They will appreciate the trust you place in them and respond accordingly. Moreover, open and honest entrepreneurs attract the same kinds of clients.
 

  1. Self Motivated and Conscientious

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” ―Thomas A. Edison
 
Highly effective and successful entrepreneurs know the sky is not the limit. The mind is. You have to accept that it won’t be easy, and welcome the challenge because it will be worth it. Be tenacious and committed to perseverance. Be willing to fail and learn from it. Resilience is a large part of self motivation, because when you fail, you must get back up and try again. There is no other choice. Recognize and own your mistakes, learn from them, and try another option.
 
Conscientiousness is crucial to success of all kinds. Conscientious people are responsible self-starters who tend to go the extra mile. They don’t mind working hard for what they want, and they will not sacrifice their ultimate goal for what they want right now. Conscientious people are reliable and hard working, which is why those with this trait are typically successful.
 

  1. Competitive Spirit

“It is nice to have valid competition; it pushes you to do better.” ―Gianni Versace
 
Healthy competition between worthy opponents can be a great motivator. Striving to be better than your competitors naturally improves and sharpens your own skills. However, don’t let the competition get out of hand. If it gets out of control, it will be harder for you to maintain perspective. Stay grounded and learn from your competitors’ successes and mistakes.
 
On the other hand, perhaps the most effective form of competition for the entrepreneur is self competition. Always try to improve on your own skills, abilities, performance, and accomplishments. If you do better each day than you did the day before, you are on the right track. Keep up your forward momentum, and you will inevitably arrive at success.
 

  1. Passion

“Passion is oxygen of the soul.” ―Bill Butler
 
All entrepreneurs need something to propel them and ignite their motivation – Passion! To be highly effective, you have to be more passionate about your business than you are about money. If you are a dedicated entrepreneur, you are likely to work a lot more hours than you would if you worked for someone else. This means that your motivation has to be more intrinsic than monetary. Believing that your vision and mission will change the world for the better is a wonderful motivator to keep going, even when times are tough.
 
There are generally a couple of sources of passion for entrepreneurs. The first is the business itself, and the second is the thrill of building a business. If you are passionate about one or both of these things, it will drive you to succeed. You will have more of an incentive to think outside of the box, which will ultimately enable you to solve problems more efficiently. Not only that, but your excitement about your business and belief in what you are doing will also aid you in getting through the difficult times.
 

  1. Vision

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” ―Jonathan Swift
 
It takes vision to spark passion. The most effective entrepreneurs can also be described as visionaries. They see things other people don’t see, and take advantage of their ability to spot an opportunity. Being able to see the big picture, then focus in on the details that come together to create the whole, is a vital skill to have and can be strengthened.
 
Staying open minded is a fantastic way to boost your vision. Considering new information allows you to adapt to new conditions more quickly and easily. Forward thinking entrepreneurs have a competitive edge due to their ability to anticipate possible obstacles and plan for multiple possible contingencies.
 

  1. Flexibility

“Better bend than break.” ―Scottish proverb
 
Every effective entrepreneur knows the value of flexibility. You cannot be rigid and nurture a successful venture, because business is fluid and subject to many factors beyond your control. That is where contingency plans come into play. Adapting to change is imperative to succeeding in business. Further, accepting constructive criticism allows you to reevaluate your plans and correct your course if necessary.
 
Learning agility and a high tolerance for ambiguity go a long way toward remaining flexible, as well. Entrepreneurs who learn quickly and pivot accordingly are better at solving problems. In addition, they have faced down their fear of the unknown. People who are not put off by uncertainty are more likely to excel as an entrepreneur, because they are more comfortable taking calculated risks that lead to success.
 

  1. Jack-Of-All-Trades

“Seeing the bigger picture shows you where the smaller pieces fit.” ―Anonymous
 
“Jack of all trades, master of none” is a ubiquitous expression. However, it may not be such a bad thing to be multi-talented in the case of the entrepreneur. We can’t all be specialists. Just as experts are needed, those who are good at a number of different things and skilled at delegation are necessary to put it all together.
 
Having a diverse skill set uniquely positions you to understand how all the pieces fit together to create the whole. This is also a factor in “big picture thinking”. When you have the perspective that understanding the multiple facets of a whole gives you, you are better equipped to see the big picture, which links back to vision and being able to see things other people simply do not.
 

  1. Strong Leadership Skills

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” ―Warren Bennis
 
Great leaders have direction, know where they are going, and have no problem showing others the way. Recognize other people’s strengths, and know when to delegate. If there is a task you are not as good at, don’t have time for, or simply don’t want to do, find someone better suited and move on to things that only you can handle.
 
Be ready to coordinate efforts. There is a tie-in here with being a “Jack-Of-All-Trades” and “Big Picture Thinker”. With appropriate delegation to the right people, you can coordinate more successfully. This also gives you the ability to create effective collaboration between team members. You must understand the power of collaboration and tap your network for resources when necessary.
 

  1. People Skills (Networking Savvy)

“Succeeding in business is all about making connections.” ―Richard Branson
 
Never underestimate the power of having a wide network behind you, and know the benefits of having a mentor. It’s always helpful to seek advice from people who have more experience than you do. They may have experienced something they can draw upon to help you over a hurtle. Mentors also tend to be even more connected, which can be of aid in other ways. Colleagues and other peers are another excellent source of network connections with whom you should develop mutually beneficial relationships. The more people you have to learn from, the better off you and your business will be.
 
Diversity in your network serves a similar purpose. Because of all the different life experiences of a diverse group of people from contrasting backgrounds, you are exposed to more perspectives, allowing for more creativity and flexibility. It also gives you an even larger pool to draw advice from, and the more ideas, the better.
 
Putting It All Together
 
There is a delicate balance involved with being a highly effective entrepreneur. It takes practice, as well as a willingness to learn from mistakes and evolve into the best version of yourself. Certain traits are assets in overcoming obstacles, challenging your limits, and breaking through personal barriers. Keep learning, expanding your understanding, looking for new opportunities, and nurturing your network to bring you closer to achieving everything you’ve ever dreamed of and more!

[Guest Post] Networking Dos and Don’ts

Networking Dos and Don’ts

by Wendy Jacobson

Many people love in-person networking. Most people don’t. The prospect of walking into
a room full of people you don’t know and striking up a conversation with at least one of
them, all in the vein of “growing your sphere,” is downright silly to a lot of people.

But, it can also be a very powerful marketing tool.

I used to fall in the “I hate networking” camp. Now, I rather like it. Granted, I joined a
networking group that meets once a week, so I’ve gotten used to the whole idea. And, I’ve
gotten pretty comfortable with it.

That’s not to say that everyone is comfortable with it, or even knows how to do it. So
consider these networking dos and don’ts.

Whatever the networking event, do walk in with your head held high and with a smile on
your face. When you make eye contact with anyone, approach, hold out your hand and
introduce yourself.

Don’t walk in, sit down and look at your phone. Or stand up and look at your phone, for
that matter.

Do bring an ample supply of business cards. You will be meeting lots of people, and you
want a way for them to follow up with you. Also, do ask for the business card of the
person you are chatting with, especially if you think there is synergy between your
businesses.

Don’t try to sell your services. This is networking, not selling. The idea is to meet some
folks, get to know them a bit, and follow up if it makes sense. This is not a sales pitch.

Do be prepared to answer the question “What do you do?” Have a response ready that is
concise and to the point. When done responding, pose the same question to the person
who asked you.

Do listen. And do ask more questions. Be engaged in the conversation.

Do follow up. After the event, draft an email to all those people you met and want to stay
connected to. Find them on LinkedIn and connect with them there. And if it makes sense,
ask them to coffee to learn more about them and their business.

Don’t expect to get a sale from attending a networking event. A new client should never
be the end goal of any networking event. Rather, the end goal should be the opportunity to
meet new people and grow your network. The more your grow your network, the more
referrals you get, which will ultimately lead to more business.

Yes, in-person networking can be a lot of work and it can force a lot of us out of our
comfort zone. But, the end results are well worth the growing pains.

About the Author

Wendy Jacobson is a freelance writer and content strategist living in Minneapolis, MN.
Along with publishing a local online magazine called Minneapolis Happening, she works
with businesses to help them articulate their message. She and her husband, Andy, have
two amazing children (Ethan and Sasha) and a sweet dog, Astro. To learn more about
Wendy, check out her website, wendythepooh.com.