What It Takes To Be a Successful Entrepreneur

What sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the ones who don't succeed?

successful entrepreneur

Is entrepreneurship something you can learn? Sometimes, it seems like successful business people come from money. They can afford to attend expensive MBAs and invest in companies.

But in fact, what sets successful entrepreneurs apart from the people who have great ideas that never come to fruition is their habits. Let’s look at the habits that you can learn, increasing your chances of startup success.

Focus on choices that matter

Remember Steve Jobs’s ubiquitous turtleneck and jeans, or Mark Zuckerburg’s uniform of a hoodie and jeans? Both entrepreneurs have said that they stock their closets with identical items because they don’t want to waste their first rush of energy on making decisions that they don’t feel matter.

Patrick Ambron of BrandYourself has a similar habit, though he approaches it differently. He told Entrepreneur that his company meets every Friday to set three goals for the following week. While there are a million things an entrepreneur can do for their business to improve it at any point, it’s impossible to get everything done. Choosing three goals forces him to focus. He checks in daily and weekly to ask himself if what he’s doing is directly serving one of his three goals.

Takeaway: Focus on the choices that will build your business. Check in constantly to make sure your energy is directed towards your prioritized goals. If not, make adjustments.

Be open to creative solutions

There’s a joke among writers that inspiration is dissolved in showerheads and distributed in common tap water. What this is getting at is the idea that sometimes, you need to stop focusing on a problem to find the answer.

Ryan Kania of Advocates for World Health goes for a hike every single weekend, in a place he’s never been before, lasting between one and four hours. Danielle Fong of LightSail Energy has trained herself to tolerate what she calls open questions, ones that defy easy answers or quick solutions. She sets aside time to think about these questions regularly, considering problems through different lenses and optics in order to find a creative solution that gains traction with her.

Takeaway: It often seems like successful entrepreneurs focus exclusively on their work. While they may be working many more hours than a traditional 9-to-5, they still carve out time for movement and creative thought. Consider a workout class, yoga class, long walk through a new area, or a meditation session to allow new through processes and ideas to percolate up to the top of your mind.

Don’t listen to “no”–unless you know the speaker is right

Elon Musk, creator of the Tesla electric car, is known for his complete refusal to hear other people tell him that something is impossible. He sets his mind on a goal and continues to work towards it until it is achieved.

But while refusing to hear no from other people when you know the answer is yes is important, successful entrepreneurs also check in with themselves constantly to make sure that their own answer is still yes.

After all, many startups do not succeed, and many successful entrepreneurs are on their second, third, or fourth company by the time they find a formula that spells success. Payal Kadakia originally created a company called Classtivity, but as she fought to direct her company and keep it above board, she realized that she was pushing in the wrong direction. She recreated her concept as ClassPass, which has grown exponentially.

Takeaway: As an entrepreneur, you can’t be deterred by hearing no from other investors, entrepreneurs, and business people. If you’re working to serve a market no one else has seen, or approach a problem from a fresh perspective, you’re going to hear a lot of no. But if your own instincts and intimate knowledge of your company tell you you’re moving in the wrong direction, listen to yourself.

Startup success is attainable for any entrepreneur willing to put in the work, effort, and passion. Entrepreneurship is a mindset, and a skill, and both of these things can be learned and developed.

If you’re not sure where to start, or what habits will help you succeed, start by reading biographies and interviews with famous entrepreneurs who you want to emulate. Go to meetings at your local chamber of commerce or SBA chapter to meet startup successes in your area, and ask them to go out for coffee and tell you about what brought them success.

If there’s anything an entrepreneur truly needs, it’s the ability to learn from others who have made this journey before—but also, the ability to know when a fresh approach is needed.

What’s the #1 piece of advice you’d give to a young entrepreneur?


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