Intelligence and charisma are two traits we assume all entrepreneurs must have to succeed. But what about curiosity, humor, or impatience?
To figure out some other, less expected hallmarks of founders, we asked 14 successful entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) about the more surprising traits that have helped them do well in their business ventures.
1. Sense of Humor
In an atmosphere loaded with pressure and a high degree of unpredictability, the ability to laugh at myself and my circumstances has been invaluable. Not only is it very cathartic, but maintaining a sense of humor throughout the ups and downs helps boost team morale and creativity.
I never assume that I know everything. I approach most situations hoping to learn something from the experience. Being in the technology industry, so much is changing at a rapid pace that ideas and methods of doing things are often quickly replaced with something better. I learn from staff, business partners, competitors, and so on.
Normal is boring. I pass out lollipops instead of business cards and we make funny PSAs in lieu of ‘about’ videos. I used to try to hide my inner weird, but once I embraced it people began to remember me and my brand more. People want something different as long as it’s authentic.
4. A Passion for Change
Building a company requires not only a willingness to change, but a passion for change. If things are working, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t work better. Having an innate desire to try new things and shake things up has helped my companies succeed in many ways.
I seek out mentors who have accomplished great things, and I actually listen to what they have to say. In my day-to-day, I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I value learning both with and from others. Lastly, I’m not too intimidated to surround myself with those who are more intelligent and successful. Be it other entrepreneurs or those I employ, I seek out those with humility.
—Ken Cauley, Advanced Media
6. Being Dumb
One of the most important aspects of being an entrepreneur is understanding you are not the smartest guy in the room. If you happen to be the smartest guy in the room—go find another room.
7. A Short Memory
Like a closer in baseball, it is essential to have a short memory and not harp on any particular positive or negative. Entrepreneurs often get caught up in a big success or worry over something that doesn’t work, instead focusing on the tasks at hand. I am a firm believer in each day being unique and not worrying about the past. If you can do that, you will have greater opportunities for success.
Many people may look at it as a disadvantage, but being young makes me an expert in aspects of business that my clients may not be experts in. Beyond marketing and our company’s expertise, it also helps me differentiate myself from the many others trying to do something similar out there.
9. Attention to Detail
Entrepreneurs can often fall into the trap of looking for the next ‘big thing,’ at the expense of doing the little things right. From writing a thank-you card to a new client (yes, I mean actually putting pen to paper!), to reviewing contract details with a keen eye before signing, to checking in on the staff member whose wife just had a baby, it’s attention to detail that makes the difference.
Always itching for results causes me to work harder and set higher expectations for myself and others.
—Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean
My curiosity has led me to live in China and explore new experiences and opportunities. It’s interesting to see how curiosity for diverse and seemingly unrelated interests has led to inspiration and creative solutions in entrepreneurial pursuits. Tap into your curiosities and explore them. You never know where they will take you and what solutions they will provide.
12. The Ability to Link People Together
I’ve found that being able to create value by identifying links between two totally different people has been incredibly helpful. These connections can be for business opportunities, personal growth, or to give back to the community. The ROI isn’t seen immediately, but do this enough, build enough positive karma, and it will come back to you tenfold.
As entrepreneurs, we constantly encounter things outside of our control. Inevitably, painful and challenging things will happen that make our jobs harder and success more difficult to attain. It is easy to feel like the world is against us. Rather than letting this be stressful, the key to moving past these problems and conquering them is acceptance—it’s all part of the journey.
14. A Desire to Go the Extra Mile
All else being equal, I will beat the competition with effort. If you can tie them or get close in capital or processes, you can usually one-up them if your team puts forth the right amount of effort.