The six emerging desirable traits of successful entrepreneurs

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Entrepreneurship is the process of creating and seizing an opportunity and pursuing it regardless of resources currently controlled. This is a generally acceptable definition of entrepreneurship, which evolved from the work done at Harvard Business School cited by Timmons in 1994.

Tracing back its roots, the term entrepreneurship was coined and popularized in 1800 from the two Latin words “entre,” to swim out, and “prendes,” to grasp, understand or capture. Entrepreneurs were “resource hackers” who were able to scant resources to create innovative products. Say wrote that “the entrepreneur shifts economic resources out of the area of lower into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” As early as 1755, Richard Cantillon already cited that entrepreneurs are non-fixed income earners who take risk and pay unknown costs of production to earn uncertain incomes. And during the Great Depression from 1929 to 1939, the Theory of Economic Development (1934) cited entrepreneurs as drivers of change and progress.

Six desirable traits of successful entrepreneurs

AN analysis of more than 50 studies across decades found a consensus around six general desirable traits found among successful entrepreneurs. This analysis by Timmons (1994) clustered the essential entrepreneurial characteristics around these common themes established by researches.

The first theme is commitment and determination, which is the discipline that entrepreneurs carry to manifest the relentless personal sacrifice of time and energy. The entrepreneurs exhibit decisive nature and persistence making them stand by their decision no matter how unpopular it may be. Their passionate optimism does not succumb to failure easily making them resilient amid adversity.

Leadership is an entrepreneur’s outstanding ability to achieve results through the power of influence. Visionary as they are, entrepreneurs see the desired future much ahead than the others. That vision is communicated and shared as a powerful source of motivation and influence to rally people towards the goal. Entrepreneurs lead from within, set example and win the trust which is vital in leadership.

Opportunity obsession refers to the special sensitivity of the entrepreneurs to detect and seize, or even create, opportunities around them. They are not opportunists who victimize others but opportunity-seekers who give a chance to what is apparently negative and transform it into positive. Successful entrepreneurs propose the solutions to the pain-points of a target market and offer it for its value.

Tolerance of risk, ambiguity and uncertainty is a central feature of the calculated risk-taking entrepreneur who will take the road less traveled. Confident of their innate gut feel of possibilities and resilient enough to see failure as a welcome partner in learning, entrepreneurs feed and thrive with risk. Ambiguity and uncertainly drive the coward away but attract the interest of the entrepreneurs.

The creativity, self-reliance and ability to adapt of the entrepreneurs roll in one what they use as powerful tool to be unique and different. The open-mindedness and nonconventional thinking allow the entrepreneurs to learn quickly and adapt to, if not to bring about, changes. They are restless with the status quo. Their creative mental process leads to the innovative and useful application that clearly defines the uniqueness of its product or service.

Lastly, the motivation to excel is what drives entrepreneurs to be highly competitive. Entrepreneurs have vivid vision and know what they really want. They set high goals and demand measurable results. They may tolerate mistakes and allow failures but they demand perfection through excellence by doing the right thing right from the beginning and all the time, by everyone. They set high standards, which become their personal discipline and eventually radiate it as an organizational culture—a silent internal rule that governs everyone.

The pandemic challenge

The pandemic is imposing a challenge to these traits that once were established as probable factors to entrepreneurial success. It is noteworthy that these desirable traits may all be learned. They may also be unlearned and relearned.

The learned helplessness experienced as part of the safety measures in the pandemic experience may potentially dampen the commitment and determination of the entrepreneurs. The optimism shifting to realism may have hampered the decisive nature of some entrepreneurs.

The gloomy present may have painted an uncertain state of the future which makes visioning, hence leadership, more difficult for many entrepreneurs. The team around the entrepreneurs may have suffered from crisis that makes motivating and leading much more tough. The recession has impaired economic activities making opportunity-seeking much more limited. The opportunity obsession may be paralyzed by the fact that everyone, even those big businesses, are declaring crisis situation.

Risk, ambiguity and uncertainty have placed the tolerance of the entrepreneur to its toughest test, and some have publicly declared their saturation points. The VUCA world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity has taken the toll on the resilient entrepreneurs. The fear along the journey into the unknown may paralyze creativity and may retard entrepreneur’s ability to adapt.

Amidst the disruptive environment that continually led to limitations and failures in the pandemic journey, many entrepreneurs may have reduced their motivation to excel, and shifted to the motivation only to survive.

The winning traits emerging

The pandemic experience is purging the business eco-system for fittest to survive. There are traits emerging from the six desirable traits that are derived from the pandemic crisis which will “sharpen the saw” of the entrepreneur for the new normal.

Resilience results from the traits of commitment and determination. The adversity quotient becomes the source of indomitable spirit not only to survive but also to thrive. Leadership transforms into a sense of community where the leader acknowledges the vital role of every interdependent member of the team as a dynamic contributor towards the attainment of the shared vision. Opportunity obsession surrenders itself to purpose-driven vision where the end-in-mind becomes the more meaningful anchor because the purpose is greater than a perfect plan. The tolerance of risk, ambiguity and uncertainty transform to the powerful concept of agility, which enables the entrepreneur to change strategies while sticking to the same stabilizing vision. Agility is how entrepreneur makes sense of chaos. Creativity, self-reliance and ability to adapt are traits that are consolidated by the entrepreneur with value creation in its core towards a market-driving (not market-driven) strategy of finding and serving the unserved market. Motivation to excel becomes an entrepreneurial social construct of collaboration where competition does not exist and where synergy finds its greater productive value.

Entrepreneurs need to be very introspective of the lessons learned and be cognizant of the learning footprints through this experience. They need to upgrade their traits to the next level because the desirable traits of the past may not be enough. The new normal will only become a better normal for the entrepreneurs if they move towards it by choice and not by chance.

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