There’s no definitive formula for success. However, as entrepreneurs, we don’t really need a formula.
We can stand on the shoulders of giants. We don’t need to guess or try to figure out our path to success from complete scratch. We can look to the successful entrepreneurs out there and emulate their habits, common qualities and characteristics.
Here are the six common qualities I’ve found among the entrepreneurs I try to model myself after. This isn’t the definitive list nor the only important qualities. These are just the ones I think you can take the most away from right now. With each quality, I’ll show you a successful entrepreneur that possesses it and how you emulate them and apply that quality today.
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Arianna Huffington faced rejection after rejection when trying to publish her second book, After Reason. However, Arianna did not give up. When she was 23 years old, she was rejected by 36 publishers before her book was finally published.
Years later, in 2003, Arianna ran for governor of California in the California gubernatorial recall race. However, after seeing only 2 percent support in early polls, Arianna dropped out of the race. Despite this, and seeing the power of the internet through her fundraising campaign, two years later she launched HuffingtonPost.com, which later sold to AOL.com in 2011 for $315 million.
My mother said failure was a stepping stone to success
Arianna understood the importance of perseverance despite her failures and roadblocks. A successful entrepreneur knows that failures and rejections are not signs for stopping but instead signs to keep pushing forward and persevering.
Begin looking at failures and roadblocks as learning experiences and stepping stones. Remember that if it were easy, everyone would do it. You will encounter failures, setbacks and other obstacles. But that’s okay. Persevering despite the struggle is one of the most rewarding experiences for entrepreneurs.
2. Self-improvement and always learning
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is known for being someone who learns very fast. Before Elon Musk started the SpaceX program, according to Esquire’s interview, he read and consumed as many rocketry and propulsion books as possible to learn how to build rockets.
When Elon Musk participated in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, one user asked how Elon is capable of learning so much in such a short amount of time. Elon replied “one bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree—make sure you understand the fundamental principles, i.e. the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”
I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better. I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
Even with Elon’s success with PayPal and Tesla, and all of his accumulated experience, he understood he would have to learn about rockets and rocket propulsion systems if he wanted to be a competent leader of a space flight company.
Successful entrepreneurs strive to learn more. A part of this is realizing that no matter how successful you are or how much you think you might know, there’s always an opportunity to learn more and work on your personal growth.
Start reading more, listening to more podcasts, and watching more YouTube videos on subjects that can help grow your business. Put together a regiment and daily routine where you set aside an hour a day to work on yourself and becoming a more knowledgeable entrepreneur.
Bill Gates risked his future when he dropped out of Harvard when only 20 years old, to co-found the software company, Microsoft.
From Bill Gates’ book, “Business @ the Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System”, Bill describes his risk-taking as “to win big, sometimes you have to take big risks. Big bets mean big failures as well as successes. Today, looking back, it’s easy to believe that Microsoft’s current success was inevitable. But at the time we made our big bets, including starting the company as the first personal computer software firm, most people thought we would fail.”
Business is a money game with few rules and a lot of risk.
What are the things you are most afraid of doing that has the potential to grow your business the most or put you on the most direct path to where you want to be? One way to overcome the fear of taking risks is simply through exposure. Entrepreneur.com suggests surrounding yourself with other risk-takers. To break out of your comfort zone, and start taking more risks with your business, spend more time with people who encourage you, not the ones who think you will fail.
Howard Schultz’s leadership helped quickly turn Starbucks around when it was on the brink of failure in 2008, during a massive recession. In an interview with London Business Forum, Howard Schultz talked a lot about leadership and what it took for him to revive Starbucks. One of the most notable things Howard says in this interview is “leaders need to be decisive, and you have to be willing to make decisions without perfect information.”
I think the currency of leadership is transparency, you’ve got to be truthful. I don’t think you should be vulnerable every day, but there are moments where you’ve got to share your soul and conscience with people and show them who you are, and not be afraid of it.
Leadership means being decisive and executing on the things that lead to the growth and betterment of your business. If you have employees or people that you work with, part of being a leader is also explaining how and why the decision is made.
Taking initiative and taking responsibility (and ownership of problems) are two things you can start doing now to work to develop your leadership skills.
5. Hustle and tremendous work ethic
Even while Oprah Winfrey hosted The Oprah Winfrey Show, she was not shy to take on other projects. She appeared in 12 movies and cameoed and produced dozens of other TV shows, movies and documentaries. Oprah took on many different projects, all while keeping her show at the top of TV ratings and winning awards, including 9 Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Talk Show.
Even after the series finale of The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2011, Oprah continues and continued to be a media mogul with her own television network, Oxygen, her own channel, OWN, a magazine, a website, a XM satellite radio channel and several more movies and television show cameos.
The big secret in life is that there is no big secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you’re willing to work.
Success requires a little bit of grit and hustle. In Oprah’s case, her success came from how she built up her personal brand. She hustled to put herself on nearly every channel available to her without sacrificing quality.
How many platforms can you put your business and brand on? Get active and use the channels available, to bring awareness to your brand.
Go out there and work for it. Don’t be passive or wait for the traffic to come to you. You need to go out there and proactively market your product and proactively make a name for yourself. Nobody is responsible for your success besides you.
When Steve Jobs returned to a failing Apple in 1996, he saw that Apple was losing focus on what made them successful and great. By 1997, Steve reduced Apple’s product line from 350 to just 10.
At a developer’s conference in 1997, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying “When you think about focusing, you think ‘Well, focusing is about saying yes.’ No! Focusing is about saying no.”
Around this time, Steve Jobs had to make a lot of tough decisions to kill off a lot of the products and projects Apple was involved in. Apple’s poor management caused the company to spread itself out too thin. Steve noticed this and began to focus the company which inevitably helped Apple be the powerhouse brand and company that it is today.
When you think about focusing, you think ‘Well, focusing is about saying yes.’ No! Focusing is about saying no.
Successful entrepreneurs know the importance of focusing and not spreading themselves out too thin or allowing their business to lose focus from its’ original vision.
Take time to step outside of yourself and your business and see where you have started to lose focus. A simple strategy to employ is to keep it simple. Focus on making the best one product instead of making 10 “okay” products. Focus on growing the best ecommerce business in one industry instead of trying to decently serve several niches.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
You don’t have to adopt all of these qualities today, just the ones you resonated the most with. Does your business feel unfocused? Work on your focus. Are you not grinding enough? Start hustling more to get your business and products out there.
Entrepreneurs are not born with these qualities, they learn and adopt them through mentors, influencers and their own personal experience. You can start today to do the same to be a better entrepreneur and business leader.Let me know which quality resonated the most with you in the comments below. If you feel like there’s an important entrepreneurial quality that I missed, let me know as well. I engage and respond with all comments.