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7 Essential Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs

So you want to start a business of your own and be an entrepreneur. Have you got game? The qualities it takes to be a successful entrepreneur are often misunderstood. It’s much more of a personal game than most people realize. Some people really aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs.  They feel more comfortable working a traditional job where vision, strategy and resources are all in place.

Here are seven essential qualities that make a successful entrepreneur today (and three others that entrepreneurs are not). Keep them in mind as you think about starting or building your business:

Quality #1: Successful Entrepreneurs Have a Clear Vision

Vision is about developing clarity and purpose around your business goals. Ask yourself: What are my aspirations for this business idea? Be careful. It’s not about growth rates or revenue. The vision Steve Jobs had for Apple was about building a better computer. It wasn’t about the money. Successful entrepreneurs are able to describe where they are headed with clarity and focus. Fuzzy vision won’t fly.

Quality #2: Successful Entrepreneurs are Risk Takers and Innovators

But here again, watch out. Many would-be entrepreneurs think risk is about gambling, Las Vegas style. It’s not. Entrepreneurs take calculated risks, weighing the pros and cons before they act. But they move quickly to make their decisions and then act on them.

Quality #3: Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate

This is another way of saying that successful entrepreneurs are driven. They ask probing questions to glean critical information about their market and how what they offer will be different from everyone else. And they will tell anyone willing to listen to them why they’ll succeed. This quality also helps entrepreneurs be successful team builders because people want to follow them.

Quality #4: Successful Entrepreneurs Can Spot Opportunities

In fact, the essence of entrepreneurship is the ability to spot an opportunity and act on it. It’s not easy, and it requires seeing solutions that others haven’t seen.  But having a “concept” or a business plan won’t matter if the opportunity isn’t rock solid.

Quality #5: Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Fear Failure

It’s hard to find successful entrepreneurs who haven’t tasted failure. What makes them different is how fast they picked themselves up and moved on, and what they learned from failing. Great entrepreneurs turn each failure into a portal of discovery. They are resilient and flexible because they know they may have to make many course changes along the road to success.

Quality #6: Successful Entrepreneurs Have a Sense of Urgency

They want everything done yesterday, understanding that speed – especially in today’s world – is often critical to success. They aren’t about to wait around for somebody else to tell them what to do next. They thrive on challenging themselves and like being their own boss.

Quality #7: Successful Entrepreneurs are Honest and Up-Front.

They understand that businesses are built on teamwork, trust and relationships.  If they aren’t forthright and honest in everything they do, they jeopardize the trust of others – including backers, partners and customers – who are vital to their success.

3 Qualities That Entrepreneurs Lack

As you assess your entrepreneurial fit, also keep in mind these qualities that entrepreneurs tend not to possess.

1.   Entrepreneurs tend not to over-analyze things. They may crunch a few numbers, but they won’t do so endlessly.

2.   They are not whiners or complainers (only the positive and optimistic need apply).

3.   Nor are entrepreneurs “organization” people who feel better when surrounded by layers of other people with narrowly defined responsibilities.

Next Steps

Here are two great resources for entrepreneurs that not only offer high quality information, but are also free to access:

•     SCORE is a non-profit that offers free 1-on-1 mentoring for entrepreneurs in person or via email. Visit

•     Startup America Partnership, a White House initiative launched in 2011, is a great place to find help and information for business startups.  Visit

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Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs are Abandoning America

In years past, millions of smart, skilled immigrant entrepreneurs – including many from the world’s two most populous countries, China and India – came to the U.S. to get educated and start their own businesses.  Now the turnstiles are rotating the other way.  New research just revealed by the entrepreneurship experts at the highly regarded Kauffman Foundation shows that high-skill entrepreneurs from China and India are exiting the U.S. by the tens of thousands every year.

Why? According to the aptly-named “The Grass is Indeed Greener…” study, it’s because of better professional and economic opportunities in their home countries.  “At the same time the US economic downturn has diminished opportunities for these high-skilled professionals, recent economic and political reforms in their home countries have expanded the appeal of entrepreneurship there,” says Robert Litan, VP of research at Kauffman. “Individual entrepreneurs aren’t driven to maintain the broader economic environment. Instead, they pursue opportunities where the ‘grass is greener.’  The lesson for the United States is that regions that support entrepreneurship will remain important hubs in today’s global economy.”

Wakeup call anyone?  Factors that once drove the vast majority of US-educated immigrants to stay in America rather than return home have given way to startup-friendly business environments in India, China and a variety of other countries. Most returnees say the entrepreneurial advantages have reversed and are now better in their home countries, where their businesses can benefit from lower operating costs, better professional recognition, greater access to local markets and a higher quality of life than they could attain in the US. 

Here are some key findings of the Kauffman “Grass is Greener” study:

  • More than 60% of Indian and 90% of Chinese respondents cited economic opportunities in their home countries as a key factor in motivating the return home.
  • Returnees take pride in contributing to economic development in their home countries. More than 60% of Indians and 51% of Chinese rated this as very important.
  • 56% of Indians and 59% of Chinese said their quality of life back home was better or equal to what they experienced in America.
  • In China, 76% ranked access to local markets as very important. In India, 64% did.
  • Higher salaries were the only advantage the respondents attributed to the US. Sixty-four percent of Indian respondents said their salaries were better in the United States than at home. Forty-three percent of Chinese respondents said that salaries were higher in the United States, while 20 percent said they were about the same.

Click this link for access to the full report in PDF.