Certain personality traits, such as curiosity, creativity, and courage, can help you find innovative solutions to problems in the marketplace. There are many different types of entrepreneurs, each with a different motivation and skill set, but a few traits are useful to cultivate no matter what kind of business you run or entrepreneur you aspire to be.
7 traits for aspiring entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurship is the process of creating and running a business. Some of the most important traits of successful entrepreneurs can help you identify unique opportunities and lead a team through the process of building your brand. Here are seven entrepreneurial traits to cultivate:
Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Curiosity is an essential personality trait for aspiring business owners. Cultivating curiosity is one of the best ways to identify current needs in the marketplace, stay informed about your industry, and improve your knowledge base as a merchant. Curiosity can help you find sources of inspiration for a new product or service. Stay open to ideas that challenge your worldview, and read as many books as you can, particularly those relevant to the topics you’re most curious about. Perform market research by studying data you gather yourself (in the form of surveys of friends and potential customers, for instance) and data in the form of public information from trade journals and government reports.
Take the time to build awareness of your own strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur; knowing where you excel and where you need support can help you build out your team. Awareness of the needs in your community can also help you find your specific niche. For example, David and Clare Hieatt founded the Hiut Denim Co. in 2011 to replace the hundreds of jobs lost when the denim factory in their hometown of Cardigan, Wales, shut down in 2002. The Hiut Denim Co. has an inspiring success story, marked by the founders’ awareness of their local heritage and their unique skills for crafting high-quality jeans.
Successful startups take time to build. Most successful entrepreneurs know that a strong and consistent work ethic is central to building a company that lasts in the long run. The entrepreneurial path is littered with missteps and setbacks—mistakes are an essential part of building your business. When you face rejection or negative feedback, learn what you can from the experience without becoming discouraged. Cultivate persistence by returning to the immediate task at hand with your new business, no matter the challenges.
The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is another valuable trait for entrepreneurs. Adapting your product or service based on the feedback and changing needs of your target audience can help you create long-term success. Great entrepreneurs figure out ways to solve problems in the short term while remaining open to big-picture changes in their industry and business model. The founders of UK-based Pot Gang, for instance, built their business model at the height of the COVID pandemic by adapting to the new normal and providing easy ways for customers to start gardens at home.
Creativity is a foundational entrepreneurial skill to develop for long-term success in the business world. According to Reid Hoffman, co-founder of the professional networking site LinkedIn, “All humans are entrepreneurs, not because they should start companies, but because the will to create is encoded in human DNA, and creation is the essence of entrepreneurship.” As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to solve problems in the marketplace with creative solutions. For example, entrepreneur Topper Luciani founded Goodfair by developing a creative way to give clothing headed to landfills a second life; rather than listing each item individually, Goodfair offers mystery bundles of clothing items to keep their customers surprised and engaged. Cultivate creative thinking by reading relevant books, getting outdoors, and engaging in right-brain activities like focused breathing, journaling, and painting.
6. Leadership skills
Leadership skills help entrepreneurs select the right team of people to take small businesses to the next level. A good leader inspires others with their vision and encourages collaboration from their team. When leading a team, remember to listen actively, communicate transparently, and delegate work whenever possible. An open two-way style of communication with your team can strengthen your leadership skills. Learn to recognize what motivates your team so you can create win-win incentive alignment—situations where both you and your employees get what you want.
It’s nerve-racking to take risks, which is why building a successful business requires courage. Entrepreneur Rick Pollack took the risk of quitting his full-time job to build 3D printers through his company MakerGear, becoming one of the earliest merchants on Shopify. Pollack says, “You have to get into the mix of things to make the mistakes and learn how to do it right. But that initial process of getting it wrong can be painful. Once you go through that and develop your confidence, a lot of it just comes down to being able to stick with it and preserve.” Calculated risk takers create products and services that upend the status quo. Develop a healthy amount of risk tolerance by starting small and developing a system for evaluating risk. Write out the pros and cons of a particular risk, avoid obsessing about the worst-case scenario, and seek out advice from experienced entrepreneurs whenever possible.
Join us each Thursday for Shopify On Location in San Francisco, a special miniseries from the podcast team. For the new few months, tune in for invaluable lessons about how to innovate and when to take risks. Listen to Shopify On Location here:
Entrepreneurial traits FAQ
How does creativity contribute to entrepreneurial success?
Some of the ways creativity can contribute to entrepreneurial success include generating new products or services, developing innovative marketing campaigns, and coming up with creative solutions to problems like time management and recruitment. Train your mind in creative thinking by practicing mindfulness, finding a healthy work-life balance, reading books, and journaling.
Are there any negative traits that can hinder entrepreneurship?
Negative traits that can hinder entrepreneurship include over-confidence, impatience, and closed-mindedness. Remember to stay open-minded, empathic, and humble when starting a business, and build a trusted team to help you achieve your vision.
Can anyone develop the traits needed for entrepreneurship?
Yes, anyone can develop the traits needed for entrepreneurship. Cultivating traits like curiosity, creativity, and persistence can have a positive impact on your business no matter who you are.
Can successful entrepreneurs be introverted, or are extroverted traits necessary for success in entrepreneurship?
Successful entrepreneurs can be introverted or extroverted. There are countless examples of both introverts and extroverts fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and building companies that change the marketplace.