The Two Make-or-Break Traits Of An Entrepreneur

Of course, most successful — and happy –entrepreneurs tend to share some common characteristics. An affinity for taking risks. The ability to think on your feet. And so on.

In fact, if I were so inclined, I easily could come up with quite a long list of traits that can signal whether you have sufficient entrepreneurial moxie.

But for Carolyn Daniels, a professor at Babson College and a serial entrepreneur herself,there really are two make-or-break traits for those considering launching a startup. And they aren’t necessarily the ones most people think of:

#1: Whether you often find yourself looking at the way things are and thinking, “There must be a better way.”

#2: The ability to see things through.

“One helps you find your idea. The other helps you take it to market,” she says.

More on trait #1. This is really the secret sauce that allows you to come up with creative ideas for businesses. It’s a fundamental way of seeing the world, a slightly skewed perspective that lets you find the gaps other people might not spy. “You’re someone who sees the open spaces,” says Daniels.

Everything else–developing your concept, looking for resources, building a team–follows from that way of looking at the world. “It’s the first step off the cliff,” is how Daniels puts it.

As illustration, Daniels points to a company called BigBelly Solar, founded in 2003 by Jim Poss. As the web site tells it, while walking down a Boston street, he saw a garbage truck doing its thing, idling at a pick up location, all the while emitting lots of exhaust. And, he figured there had to be a better way.

What’s more, he came up with a solution–basically, a solar powered trash can that compacts garbage and then through the use of wireless technology, sends a message when it’s time to pick up the garbage. It holds up to five times the volume of conventional waste receptacles, dramatically reducing the need for garbage pickups. The company now has customers everywhere from West Point to Trinity College in Dublin.

“This guy saw a better way of handling trash,” says Daniels.

It doesn’t mean the only option is getting a Big Idea, the kind of disruptive insight that business pundits and observers of Web 2.0 and other new technology-based companies salivate over. The must-be-a- better- way perspective can also mean an incremental improvement–say, a better pizza with a new kind of cheese.

More on trait #2. The idea here is that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make your business work. Of course, that means you have the mental and physical stamina you need for the task. But there’s more to it. “It’s the feeling in your gut, the one you get if your child is sick. Whatever it takes, you’ll do,” says Daniels.

Tied to the ability to see things through is being willing to make whatever tweaks or more dramatic changes may be necessary to make the idea work. That’s the concept of pivoting, something that’s getting a lot of play these days.

Daniels cites some other traits, also–being resourceful, able to focus and to build a team are three of them. But it’s those other two that outshine the others.

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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