What Makes A Great Entrepreneur – And How To Become One?

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I truly believe that everyone can become a successful entrepreneur. I’ve seen men and women creating extraordinary businesses. If you would have met them a year before they started their business, you would have said “No way!”

Those men and women made the switch, identified what is required and took their time to create the right foundation for a good start. By the end of this blog you will know what you need to do to join the league and you will see that it might be easier than you think it is. But let’s start at the beginning…

What makes a great entrepreneur?

Years of research about entrepreneurship has led to many entrepreneurial traits being identified. These include:

  • Being fearless
  • Willing to take risks
  • Being passionate
  • Having great people skills
  • Having determination
  • Being very creative
  • Being very competitive
  • Being a self-starter

If you do your own research you’ll likely to find many more. In essence, all of those traits are true and there are many entrepreneurs that are proud of some of the traits listed. But you will struggle to find one who fits all the traits in the list.

For that to be true it would require entrepreneurs to be some sort of super-humans to ever make it. Some of those traits are personality traits and the other traits are those you can learn over time. I found the traits you can learn the most valuable for creating a successful business as they also influence the personality traits.

As with many things in life, the traits that you learn are often taken out of perspective. In reality, most successful entrepreneurs did not start with all these traits in place. Most of them were acquired on their way to success – and many of those traits they will never call their own.

But how does it all start?

Through my own research in working with my clients – and in the research done by many others in the field – it basically boils down to one single trait:

The willingness to learn

This trait builds the base for most of the other traits – and to an extent – even the personality traits. All entrepreneurs who ever started a successful business were willing to learn what it takes to make it. I’ve never met or heard of a successful entrepreneur who made it by knowing it all!

How can you become a successful entrepreneur?

The starting point of a successful entrepreneur is the willingness to learn the skills needed for the business to succeed and putting those skills into practice.

The first thing to be aware of is that you don’t know yet what needs to be done. I am not talking about the actual work. If you’re a hairdresser I assume you’re good at what you’re doing. Otherwise learn that first before you set out with your own business.

Get the right mindset

It all starts with you, not your business or your chosen market. It’s the right mindset that will get your idea off the ground and make your business successful. And the best mindset to have at any stage of the business is based on the word “Yet”. Let me explain. In your mind you will come across many hurdles which might stop you from starting your business in the first place. These are things like:

  • I have no idea what I am doing
  • I don’t know from where I get the money from
  • I am not sure if I can handle the risk
  • I don’t know what will happen if I fail

Those are all valid concerns and important to think about. But what would happen if you add the word “yet” behind each of those concerns:

  • I have no idea what I am doing, yet
  • I don’t know from where I get the money from, yet
  • I am not sure if I can handle the risk, yet
  • I don’t know what will happen if I fail, yet

Can you see the difference? That is the difference between a successful entrepreneur and a dreamer who will never go anywhere.

Make the word “yet” your best friend.

It holds all the power you’ll ever need for a successful business.

  • It makes a point about the things you don’t know
  • Makes it clear that you would like to know
  • And sets a commitment to learn what is required to know

It also requires you to formulated a valid question and not just statements. A statement like “The market is overcrowded!” doesn’t do anything. There is nothing to do, but in it’s base an entrepreneur is a doer.

As entrepreneur you need to reformulate the question so you can use the word “yet”. This could be: “I don’t know how to succeed in this crowded market, yet!”. This implies the action an entrepreneur needs to succeed.

Prepare for action

Starting a business and leading it to success is hard enough and takes most of your time. If you’re still learning the skills for the services and products your business wants to sell, you’re very likely going to struggle.

Make a list of all the things you believe you need to do to start your business. This starts with identifying the areas your business needs to manage. Let’s say you’re a hairdresser: you might need premises or if you’re mobile you need something to keep you mobile. This is all part of your fulfillment and it’s based on how your business delivers its value to the customer.

Depending on your business you will also need to be working on sales, production, development and support – plus much more. If you’re completely new to running a business you need to learn about those things before you start your business. As a tip, I would see if I could work for a business in a similar market and learn how these things are managed.

This is all part of learning the skills you need to make it on your own. Even if you work for six months for free for another company, it will be cheaper than failing and losing everything you invested.

A good tool to recommend would be the Business Model Canvas from Strategyzer. It puts all of this into one picture.

The power of support

Starting a business requires much time, effort and patience from you. You’re likely to spend most of your time working on your business and very little time with your family and friends at home or on holiday.

It is vital to have the important people on your side to support you. Not only when the going gets tough but also to share your success when things are going well.

Building a support structure is another important part of every successful entrepreneur’s DNA. Don’t underestimate the need for that support. Without it, none of my businesses would have succeeded the way they did. And the businesses that failed would have crushed me without my family and friends catching me mid-flight downwards.

The next steps to take

Let’s review all of this and put it together

  1. If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur in your business venture you need to approach your life and business with the acceptance that you don’t know it all.
  2. You need to identify the things you need to know and put the effort in to learning them. Ask the right questions where you can use the word “yet”.
  3. Identify the areas of your business you need to implement. Use tools like the Business Model Canvas to design and validate your ideas.
  4. Build your support structure based on the people most important to you

Don’t worry about the things that lay far ahead in the future. As you’re learning new skills your questions will shift to a different level and you will learn everything you need when it’s required.

Here at the Entrepreneur Academy we structure our knowledge sharing and training on the three core aspects of running a business:

Start | Scale | Sustain

There is no need to think about scaling your business before you actually started and brought your business to a level where scaling makes sense.

I hope this will break the myth of being a successful entrepreneur and make it clearer for you. I am sure, if you follow those steps you already be playing in the top league of your class. But if you’re not sure if that will work for you, just remember it’s because you’re not sure yet!

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium. He is teaching and supporting entrepreneurs in the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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