On the surface, the most successful entrepreneurs seem to be the same as everyone else.
But look closely and you’ll see that in a few key ways they are very different — and so is the way they start and run their businesses.
Here’s a guest post from Ryan Robinson, an entrepreneur and marketer who teaches people how to create meaningful self-employed careers. (His online courses “Launching a Business While Working” and “Writing a Winning Freelance Proposal” can teach you how to start and grow your own business while working a full-time job.)
When it comes to observing the world’s most well-known entrepreneurs and uncovering what’s helped them achieve success, it’s easy to get hung up on the idea that so many of them have been afforded rare opportunities at just the right time.
In many cases that is true, like that of the impeccable timing Bill Gates had with immersing himself into the world of computing back when the industry was just getting started. However, it’s far too naive to look at his success merely in a vacuum, without examining other influences.
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Warren Buffet to name a few, all became incredibly successful because they were extremely well-prepared to take advantage of the first big opportunities that came their way.
In my interviews and studies with some of these successful entrepreneurs on CreativeLive, I’ve come to notice several key personality traits that most of them share in common with each other. Without a doubt, these traits and inclinations help these business icons be more prepared to recognize and seize the opportunities they discover. Based on these interviews and my experiences, I put together this free Skill Assessment Sheet to show you exactly what it’s going to take to start your own business.
When you’re considering starting your own business, especially if you’re going to be launching it while keeping your day job, you need to very consciously evaluate your own personal process for how you recognize viable business ideas, and how you allocate your time to pursue those opportunities.
These are the essential personality traits I’ve found to be most helpful in creating businesses that stand the test of time.
1. Be Willing to Embrace Failure.
While you’re not likely to achieve success if you’re totally reckless, you do need to take risks along the way, and accept that there will be failures that’ll line your path to success. Just about every successful entrepreneur has a badge or two from a failed business venture.
Steve Jobs didn’t simply give up on his career in business when he was pushed out of his role as the CEO of Apple. This personal failure of his, merely gave him the motivation he needed to move forward. When he later returned to Apple, he did so with a much better understanding of how to lead and work with people.
2. Be Prepared to Listen.
A common misconception with some of our more outspoken entrepreneurs today is that they do what they want, regardless of the opinions of others.
However, almost every successful entrepreneur has gotten to where they are because they’ve been very good at surrounding themselves with other talented businesspeople and taking their consultation very seriously. In a 2014 interview, Richard Branson stated that listening has been one of his absolute most important lessons as a leader.
3. Only Follow Your Passions.
It’s all too easy to drift through life without conviction, never taking the initiative to first discover, and then pursue what we’re truly passionate about.
Many argue whether or not it’s good advice to follow your passions, but a fact that cannot be argued, is that when you’re spending 10, 12, or more hours working on your own business each day, it’s sure going to help if you’re extremely passionate about what you’re going to achieve.
4. Be Curious.
Without an innate curiosity, and devotion to learning everything you possibly can about an area of interest, you’re going to have a very hard time coming up with creative solutions to the world’s problems.
This rule doesn’t just apply to the Albert Einstein’s and Thomas Edison’s of the world, there’s always a way to improve upon existing products and services by tweaking how you solve the problems faced by existing users. Many of the world’s best innovations have come from incremental improvements in how we solve already common issues, you just need to be curious enough to uncover those solutions.
5. Know When to Say No.
Not enough is said about how to successfully manage your time in the beginning phases of starting a business (before you’ve hit it big), which is really the make-or-break time for your fledgling idea. Truly successful entrepreneurs are ruthless about how they manage their time, which quickly becomes their most important business resource.
I believe so strongly in the power of focusing only on the opportunities that drive the most impact in my business, that I created the Just Say “No” Time Management System to help me prioritize business opportunities and allocate my time resources appropriately, as they come in.
6. Find Balance.
When it comes down to it, there’s so much more to life than just business. Most entrepreneurs understand the importance of spending quality time with their families, taking vacations, and carving out time to reflect on the bigger picture at hand.
Challenge yourself to seek out a deeper meaning in both your work and your life, you’ll find that everything you do begins to feel invigorating, rather than like work.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.