13 Sep 5 Surprising Traits Entrepreneurs Need
Growing up I never saw myself being an entrepreneur one day. In my mind, entrepreneurs were gutsy, charming risk takers – the kind of people who could sell ice to an eskimo, and do it with a twinkle in their eye. No, that wasn’t for me. I aspired to be a power-suited corporate ladder climber: diligent and hardworking (although this was possibly because I grew up in the 80s and shoulder pads were big back then;).
But then I became a mother and my priorities changed. I knew in a flash that I needed to be the one in charge of my own time, and that meant starting a business. Suddenly, my idea of what an entrepreneur was all about changed. Because the truth of the matter is that entrepreneurs come in many guises, just as businesses do. Here are some surprising qualities or traits that I didn’t realise would help me on my entrepreneurship journey:
1. Listening skills
I don’t enjoy speaking about myself that much. But luckily being a good listener has come in very handy as a business owner, and not just because we are writers who need to craft stories for people and businesses. Keeping quiet and listening (okay sometimes it’s eavesdropping!), means that you hear the most fascinating insights, whether it’s around a dinner table, in a boardroom, or at a conference. These are insights that inform me about new trends, give me unique ways of solving problems, or present me with new sales opportunities. It could also be really listening to what your employees are telling you, or what a client is trying to communicate to the world. I believe that listening is hugely underrated, as both a life and business skill.
2. Organisational skills
It’s easy to imagine successful business owners as true innovators, those “ideas people” who have a brilliant idea and then go on to change the world. But the truth is that ideas are nothing without execution. You can be the most brilliant thinker, but unless you are also analytical and organised, or have someone in your business who is, your brand new company won’t last a few months. I never considered my ability to “organise” people and processes as a specific skill entrepreneurs needed, but it’s certainly stood me in good stead.
I’m naturally risk averse so this business owning journey has been a learning curve! And while I do think you need an element of risk-taking as an entrepreneur, it helps to have a healthy balance – in our case there is one business partner who is more comfortable with risk than the other. This has helped us look at certain situations with a measured approach: I paint the worst case scenario, we see how we will respond if that happens, and then we take that risk, but not without considering all of the ramifications first. Bravery is important when you work for yourself, but you can be brave without being rash.
4. A methodical approach
My husband describes me as “process-driven” – meaning that once you’ve established a process, don’t you dare come and mess it up! Sometimes that may make me inflexible, but I believe that in a small business where time is tight and you are multitasking all day long, there needs to be a set way that things are done, and roles need to be defined. For example, there should be one way of paying invoices so that nothing is missed out, or a set process of receiving information from a client so things aren’t lost in translation. Being methodical doesn’t necessarily mean slow or uninspiring; it means doing things properly so that you produce your best work and things flow as they should.
I’ve been described as brutally honest before and although this phrase makes me wince a bit, honesty has been a useful trait to have in a business. Whether this is honesty with myself (“this type of writing is not the one I’m strongest at, why don’t you take the lead on this project?), or honesty with a client about a certain task, deadline or concept – the ability to see to the heart of the matter and not beat around the bush has been surprisingly useful.
So there you have it, some traits entrepreneurs need that I didn’t realise would be useful – but which have helped me immensely over the years. Which traits help you in your job?