The 4 Traits of Successful Founders
People from all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels have established successful companies. No matter their personal histories, successful business owners tend to share some common characteristics. Studies from the University of California-Berkeley, the London School of Economics, and the University of Maryland, among others, reveal that most successful company founders possess the following four personality traits:
1. High Levels of Confidence
Known as one of the investors on the ABC show Shark Tank, entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran turned a $1,000 loan into a real estate business worth more than $5 billion. While the initial investment may not have been substantial for most people, Corcoran’s decision to devote 100 percent of her time to making the business succeed was courageous.
Most people can only take this level of risk if they have the confidence that their business will be successful, no matter how trying the circumstances may be. Where many see a challenge, a confident entrepreneur sees an opportunity and is willing to take a chance. It is this fearless attitude that drives a successful entrepreneur to quit their current job, overhaul their life, and start new businesses.
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, once said that starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss. He also said that only those who are confident that they can face this stark reality should start their own business.
2. Proactive and Engaged Mindsets
Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, says that the proactive approach to a mistake is to acknowledge it immediately, correct it, and learn from it.
When starting a business, a founder must be actively involved. They must have a plan for every potential scenario. This requires thinking ahead and learning from mistakes to avoid similar problems in the future. Being proactive and engaged will enable the organization overall to adapt to whatever issues may come its way.
Steve Jobs was a renowned visionary. He often saw a potential need and aimed to fulfill it before the general population even realized it had that need.
There is always something to learn, especially for entrepreneurs. By being proactive, founders can ask questions and find answers before they even need them, allowing them to leverage their insights for greater business success when the time comes.
Furthermore, employees draw inspiration from confident leaders – leaders who have plans and the ability to overcome adversity, leaders who can guide the organization forward. When the founder is engaged, their personal qualities – such as honesty, integrity and loyalty – will permeate the entire organization.
To paraphrase management expert Dr. Gary Hamel, an adaptable company captures more than its fair share of opportunities by redefining its core business and looking for new avenues of growth.
Entrepreneurs are not clairvoyant, and unforeseen factors can cause even the best-laid plans to go awry. In these instances, leaders who are flexible can respond quickly, giving them the best chance to succeed when unfortunate surprises come along.
In some cases, the founder must be flexible even in their personal lives, if they are ever to succeed in business. Tracy DiNunzio, founder and CEO of Tradesy, was born with a birth defect that doctors thought would prevent her from walking. DiNunzio proved them wrong, eventually touring Mexico and honing her salsa-dancing skills. The lesson every entrepreneur should learn from DiNunzio is that, even when the odds are stacked against us, we can thrive – as long as we think creatively.
4. Passion and Determination
An old adage of uncertain origins says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Founder must have this kind of passion for their businesses if they are to overcome the many obstacles they will meet along the way.
It was this kind of drive and determination that helped Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard to create a company in their Palo Alto garage – a building that has become known as the birthplace of Silicon Valley. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak recreated this scene approximately 30 years later when they founded Apple in a garage, too.
Passionate entrepreneurs realize that there will be unexpected challenges and failures along the way. They see these things as learning opportunities. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint. Having passion for what you believe in will give you the stamina you need to stick with your goals, no matter how tough things get.
Starting a business is not for everyone. It takes dedication and hard work. The hours are long, sacrifices must be made, and challenges must be overcome. Anyone planning to start a business will need these traits – or at least help from people who have them.
Otherwise, there’s a very good chance your startup won’t go anywhere.