6 Character Traits Every Startup Owner Should Cultivate

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Failure is a fact of life for entrepreneurs. In fact, about half of small businesses fail by their fifth year.

Even heavyweights like Steve Jobs and James Dyson suffered failures before finding success. What differentiates them — and every great entrepreneur — from the rest is their ability to better themselves and bounce back after failure.

Having the correct mindset is an underestimated but crucial factor in achieving business success. Here are six key character traits you’ll ned to cultivate if you want to conquer the business world:

1. A Hunger for Knowledge

One of the most commonly shared qualities among successful business owners is the love of learning — though that doesn’t mean everyone has to get a degree. According to research we conducted at Hiscox, 70 percent of the world’s most successful businesspeople earned at least undergraduate degrees — which means 30 percent did not.

The point is that there is no one road to knowledge. Whether it be through reading, studying, hands-on experience, or professional practice, the best entrepreneurs simply love to learn.

2. Passion

Sixty-five percent of startup founders are “driven by heart,” according to  Tony Tjan, Richard Harrington, and Tsun-Yan Hsieh, the authors of Heart, Smarts, Guts & Luck.

This isn’t surprising. Passion is crucial to an entrepreneur’s success. Building a business is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s an endurance test full of peaks and troughs alike. If you love what you do, you’ll be more likely to keep going, even during the toughest times.

In addition to helping you persevere, passion will give every aspect of your business purpose and meaning. This can have a profound effect not only on you, but also on the people around you. Your passion can make yourself, your team, and your customers believe in what you’re trying to achieve.

3. Focus

Successful business owners love what they do, but the many roles they have to juggle are not always glamorous. Your vision may be to oversee the world’s most successful agency, but your life may involve a lot of admin and extra hours as you work toward that vision.

This is why the ability to focus on the immediate tasks at hand without getting side-tracked is a key trait for entrepreneurs. Even more importantly, an entrepreneur’s focus should allow them to move between immediate tasks while still seeing the bigger picture of it all. This will allow you to concentrate on the here and now without losing sight of the future toward which your business must move.

4. Personability

To grow any small business, you have to put yourself out there. Giving your elevator pitch and making connections are integral to your business’s success. That’s why every great entrepreneur needs people skills.

Personability matters within the walls of the office, too. A manager who lacks people skills can cause poor morale, workplace conflict, and employee turnover.

Remember: Having people skills does not mean being a socialite — it means having emotional intelligence. You need to be able to listen to others, show empathy, and get yourself heard. This will make everyone from the banks to your own employees want to invest in your success.

5. Adaptability

Being able to adapt to change serves us all well in our daily lives, but it is particularly important in a business capacity. Even the most established businesses have to continuously change to stay relevant, so entrepreneurs who can stay on their feet while rolling with the punches will have the best shot at success.

Business models, technologies, and competitors will all change through the course of your business’s existence. The key is to be open to the new opportunities that come with change. If your business is to stand the test of time, you need to ride with — and ahead — of the curve.

6. Resilience

It is common for the early days of your company to be filled with small failures and setbacks. While many would let this stifle their spirits, the best entrepreneurs find the lesson within each small loss and turn their failures into positive gains.

Plus, your business is likely to face criticism at some point or another. If you can take the feedback constructively rather than personally, you’ll position your startup for success.

Steve Jobs once said, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” He had a point: If you get up every day, go about your business, and keep pushing forward no matter what the happens, you are statistically more likely to succeed.

You never know until you try, and it is surprising how much success comes from just trying.

Steve McGerr is the head of direct commercial for Hiscox UK.

By Steve McGerr