Elon Musk is headed to Mars. Lady Gaga keeps going platinum. Whatever Richard Branson touches, seems to turn into gold (or red).
Why do some people become successful entrepreneurs while others never escape their 9-5?
It all boils down to 6 key traits that you must have to find success as an entrepreneur.
But do you really know what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
We have good news and bad news.
The good news: You can be an entrepreneur.
The bad news: Though it has never been easier to become an entrepreneur, not everyone should be one.
The current state of the startup
Entrepreneurship is on the rise and shows no signs of slowing. With the cost of setting up a business at record lows, and the abundance of venture capital soaring high, many savvy professionals are capitalizing on this by making their mark and starting their own businesses.
But the reality that not everyone wants to talk about is that while we all can be entrepreneurs, not everyone should be one.
The difference between “can” and “should” is seldom discussed, but it’s a conversation that we feel is crucial for anyone considering starting their own company.
There are 6 traits that are essential for any entrepreneur. If you have these six traits, quitting your job might be a good career move.
Let’s get started.
1. You have to be optimistic.
Every entrepreneur will be dealt blows that knock down their business one way or the other. But for successful founders, it’s not about how many times you’re knocked down, but how you feel about the next challenge that might knock you down again.
You must be able to look at a situation that appears bleak in the short-term and stay firm in your belief that, long-term, things will pan out. We call this being “long-term greedy,” and it’s exactly the attitude we had when we co-founded VEEV, a sustainable liquor startup in 2007.
We had to make several tough decisions on our journey, but we knew that we were following our purpose and not the route laid out in front of us. We were prepared to take some detours, even if it yielded losses in the short-term, for gains in the future.
When we ordered our first shipment of vodka, we were informed that all 50,000 bottles were stranded after the ship they were on crashed into an iceberg. A real iceberg!
Could you imagine our stress??
If we couldn’t get our shipment as planned, our vendors would back out of the deals we had in place and the investment we made into our products would sink to the bottom of the ocean, literally.
In times like this, it is easy to feel scared and start to panic, but we stayed optimistic. We stayed hopeful and communicated with our vendors, letting them know what delays were happening. This communication was not the easiest to deliver. But because we were optimistic, we had the courage to call our vendors and tell them the truth.
In order to succeed in the world of entrepreneurship, you must understand that things will go wrong. But if you are optimistic, it will help to carry you through the hard times.
Do you have the mindset to succeed?
Think back to the last tragic event that occurred in your life. How did it make you feel? If you can think of circumstances where you wanted to just run away and hide, entrepreneurship may not be the right path for you. However, if you have braved through most situations, then you may have the optimism you need to achieve success as an entrepreneur.
2. You have to be energetic
While a high level of optimism is necessary for success, you must have matching stamina levels to make things happen. Building a startup is like running a marathon. You have to pace yourself for the long term. But at times you must also push yourself and have the energy to sprint during the marathon. What some first-time entrepreneurs might not fully understand is how important good health and stamina are to maintaining the energy needed to start and scale a successful venture.
It’s no surprise that many founders are health-conscious — they regularly exercise, maintain a clean diet, and get good amounts of sleep. Why? It maximizes your energy, which you’ll need a lot of.
Having a high work rate isn’t just for your productivity. Every second you’re not building gives your competitors more seconds to catch up, or even take you out of business.
Let’s say you spend 30 slow days testing an idea that could’ve been done in a week. 30 years ago that might not have mattered for big businesses. But at today’s speed? Taking those 30 days instead of a week could cause your company to crumble.
As an entrepreneur, you need to make the most of your time by giving 110% every day. And that takes a lot of energy. Bringing high energy to your startup also acts as a virtuous circle. The more abundant your energy, the more it encourages teammates and employees to do the same.
If you have a hard time maintaining a healthy lifestyle and don’t have the energy to keep up with the demands of an entrepreneur in today’s world, you may want to think twice about the leap to starting your own company.
3. You have to take smart risks
It’s no secret that compared to the relatively steady careers offered by the corporate world, startups are fraught with risk. As an entrepreneur, you need to be comfortable both taking risks, and evaluating the risk of every decision you take.
These might be more common than you’d first think. Are you hiring a new developer? Are you considering a round of funding? You’ll be encountering risks on a near-daily basis, and need to assess their impact on your business quickly.
We learned how true this was at VEEV. We left our well-paying, promising careers at Goldman Sachs to found a liquor startup. Naturally, taking this risk left some of our closest friends and family questioning our decision. But the risk paid off in the end, with VEEV making a positive impact towards the planet by becoming the world’s first carbon neutral spirits company. We like to say, “We were just young and stupid enough to become entrepreneurs.”
While at the time you could say it was risky leaving our jobs, it was ultimately the right decision for us.
When’s the last time you took a risk? What was it like? Were you scared?
There are reasons why some people are fine with risk and why others avoid it. The way we look at it, taking risk leads to success. Great opportunities, otherwise unforeseen, often come with taking risk.
To determine whether or not you’re a risk taker, you can do this one simple exercise. Do you think back on all the things you should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve done, or do you just go out there and do them?
If you’re always thinking about the things you should’ve and could’ve done, guess what? Entrepreneurship might not the right thing for you, because you’ll never be happy with it.
4. You have to be resilient
Along with having the optimism and energy to see setbacks in the context of your long-term success, entrepreneurs need to be resilient enough to bounce back from the regular obstacles that come with any startup.
VEEV was no exception. When we first started, our açaí-infused spirit had a slight yellow tint to it. What started as little more than a surprise got worse over the coming weeks, as the color eventually looked more like lemonade than vodka.
Having the resilience to accept that our product was far from perfect, was tough. But in the end, we fixed the issue and kept scaling.
Successful entrepreneurs are able to bounce back quickly from disappointment.
Not sure if you are resilient? here’s a test to find out.
Look back to the last time that you experienced what you would consider a failure. It could be a test that you didn’t pass. It could be a relationship that didn’t go right. It could be a fight that you had with your friends. Ask yourself how long it took you to rebound from that failure. If it took you more than two weeks, you might not have the resiliency needed to bounce back like a true entrepreneur will inevitably have to do many times over.
5. Successful entrepreneurs have to be visionary
Okay, here’s another test. Find a piece of paper and a pen or take out your phone and open up a blank note. Think about an entrepreneur role model. Now write down the top five words that come to mind when you think of that person.
If we were gambling men, which we are, we’d be willing to bet that the words “inspiration” and/or “visionary” are on your list.
That’s because the best founders see something that no one else sees, rally their troops around the vision, and take their teams on a journey that no one else would have imagined could or would be possible.
When it comes to beverages and consumer packaged goods, from KeVita to Krave Jerky, we try to spot opportunities coming and be in a position to capitalize on them. That is how we started VEEV, by seeing an opportunity in the vodka space that no one else saw and jumping on it.
The ability to recognize market trends and to vividly paint a picture of the future is what separates mediocre and/or lucky founders and investors from those who are consistently successful. We once heard Tony Robbins say something about this we liked. We don’t recall the exact words, but the gist is: See the world as it is, not as worse than it is. See the world as you see it; make the world as you see it.
Whether it was Martin Luther King Jr. having a dream of an equal United States, or Elon Musk making us an interplanetary species, every successful entrepreneur must have a vision of the future they want to build.
In many ways, what Tony Robbins said sums up the job and challenge of the entrepreneur: being visionary enough to see a better way of doing something, but grounding that vision in reality enough to make it happen.
This was how we made VEEV. We saw the liquor industry was stagnating as people grew tired of the same 8X distilled vodka. We wanted to give people an alternative with better ingredients, that made better cocktails, which ultimately gave them a better way to drink.
What does the future look like for you? Can you paint it out clearly? Do you know what you want it to look like?
If you do, maybe becoming an entrepreneur is the right path.
6. You must be persuasive
You have probably heard, being an entrepreneur means you have a part-time job as a salesman or saleswoman. To be honest, it’s not really a part-time job—as a founder, you must constantly represent, talk about, and, most importantly, sell your company! You must become your own brand evangelist. Successful startup founders not only believe in their products and services, they become part of their life! At early stages of growth, you have to sell your story, your passion, and your vision every day!
Sales come down to one thing: persuasion. If you can persuade someone to see your point of view, and act on your offer, you’re well on the way to being an entrepreneur.
According to one of our favorite philosophers, Aristotle, there are three pillars of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. Whether you are speaking with investors, employees, or distributors, you should constantly try to get as many people on board by using these pillars.
Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it means convincing someone of your credibility.
Pathos involves appealing to the listener’s emotions—creating a feeling response.
Logos is persuasion by reason.
With VEEV, we used all three.
Ethos: We developed relationships with our vendors and earned trust from our customers.
Pathos: We demonstrated goodwill through product demos, and exuded passion and confidence when we shared our vodka.
Logos: We would never accept defeat, and kept pushing forward, building our business with sound financials, and sold others on our vision.
When you master these elements and combine them effectively, you will leverage your persuasive potential!
When you go to the movies with your friends, who decides what movie you’re going to see? When you’re at dinner, and the dessert menus are passed out, are you the person to take action and help make the decision, or do you stand by and wait to see what everybody else does?
If, in your life, you are known as the person that helps to make decisions, you may be one step closer to having the sixth and final component needed to be an entrepreneur.
After reading all of this, you’re probably thinking, this is tough. Maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for me?
Or maybe you realized that you do have all these traits, and you are ready to tap into your inner entrepreneur.
Here’s the thing, take it or leave it entrepreneurship will always be around.
The question you need to think about is not if you can be an entrepreneur, it’s if you should be.
And if you feel like these traits listed above resonate with you, then congratulations, and welcome to the world of entrepreneurship.
But now what?
The challenge that you’re facing right now is what all entrepreneurs face — what to do next. Good thing for you, we’ve been there, done that, and we have a successful portfolio of companies that we help on a daily basis to accelerate their success.
If you want to learn from our journey and our path, we’ve taken the time to lay out every single step. Start with these 6 traits then follow the roadmap that we’ve put together, and shortcut years off of your next startup’s adventure.
Do you think we should add any other traits to this list? We would be interested to hear your ideas! Please share them as comments.