Attributes (& Circumstances) that Make Entrepreneurs Succeed

Some personal attributes (and circumstances) can hold you back, while others help you succeed as an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs are a vital part of any economy. They step up to create new businesses, employment, and provide solutions that make our lives better.

However, becoming an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. It requires long hours, hard work, adaptability, a thick skin, and other good personal traits for success.

Even launching and sustaining a successful online business is demanding and requires particular skills and personal traits that don't always come naturally to everyone.

While no two entrepreneurs are exactly alike—each has their own unique entrpreneurial story and journey—there are characteristics and personality traits that are common to successful entrepreneurs. These include a penchant for optimism, the ability to handle failure, and a love of risk.

But there's more...


Personality Traits Common to Successful Entrepreneurs


According to research, there are at least five, "Big Five Dimensions" of personalities in people: Openess to experience, Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism - a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability.

Of those groupings of characteristics that tend to occur together in many people, successful entrepreneurs tend to have high openess to experience, extraversion, and conscientiousness, while having low agreeableness and neuroticism.

You might wonder why a good entrepreneur is low in agreeableness. Well, according to one professor, Art Markman, Ph.D., while it is important to be liked by people who might want to do business with you, it is more important to be critical and demanding when starting a business. 

"Highly agreeable people do not like to give other people bad news, and so they often temper their criticisms in ways that could hurt a business," says Markman, a cognitive scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think.


Difficult Backgrouds Tend to Spur Entrepreneurship


Interestingly, still, many successful entrepreneurs tend to come from broken families or difficult childhoods. They also tend to come from minority or underprivillaged groups.

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove, who played an important role in building Silicon Valley, was a refugee. Grove, also one of Steve Jobs' biggest influences, fled Hungary and taught himself English while working in a restaurant and attending college. Steve Jobs himself was the son of a Syrian immigrant.

In fact, studies show that nearly half (40%) of the Fortune 500 were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants, including such examples as Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX), Sergey Brin (Google), Dietrich Mateschitz (Red Bull), and Arianna Huffington (HuffPost).

The old adage that "necessity is the mother of invention" could very well apply here and explain why immigrants, minorities, and other underprivilaged groups tend to be more entrepreneurial and are more likely to start a business than native-born individuals. However, one study identifies "cross-cultural experience" as a key trait that leads to this phenomenon.

Apparently, cross-cultural experiences stimulate creativity and may increase an individuals’ capabilities to identify promising business ideas. This is because by living in different cultures, a person encounters new products, services, customer preferences, and communication strategies, and this exposure may allow the transfer of knowledge about customer problems or solutions from one country to another.

"Entrepreneurs and managers can actively seek to build such [cross-cultural] experiences by living abroad and systematically comparing what they observe in other markets," says researchers Peter Vandor and Nikolaus Franke. "In multinational businesses, human resource management tools such as expatriate assignments or international job rotations can help build opportunity recognition skills."

What's more, four other factors have been identified as key contributors to entrepreneurial success:

  • Prior work experience
  • Learning from previous successes and failures
  • Strong management teams, and
  • Good fortune.


Factors & Contributors to Entrepreneurial Success - Infographic


To learn more about the traits, hinderances, and other factors for successful entrepeneurship, check out this insightful infographic below. It explains, among other things, the attributes that help entrepreneurs succeed, what poses the greatest challenge for business owners, and the salaries and life of an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur Traits - Infographic