Essential Qualities of an Entrepreneur: Strength of Character

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about something hopeful I see in America, the rise of young people interested in entrepreneurship ("There's Hope Yet"). More than ever, the upcoming generation wants to start businesses and pursue their passions by starting companies that will not only take care of them and their family, but also benefit society as a whole. I applaud this.

I recently released my newest book, The Midas Touch: Why Some Entrepreneurs Get Rich and Others Don't, with my good friend, Donald Trump. This is a book on entrepreneurship for entrepreneurs—something both Donald and I are extremely passionate about.

The reason Donald and I wrote this book is because we've learned the hard way that there are five, essential qualities entrepreneurs need to have in order to succeed. These qualities aren't a guarantee for success, but not having them is a guarantee for failure. And we want you to succeed.

So, over the next few weeks, I'll briefly share some thoughts on each quality. For more on each quality, I encourage you to purchase a copy of Midas Touch.

Strength of Character

As a young man, I started a successful Velcro wallet business. This was in the early 1980's and MTV was just starting to take off. My partners and I had the foresight to take advantage of the wave of rock bands coming out of MTV, and we licensed band names and logos to place on our wallets.

For a while, business boomed. We had thousands of distributors around the world shipping our wallets for us, and we had millions in sales. The problem is that we didn't really know what we were doing. As a result, many of our sales partners were 120 or more days late on paying us or had skipped out entirely. Because of this, we couldn't pay our vendors, didn't have the materials to continue production, and were in danger of not paying our employees and our taxes. We were in a cash crunch.

I'll never forget sitting down for lunch with my rich dad to go over my financials for the company. Looking over the financial state of my company he said to me, "Your company has financial cancer. You've mismanaged a company that could have been successful. You need to look at reality and admit you're incompetent and that your business is a failure."

It was a hard word to hear. Up till that point, we tried to hold on, thinking the next big break would come. But it never did, and things were going from bad to worse.

After that conversation, I went back to my partners, and we did the right thing. We liquidated our inventory, paid our employees what was due to them, and set aside enough money to pay our taxes. The company was finished, but at least we weren't crooks.

That was my first major failure as an entrepreneur. But it wasn't my last. And if there's anything I've learned after 30+ years as an entrepreneur, it's that you will fail. The question is not whether you'll fall; it's how many times will you stand up?

The #1 essential quality of an entrepreneur is Strength of Character.

In order to succeed, you must first have integrity to do the right thing, and second, have the fortitude to continue moving forward even in the face of failure. Those who lack strength of character quit in the face of failure. Those who have strength of character get stronger in the face of failure by learning and adapting for the next opportunity.

How strong is your character?

I leave you with one of my favorite commercials of all-time.

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