Blog | Entrepreneurship

12 Essential Entrepreneurship Characteristics Needed to be Successful

Being an entrepreneur takes a different mindset for success

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Today, November 16, 2022, is National Entrepreneurs’ Day. So I thought I’d write a bit about my entrepreneurial journey and qualities every entrepreneur needs to succeed.

I launched my nylon and Velcro surfer wallet business in 1976. Two friends and I started it from scratch, part-time, while working full-time for Xerox. I knew I could not stay with Xerox for long because the business was beginning to take off and more and more time was required.

For me, the hardest part of becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business was dealing with what my friends, family and coworkers would say or think. For me, that was the hardest job of all.

Are entrepreneurs crazy?

I can still remember telling a few of the people at the office that I would soon have to quit my job at Xerox and run the surfer wallet business full-time. “You’re crazy!” said one of the more senior salespersons. “You’re going to fail.”

“You know how many people want to work for Xerox?” said another senior salesperson. “You have a great job, great benefits, good pay and lots of promotion opportunities. If you keep your nose clean, someday you could be a sales manager. Why would you risk losing such a great job?”

“You’ll be back,” said another salesperson. “I’ve seen countless people like you. People who think they’re hot shots. They leave the company, fail and come back with their tail between their legs…if they have any tail left.”

The group of six salesmen and two saleswomen laughed with that comment and went on talking about the new copier the company was coming out with, and after that they talked about who was going to win the baseball game that night. I realized I had talked to the wrong people about my business and about my dreams. I realized I was talking to people who would pull me down rather than push me up.

Entrepreneurs have a different mindset

How many times have you heard people say some of the following statements?

  • “I wish I could quit my job.”

  • “I’m tired of going from job to job.”

  • “I wish I could make more money, but I can’t afford to quit and start all over with a new company. And I don’t want to go back to school and learn a new profession.”

  • “I’m working hard, but the only people getting rich are the owners of the company.”

  • “I’m working hard, but I’m not getting ahead financially. I’ve got to start thinking about retirement.”

  • “I can’t keep working this hard. I’m getting too old for this.”

These are often statements made by individuals trapped in the employee or self-employed quadrant of the CASHFLOW Quadrant. Deep down, many people want more than they have in life, not just more money, but also more freedom, more control, and more happiness.

Entrepreneurs are able to not just acknowledge these feelings but to also do something about them. They really do quit their job to follow a dream, and they don’t look to another job to bring the fulfillment they’re looking for.

In short, they have a different mindset—and they act on it. After many years working with business owners and being an entrepreneur, here are the top qualities I think every great entrepreneur has.

  1. You like to sell

    The reality is that I didn’t work at Xerox because I wanted a safe career. In fact, I’d given up very lucrative career paths as a pilot or a merchant marine in order to take the job at Xerox...making significantly less.

    So, I joined Xerox to learn one thing—how to sell. Why did I do this? “If you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you’re going to have to learn to sell,” rich dad said. It was his advice and I’m glad I followed it.

    I still remember my first sales call on the street along Waikiki Beach. After spending about an hour working up the nerve to knock on the door, I finally got in to see the owner of a small tourist trinket store. He was an older gentleman who had seen new salespeople like me for years.

    After I stammered and sweated through my memorized sales pitch on the benefits of Xerox copiers, all he did was laugh at me.

    “Son,” he said, “You’re the worst I have ever seen. But keep going because if you can get over your fears, your world will be very bright. If you quit, you may wind up like me, sitting behind a counter 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, waiting for tourists to come in. I wait here because I am too afraid to go out and do what you’re doing. Get through your fears and your world will get smaller every year.”

    To this day, I give thanks to that wise older man. I went on to become the top salesman at Xerox, and when that happened, I quit.

    My rich dad would often tell me that learning how to sell is the most important characteristic of an entrepreneur.

    After being an entrepreneur in multiple industries over the past three decades I have to agree.

    If you can’t sell, you can’t be an entrepreneur.

    All this is to say that entrepreneurs have a different mindset than most people, which is why they succeed. If you are thinking about starting your own business, I recommend learning the same entrepreneurial skills my rich dad taught me and that I honed at Xerox.

  2. You aren’t afraid to face your fear

    Learning to sell was extremely important for me. It helped me overcome my fear of rejection and communicate the value of a product and a service. Just the act of entering that tourist trinket store many, many years ago was an act of overcoming fear and becoming a better person. Each sales call, each rejection, each win...was a lesson in itself in overcoming fear.

    If you want to start your own business, you will need to be able to overcome many fears and in order to gain traction, you will need to be able to communicate why what you’re doing brings value, both quickly and expertly. This applies to future customers, investors, partners, employees and so much more. No one follows someone who clearly is afraid. No one buys from someone who is afraid. Overcoming fear is essential to success.

  3. You’re adept at public speaking

    If you want to grow your business, you need to be able to speak in front of groups of people—sometimes very large ones—and keep them interested in what you have to say.

    More than anything, business leadership involves being a great speaker and presenter. If you can learn to present well in front of lots of people, you can increase your cash flow, your operations, and your capital. If you can’t, your business will not grow…and will possibly fail. Nothing prepares you better for this than consistently speaking in front of groups of people.

    After getting over my fear of selling, I joined Toastmasters at my rich dad’s recommendation to learn to overcome my fear of speaking in front of large groups. When I complained, he replied, “All great leaders are great public speakers. Leaders of great businesses need to be great communicators. If you want to be a leader, you must be a speaker.”

    Today, I can speak comfortably in front of tens of thousands of people in convention halls because of my training in sales and my early training from the Toastmasters organization.

  4. You’re a great communicator

    Among the important qualities a job in sales will teach you is the ability to communicate effectively. When my rich dad told me to get a sales job, I balked at the idea of going door to door to sell copy machines. All he said to that was, “Poor people are poor communicators.” He knew that learning to sell would make me a better communicator, which would make me a better businessman.

    I am always amazed at how little time business people put into improving their overall communication skills. Whenever I find a business that is struggling, it is often a reflection of poor communication. As rich dad said, “Cash flowing into your business is in direct proportion to the communication flowing out.”

    One of the reasons good communication is so important is because it allows you to meet demand better. Rich dad said, “To be a good communicator, you first need to be good at human psychology. You need to know what buttons to push. Different people have different buttons.” Key to knowing which buttons to push was listening. He said, “Many people are talking, but only a few are listening. Money goes to the best communicators.”

    Beyond just meeting demand, good communication internally in your company is vital as well. Many times, by simply looking at the financial statement of your business, you can easily see which areas of the business are communicating well and which are not. When your different departments are communicating well, the business will run better and cash flow will be healthier, either in the form of increased sales or decreased costs…or both.

  5. You have thick skin

    Chances are you’ve been thinking about starting a business for a while. Like me, you may have told some people about your “crazy idea,” but for the most part you have chosen to keep this dream to yourself.

    Eventually, however, you will need to let the world know. And not everyone is going to share your enthusiasm—just like those salespeople at Xerox.

    When Kim and I developed our board game, CASHFLOW 101, later renamed to just CASHFLOW®, we held events for testing purposes. I still cringe at people’s response. “The game is terrible,” “It takes too long,” and my personal favorite, “It’s too hard.”

    Imagine if we had stopped at that first beta-test. That game has helped thousands of people increase their financial IQ by playing it.

    And maybe that will be the situation you find yourself in.

    You might have family and friends who support you every day with personal problems that will suddenly show you a different part of their personality when you discuss starting a business: fear.

    Maybe they have tried to start a business and failed. Or possibly they live under the false sense of security a job provides and think climbing the corporate ladder is a guaranteed path to safety.

    Either way, you will face criticism faster—and harsher—than you expect. How thick your skin is, and how you handle it will make all the difference.

  6. You like being connected

    If you think living the life of an introvert will allow you to become a successful entrepreneur, you may want to think again.

    You’ll be living and breathing your new company every moment of the day while you try to educate everyone you come in contact with about your business.

    24/7 takes on a whole new meaning when you open your doors. No longer are quick 5-minute breaks spent scrolling your Facebook or Instagram feeds looking at updates from your family. Now, the time spent on the very same social networks will be spent answering customer service complaints and trolling your competition looking for ways to improve your business.

    Neighborhood parties take on a whole new meaning when someone asks you, “What do you do?” Every opportunity you have to promote your business, you take. And you’re never shy to strike up a conversation with someone new.

    Though you won’t need to be the life of the party, you will definitely need to get more comfortable making key connections to grow your business.

  7. You don’t need praise from others

    There has been a disturbing trend in youth activities the last few years where all participants receive trophies. These awards are given to anyone who participates in the given activity like little league baseball or pee-wee football.

    As adults, we know that’s not how life works. There are winners, and then there are losers.

    Think about your average day at work. How many times a day do you hear, “That’s awesome!” or “Great job,” or “That’s soooo good?”

    It seems everyone has been trained to give positive feedback almost as if on autopilot.

    Unfortunately, you won’t receive this type of praise as an entrepreneur. Starting a business is hard because you show up every day and no one thanks you for it. No one tells you how great you are. If you fail, you have yourself to blame. Same if you succeed. Get very good at being comfortable in your own skin and not caring what others think. Keep all criticism in context. Some people will love your product, others won’t.

    Regardless, if you have done your research and have built a business around solving a legitimate problem, eventually you’ll receive your just rewards.

  8. You’re self-motivated

    Another characteristic of an entrepreneur is the ability to set your own tasks and accomplish them. You won’t arrive at work with a set list of expectations you’re to accomplish by day's end. Whatever gets done (or doesn’t) is entirely up to you.

    When I was in boot camp preparing for my brief career in the military, I received all the external motivation I could handle. From fellow recruits taking turns leading our troup through our daily training regime to the ever present drill sergeant, there was no shortage of people making sure I was doing what I should be doing, how I should be doing it and where I should be doing it.

    As an entrepreneur, you are your own drill sergeant. Do you have what it takes to give the orders and follow them?

  9. You like stretching your comfort zone

    One characteristic of an entrepreneur that is often overlooked is the ability to wear multiple hats.

    Most people who dream about being an entrepreneur focus on the technical mastery they’re providing. They feel that a decade of writing or baking or carpentry experience is the proof they have what it takes to run a successful business.

    That’s never the case. A successful entrepreneur needs to understand accounting, sales, legal protection, taxes, customer service, and a slew of other things to turn their technical mastery into business success.

    As such, they often have to wade into areas that are not their comfort zone. But the best entrepreneurs love stretching their comfort zone. It puts fuel in their tank.

  10. You don’t need to be right all the time

    We were taught in school that there is only one right answer. There is one side to history, one way to solve a math problem and one way to be successful in life. And when it is time to test your knowledge you either know the answers on the exam or you don’t. If you try to look elsewhere for the answer, it's considered cheating.

    But real life doesn’t work like that. In real life, “cheating” is called teamwork. If you don’t like to work as a team, you are often considered a “know-it-all” and no one wants to work with you.

    To better explain this, I want to use a diagram my rich dad taught me called the CASHFLOW® Quadrant.

    To be financially free, you must move to the right side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant.

    The CASHFLOW Quadrant shows the four types of people and the different ways they make money.

    On the left side are the Es (employee) and Ss (small business owner). They value security above all else. There are similar characteristics between Es and Ss, namely they both get paid for their time.

    On the right side of the diagram are the Bs (big business owner) and Is (investor). Unlike Es and Ss who make money in exchange for their time, people on this side of the quadrant make money through other people’s time and money. They create assets that generate passive income.

    What does this have to do with being right?

    Similar to the previous point about staying in your comfort zone, highly-paid Es and successful Ss always have to be right. They were probably the first people in school to raise their hand with the right answer, graduated with honors and sacrificed for the big promotion at work.

    There’s nothing wrong with putting in the time to get things right, unless you’re an entrepreneur.

    Entrepreneur’s don’t have the luxury of time. After all, time is money. If you’re spending time behind closed doors trying to get everything perfect before you launch tomorrow, you’re missing money making opportunities today.

    And if you’re the one that always needs to be right instead of building an amazing team of experts who have the right to tell you when you’re wrong, you’re never going to scale.

  11. You’re willing to do the time

    Many people think I became a success overnight. One day I was a complete unknown and the next I’m on Oprah with a New York Times bestseller.

    The truth is, it took almost a decade for me to reach that level of success.

    First, there was my failed nylon and Velcro wallet business. After my rich dad showed me how my partners were robbing me, I had to close the business. This left me close to a million dollars in debt.

    It was for that reason that I knew the only way I was going to get out of such a financial hole was through entrepreneurship. There was no way to pay back such a monumental amount of debt with a day job. Like I said, that took me nearly a decade of blood, sweat, and tears.

    Slow and steady wins the race. There are no shortcuts.

  12. You don’t procrastinate

    With almost a million in debt, Kim and I knew we weren’t going to break free from our financial situation any time soon. So, we developed a plan. It required tremendous sacrifice but we knew we would eventually get there.

    It all started with a dedication to increasing our financial education. First, we worked to learn, then to earn.

    We studied real estate investing and created our own businesses. No matter how bad things got and how much we wanted to quit, we didn’t.

    We kept our eye on the prize and looked for any opportunity to learn a new skill that was going to help us become successful business owners.

    The ability to take action is a vital characteristic of an entrepreneur.

Start your entrepreneurial journey today

Whether or not you feel these statements apply to you, the good news is that if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you can develop the right mind set. It starts with knowledge of what it takes, which is what I’ve given you today.

If you have tremendous odds stacked against you, and you don’t have any other choice but to take matters into your own hands, you might be surprised to discover just how many characteristics of an entrepreneur you possess.

Original publish date: October 21, 2014

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