I see the question “What one quality must an entrepreneur have?” and I never answer it because it is a dumb question. Listing one would be imprudent, as any entrepreneur needs many qualities to be successful. No one will ever make it on a single quality, and I would not want to mislead people.
Here is my list of several that I believe are all necessary, not optional, to create a significant business:
- Raw intellect to do critical thinking and analysis so they can make data driven decisions
- Management experience to hire, fire, coach and manage people. I do not recommend new college graduates start a company without getting some of this experience first.
- Flexibility and open mindedness to listen to all input and weigh it appropriately based on that person’s relative experience in that area.
- The commitment and resilience to work through hard times. This means emotionally, mentally, financially, etc. Success is never a straight line, and almost every company will pivot based on market feedback. Almost no company you know started with exactly that business model and plan. (i.e. PayPal started as an app on a PDA to send money only to other people right there in the room)
- Ability to work 60-hour weeks for at least three years. Starting a company is always a marathon, not a sprint.
- An ability to focus on doing one thing well initially until a product-market fit is found. This requires lots of skills on the team, and the Founder/CEO needs to mediate all the competing opinions.
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7. Good emotional intelligence to read people, talk to them on the level and in the language they understand. This means marketing, sales, operations, product development, etc. Founders need to be generalists to connect communications between areas of the business.
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8. Having a vision that can be used to sell people to follow them. This requires creativity and a willingness to go against the “public opinion”. New ideas will be fought by the entrenched regime. Einstein once said, “Any idea which at first does not seem impossible has no hope”. One of my favorite quotes and deep. It is what keeps entrepreneurs and disruptors plugging away when 99% of people will not see the future outcome they are looking for.
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These are all technical skills, or more accurately “arts” which will be needed during the design, build and launch phases of a new product. Of course, no one person can be expert in all these things, which is the way forming a quality team is always job #1 of any founder. All these will not apply to a simple service business (i.e. consulting, retail shop, reseller) and are focused on “real” entrepreneurship where the founder is doing something no one has ever done before. They are inventing a different business model, twist on existing businesses or a new product that is completely differentiated in the marketplace.
Bob Norton is a long-time Serial Entrepreneur and CEO with four exits that returned over $1 billion to investors. He has trained, coached and advised over 1,000 CEOs since 2002. And is Founder of The CEO Boot Camp™ and Entrepreneurship University™. Mr. Norton works with companies to triple their chances of success in launching new companies and products. And helps established companies scale faster using the six AirTight Management™ systems. And helps companies successfully raise capital.