Gini Dietrich

Five Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

By: Gini Dietrich | December 17, 2012 | 

I was at dinner with a friend the other night and she mentioned an invite she’d received to spend New Year’s Eve “rubbing elbows with entrepreneurs.” I joked that if she came to my house on New Year’s Eve, she could rub elbows with entrepreneurs there (I thought myself quite hilarious when I said that).

It made me stop and think, though. How many entrepreneurs are in Chicago? Are we soon to become a hot bed for start-ups and technology companies?

Boulder, Colo., reportedly is a hotbed for tech start-ups. And who can blame those entrepreneurs? I’d want to live there, too.

Austin, Texas, with the annual SxSW, Whole Foods, DellLivestrong, and others is another hotbed.

Is Chicago soon to be added to the list?

An economy like we’ve had in the past few years is a great time to see whether or not people have what it takes to become entrepreneurs. Not only do people who are laid off find innovation in crisis, but their skills are quickly tested.

Skills such as persuasion, leadership, and personal accountability.

Entrepreneurial Skills

A recent study from Target Training International shows those three key traits, among others, are what makes an entrepreneur.

In fact, they say if an entrepreneur excels in these areas, there is a 90 percent likelihood they will build not one, but multiple organizations (otherwise known as serial entrepreneurs).

The study goes on to say:

In contrast to ephemeral notions that entrepreneurial success comes as a result of perfect timing meeting brilliant ideas in a cosmic moment of alignment, this research indicates entrepreneurially successful people are successful for a reason — that many of them highly display certain personal skills.

Do You Have the Skills?

The interesting thing about this study is it highlights skills that are not inherent. They are things that can be learned, developed, and honed throughout your career. If you have the inkling to build companies from scratch, consider these things.

Persuasion. Can you convince people to join your mission? Do you deliver powerful presentations? Can you get people to say yes to implement, what may seem, crazy ideas?

Leadership. Do people take risks to support your vision? Are you competitive? Have you been criticized for being too competitive?

Personal accountability. This is a big one. I hear my peers say quite often, “I can’t grow because no one is there to hold me accountable.” You have to do this one on your own. Are you recognized for achieving results when others could not? Are you criticized for holding people accountable (we have a client who calls me the accountability task master).

Goal orientation. Do you set SMARTER goals? Are you known for overcoming obstacles? Are you most productive when working with others to achieve goals?

Interpersonal skills. Do you get along well with people? Do you consider other people key to your greatest accomplishments? Can you calm people who are emotionally upset?

These are the types of questions the study asked to discover the key traits associated with entrepreneurs.

If you didn’t answer yes to each of these questions, don’t fret! Because these are all learned skills, you now have some goals for 2013.

A version of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column.

(Ignore this, I’m testing something with SEO. Connect with Gini on .)

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • rdopping

    It seems that 0.03% seems one that is most critical, no? Well, I’m not an entrepreneur so what do I know about those skills. When you think about it people are what make up the companies that we all want to impress. I find it odd that interpersonal skills are so low on the list yet persuasion, another interpersonal skill, is so high. Odd that.
    What’s your strongest?

    • @rdopping consider that’s on a scale of most important. If they scaled least important, you’d have negative numbers, which means the .03 is pretty significant.
      I’ve spent a long time hining each of these. Interpersonal is a goal,for 2013 because I need to spend more time coaching my team.

      • rdopping

        @ginidietrich  Good on ya. Consider yourself one of the good ones.

  • Lara Wellman

    I need to work on 3 and 4 in 2013. I think I can already qualify myself as a serial mini entrepreneur – and to solve 3 and 4 I always partner with someone and never run these businesses alone 🙂

    • @Lara Wellman I’ve gone back and forth on the value of a partner. We could probably write a book on the value of partner vs non.

      • @ginidietrich  @Lara I’m fairly certain I’ll need a partner, sometimes my head gets caught looking tooooo far ahead or toooo far outside the box.  I need to be smacked around from time to time.

        • Lara Wellman

          @TonyBennett  @ginidietrich  Exactly.  Finding someone who can help you with your weaknesses and vice versa has been my goal.

      • Lara Wellman

        @ginidietrich  Probably!  I definitely have a lot of advice when it comes to partnerships – it’s really hard to find just the right personality mix to jointly run anything I think. It hasn’t always be smooth road 🙂

        • @Lara Wellman LOL! I imagine not. But I think it’d also be nice to have someone you can talk to and work through issues.

  • After reading this, I can’t believe I’m already 30 freakin’ years old and not a single organization to my name yet.  Oy Vey.  Build it and they will come… time to get building.
    Alternatively, perhaps the answer to my fate, in 2013 I will hold myself to the highest level of accountability EVER.  I ain’t getting any younger.

    • @TonyBennett You’re still young! Most entrepreneurs don’t start until their 40s.

      • @ginidietrich  @TonyBennett That’s very interesting! I didn’t know that … I’m going to be 28 in January … jump-start baby!

      • @ginidietrich  @TonyBennett There is something to be said for getting a bit of life experience under your belt, but I am biased about that.
        Although I can say without question that I am mentally and emotionally tougher now than I was in my thirties and definitely smarter. Those are all key parts of the equation.

        • @Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Thanks for the encouragement  and insight.  I believe on opportunity will present itself soon and I’ll be prepared to take advantage.

      • @ginidietrich Young by people older than me’s standards… Old by my Son’s standards.  I know that I have 90 or so years left on this planet, I’m just saying that I’m not making most of it.  Family is great, but I can’t continue to use that as a crutch.

  • Ignore this? Really? It has the letters SEO nearby. You KNOW I can’t just “ignore it!”

    • @Sean McGinnis Ha! It’s not part of the blog post. So ignore it!

      • @ginidietrich Your Jedi mind tricks don’t work on me!

        • @Sean McGinnis That’s what you think.

        • @ginidietrich  @Sean McGinnis It’s like they work so good we don’t even think they worked

  • Nothing like a little Monday introspection to jump-start the week. Thanks for sharing these … They are very timely for me as I look to 2013 and plan.

  • clarade

    I need to focus on my ‘persuasion’ skills. It’s my greatest weakness…

    • Greatest Weakness, hmmm, I think you’ll be pretty good at this persuasion thing – you even make a weakness sound better.
      Any reason, in specific, as to why you view it as your biggest weakness?
      P.S. I’m not usually a sales psychologist, I just play one on Gini’s Blog

      • clarade

        @TonyBennett Well… as a new consultant, convincing others that social media is worth paying for is my biggest challenge but I’m working on it. Networking and lots of reading is helping me through it! 🙂

    • @clarade I think if you have a very clear vision, the persuasion comes more easily.

      • clarade

        @ginidietrich I guess convincing others of my vision and purpose is where I need a little work but I’m focused on improving this. 🙂

  • HowieG

    ACK! Can I curse? It is my excellent amazing over the top interpersonal skills holding me back. I need to be a dick. I mean prick. I mean cut throat bastard.
    Sadly you are right. Mr Nicholas from Broadcom was famous for yelling at his engineers until they figured out a challenge that was stumping them. Steve Jobs? ass to work for. Bill gates? Supposedly kept his workers locked inside until windows 3.1 launched. Didn’t even let them pee. hell they guy was sued by two continents! Talk about a bastard.
    Yes you need the other skills and those folks had them. And persuasion to me is biggest. How do you get employees and customers to buy into your vision. The mafia used threat of violence. Entrepreneurs make you cry.

  • I can empathise with this, although the list is endless – balancing vision with an attention to detail + absolute determination, positivity and a “can do” attitude to everything. + I’ve got to hide that I’m 40+ when competing with all these 20-something web entrepreneurs 🙂

  • JenMaidenberg

    The Israeli entrepreneurs I know love Chicago @shawmu RT Five Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs via @ginidietrich

  • I’m a member of Colorado Technology Association (CTA), and I see the incredible number of entrepreneurs coming out of Boulder and the surrounding area. They are really trying to make it “Silicon Mountain”. In addition to a lot of innovation and support from the colleges themselves, they also have organizations like Tech Stars and Boulder Denver New Tech (BDNT) to encourage them as well as put them in contact with investors/etc.
    Pretty cool stuff, and I love volunteering through CTA which does a lot to showcase them through events like Apex Awards and DEMOgala…and then give them a great venue to meet larger companies to become prospective clients through an event called C-Level @ a Mile High. They can bid on C-Level executive time as well as participate in a silent auction.

  • danielnewmanUV

    Gini – you most certainly are an entrepreneur.  Although I’ll confess I cringe a little at all HBR data.  I like most of those traits and do think they are important for a leader, however I think an appetite for risk may be the trait I see more in entrepreneurs more than anything else.  So many people “want” to start a business, but so few have the courage, resourcefulness and of course fearlessness that it takes.
    signing out until next time….

  • Great list! Persuasion is my weak area (well, except on the bike. I can persuade people to do pretty much anything there, he he) . I’ll be working on it this coming year. Thanks for the reminder, @ginidietrich.

  • Social_Freedom_

    @markwschaefer What a great list. Persuasiveness is definitely an important trait to have

  • ubezpieczyciel

    RT @evolutionfiles: 5 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs via @ginidietrich RT @AmyVernon

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