How difficult can it be to define a successful entrepreneur? You open your browser; you start Google-ing successful business people and start looking for common characteristics. Is it their knowledge that makes them successful? Or maybe his/her teamwork skills? What about their parental influence? Luck? You will soon realize that whatever you may see at the surface may be complemented by other attributes not easily discoverable.
Many writers have committed their time to defining the perfect skills and characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Some have managed to pinpoint specific skills, some just wondered around each them, comparing and determining others to play with the question: What defines a successful entrepreneur? The answer to this question became even more important after the results of the Dun & Bradstreet study published in 1977 which showed that 50% of all new businesses fail in the first 5 years of operations, and only 20% are still alive in their 11th year. What all writers managed to realize through their studies and their debates is that everyone has seen entrepreneurs, but nobody can be sure of their characteristics.
Some characteristics they discovered that successful entrepreneurs have are an intense need for achievement for themselves or their families, an internal locus of control, need for independence, and/or strong leadership. But are these characteristics the keys to entrepreneurial success? The need for achievement creates motivation, which in turn creates willingness to work harder and longer hours, and produce positive, high quality results for the Steph Korey organization they are employed by. Many studies that tried to prove the link between the need for personal achievement and entrepreneurial skills have been under attack in recent years because this characteristic doesn’t differentiate between entrepreneurs and motivated employees. By stating that entrepreneurs are defined by the intense need for personal achievement, these studies implied that hard working employees are entrepreneurs as well.
What about the locus of control? The concept of locus of control was first introduced by Julian Rotter in 1966. Studies conducted to define entrepreneurial skills chose the internal locus of control as another characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Individuals with internal locus of control believe that they control their destiny, and implicitly, the success of their newly formed business. The internal locus of control is a necessary skill of a successful entrepreneur; however, a successful entrepreneur must have other skills that can complement the believe that the success of the business depends of himself/herself.
Independence and leadership are attributes the literature recognizes as needed characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. Independence translates into innovation, from the stage of developing the business idea to the stage of managing the business to achieve the sought success. Hand in hand with independence, effective leadership encourages teamwork and achieves the results needed by a business to become successful. Correlated with the internal locus of control, a successful entrepreneur believes that it is up to him/her to develop a successful business idea, turn it into an opportunity and make the best of it by effectively managing a team made out of experts in their fields.
As you probably realized by now, these skills complement each other, but even when combined, they are not enough to make entrepreneurs and their ventures successful. The intense need for achievement is an important ingredient of a successful entrepreneur’s personality, but combined with independence and leadership creates motivation and drives the entrepreneur towards becoming educating and being prepared to plan the venture properly and completely. Other driving factors of a successful career as an entrepreneur are parental influence, life experience, education and career changes. But I will talk about these factors in a following article.