Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on March 17, 2008 By Draginol In Business

I've often been asked what it takes to be successful in starting your own business and being successful at it.

Similarly, I have seen in various political debates about how CEOs are largely replaceable/disposable which I know from experience is definitely not true.

Below are some traits that most successful entrepreneurs I've met have (some may seem incidental but they are key and few people are good at all these things):

  1. Must be pretty good with money. Budgets. Forcasting, etc.
  2. Must be a good public speaker.
  3. Must be willing to travel extensively.
  4. Must be unusually healthy - if you take more than 3 days off per year due to illness (cold, flu, whatever) forget it.
  5. Must master the art of delayed gratification - be willing to work for a long period of time with no reward.
  6. Must be unusually good at whatever the particular field you want to focus on for your business.
  7. Must be able to do #6 above and be able to effectively communicate that expertise to lay people in a friendly, helpful way.
  8. Must be good at interacting with other people. I.e. you must be a "people person".
  9. Must be willing to take bold choices that often have negative short-term consequences. I.e. most entrepreneurs I've met have a reckless streak in them that is absolutely essential.
  10. Must be aggressive and assertive but able to control those impulses when necessary.
  11. Must have significant self-confidence which often would be described as arrogance.
  12. Must be able to control ego enough to complete objectives.

All 12 of these elements (not most, ALL) I think are essential.  I meet lots of people who on the surface would seem to be ideal for starting their own business. I've had friends and colleagues who have gone to start their own business thinking that being really really smart was enough to overcome missing a few of these items.

For example, I've talked to lots of people at conferences who were thinking of leaving their companies because they thought the founder was "kind of a jerk" or "was just a total idiot" about some aspect of the business.  The problem is that most people are missing at least 1 of the traits above. 

A good entrepreneur doesn't have to be great at all of those 12 things. They just have to be "good enough" at all 12 things. Or more to the point, they can't be lacking in any of those 12 points no matter how great they are at some particular thing. 

Many companies are founded by partners. In those cases, the idea is that between the 2 or 3 partners that all 12 of those elements are satisfied and that is typically how it works.

So anyway, that's my 2 cents on that for what it's worth.

on Mar 18, 2008

Interesting list. Number 4 (being healthy) is one we don't usually see on similar articles in the press.

A couple of questions:

1) If you had to force rank those items, would they appear in the order listed in the posting?

2) What importance would you place on the ability to find great people (employees) to round out the "starting team"? In other words, is the ability to build a strong team an essential attribute for an entrepenuer, or is that a required capability for a manager?

on Mar 18, 2008

Hey, I found that if I click the Full Screen button, and then click it again, I can type in the posting box.

Many companies are founded by partners. In those cases, the idea is that between the 2 or 3 partners that all 12 of those elements are satisfied and that is typically how it works.

In case anyone feels lacking in comparison to Brad's list, I highly recommend pages 48-80 of Mentored by a Millionaire by Steven K. Scott.

It will really get you fired up about partnering with people.  Also the book as a whole is geared more towards the non-superhuman individual.  Those of us whose brain-diagram has about five boxes in it and one of them is labeled "porn."

This is kind of off-topic but Coyote Blog has a good post today that will help you step into the successful small businessman's shoes.

You would have thought that my father, being a minister, would have understood the importance of public speaking to life, but no, he thought being book-smart would get me anywhere.