Aspiring entrepreneurs tend to ask some version of this same question: what does it take to be successful in business? Entrepreneurship isn’t about mastering a single formula, like one plus one equals two. Instead, it takes a combination of strengths and skills and some intuitive timing.
According to some of America’s most successful entrepreneurs, anyone can learn to acquire and hone the skills needed to be successful in business. Here are six things that it takes to become a successful entrepreneur, from business experts who have lived it:
1) A passion for what you do: Making money is powerful motivation, but it’s not what sustains you in the long run. The most successful entrepreneurs, the ones who last the longest in the business world, are those who really believe in and love what they do. They’re the ones who do what they do for a reason that transcends making money. Their sheer love drives them everyday, including during those seasons of hard times and low profits when others might be tempted to give up.
2) Tenacity: Successful entrepreneurs, says pros like Nick Swinmurn, founder of Zappos, a highly successful online shoes and clothing retailer, don’t take no for an answer. In fact, they say, you’ll hear the word “no” far more frequently than “yes.”
If you allow yourself to become discouraged by the doors that get slammed in your face (and of that, they say, you can be certain), you’ll never realize your full potential in business.
3) Surrounding yourself with people of varying strengths and talents: Nobody, not even Donald Trump or Steve Jobs, is good at everything. We all have weaknesses, say the pros.
Sometimes those weaknesses can be attacked, developed and even overcome. Other times, say experts like Marcus Buckingham, author of Now, Discover Your Strengths, it’s not cost effective to focus on correcting weaknesses because the time that it would take would be time better directed at honing the areas you’re already strong in.
Instead of wasting time, the best business women and men hire and partner with others who are good at things they are not. It streamlines business considerably, giving you a more competitive edge than you would have trying to go at it alone.
4) An ability to adapt: When you’re in business, changes can happen quickly, and frequently. The cost of raw materials fluctuates. Employees quit suddenly. New and better technologies emerge.
You have to be ready to adapt and embrace changes, new ideas, faster technologies. Otherwise, say the pros, you won’t last very long.
5) Create something that sets you apart from your competition: Otherwise, says Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, you won’t even make a mark, much less survive in the long term. Distinguish yourself, fill a need that’s unique, and be prepared to innovate to stay fresh.
6) Be the kind of leader that you would like to have if you were an employee: The most successful entrepreneurs have strong relationships with the people they work with, from their partners and managers all the way down to production workers and custodians.
Leaders like Lynn Tilton, founder of Patriarch Partners and America’s wealthiest business woman, have made a business of caring for people. Tilton’s company buys failing businesses, re-organizes and re-structures them, and makes them profitable again. She re-hires former employees and has been known to help entire towns prosper. Tilton is quick to point out that she values her employees. In fact, they are her reason for doing what she does.
Your partners and employees are your best assets, says Richard Branson. So treat them with dignity and respect, and make sure that you remain approachable.