Posted by: hmchang | June 4, 2008

Entrepreneurship: Key Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

The five traits for a successful entrepreneur I choose are: (1) Efficient, (2) Proactive, (3) Trustworthy, (4) Innovative, and (5) Persistence, abbreviated as the EntrePreneurship TIPs. Although these five traits remain unchanged after the two readings and classroom discussions, I discover new meaning in each of them and I am able to link the eight habits to these five traits.

(1) Efficient
An efficient person can accomplish tasks with minimum amount of resources. For a start-up, human resources, time, and money are less than that of an established company. How to create maximum value with limited resources can be a challenge for an entrepreneur everyday. Additionally, being efficient can lower the cost basis and increase profit margins. Therefore, efficiency becomes an important criterion not only for survival but for competitiveness.

To be efficient, it is important to know the position you are standing at now and also the destination you are heading toward. This is the same as “to begin with the end in mind” in the seven habits. Since the very first day, entrepreneurs should have a clear understanding of what are the resources they process. If the status-quo indicates insufficiency to achieve the designated goal, efforts should be made for getting more resources or to change to a more manageable target. With a clear target in mind, plans can be made to efficiently carry out goals.

Furthermore, it is also important to put first thing first. This approach is useful not only for time management but for any limited resources. Since what is important can soon become critical, actions should be taken early on. Combining both planning with a clear goal in mind and setting high priority on important but not urgent tasks will lead to effective resource management.

Since a startup is usually a team work, building an efficient team is also important. “Focus” is perhaps one of the best ways for a small team to make the most efficient use of resources. As discussed in the 8th habit book, to build focus would need to create influence and mutual trust, to blend everyone’s voice, and to shape a common vision. If everyone in the group is motivated and aligns his/her inner voice well with the goal of the group, efficiency would not be far.

(2) Proactive
Proactive is essential for a personal victory as illustrated in the seven habit book. An entrepreneur should have good emotion stability and always take initiatives. Taking initiatives can come from concentrating on the circle of influence as compared to the circle of concern. A successful entrepreneur can carefully choose their responses and refrain from any external emotional disturbance unsatisfactory consequences.

Another proactive characteristic for successful entrepreneurs is to communicate effectively. The most important skill for an effective communication is empathic listening, as we have discussed several times during classes and is also the one of the seven habits: first seek to understand, then to be understood. The reason that I classify the communication skill under the proactive trait is observing that communication is mainly about choosing responses. When we participate in a conversation, we can choose to listen well or to speak a lot. Since we cannot control how others’ would interpret our words, we can at least start from understanding what others’ care about and how we can effectively express our idea. By choosing our response in a conversation from speaking to listening and understanding, we immediately shift the conversation toward a more proactive and effective way. Successful entrepreneurs need to be a great communicator and need to be proactive to communicate effectively.

(3) Trustworthy
We have discussed integrity since the very first class but when it comes to business, merely demonstrating one’s integrity may not be enough. People do business based on trust, and trustworthiness, as discussed in the 8th habit book, comprises of personal integrity, maturity, an abundance mentality, technical competence, conceptual knowledge, and awareness. Trust is not built in one day, but from a serious of events or word-of-mouth. Think win-win, to synergize, and first seek to understand, then to be understood are the three of the seven habits that can not only create public victory but also foster the process of trust-building.

The win-win thinking is to focus on having a result that can benefit all parties. Many business opportunities are not zero-sum games so finding approaches to maximize everyone’s profit can be accomplished. Providing win-win solutions is one of the fastest ways to build trust since every party is happy and none feels being deprived. People are willing to do more business with trustworthy people.
Additionally, to synergize among different people or parties different talents can create greater values and significance. Each participant can earn more recognition and have more motivation for work that will create good will and foster mutual trust.

Finally, with proper communication through mutual understanding, it is easier to understand each other’s talent and need so as to enhance the opportunity to think win-win and to synergize. Thus, trustworthiness can also be enhanced.

Therefore, trustworthiness can be seen as a fruitful outcome of the public victory. Successful entrepreneurs would need to create such public victory and gain trust whether inside or outside the company.

(4) Innovative
Entrepreneurs are those who see and fulfill unsatisfied needs. The world is driven by such constant innovation. Since a startup has limited resources, developing innovative ways not only in the products or services but also in the marketing or financing is always beneficial. Compared to established companies, startups are more flexible for the innovations. Having constant innovations gives new juices to stressful startup life and can be inspiring.

Innovative is more than being creative. Innovations are the combination of creativity and execution. Creativity comes from curiosity in a broad range of subjects. It can link to the 7th habit, sharpen the saw, in which one’s physical, spiritual, mental, and social or emotional dimensions are constantly strengthened for constant growth. If one can constantly take in new stimulations and keep thinking, creativity can be developed more easily.

Execution is also critical for innovation. As suggested in the 8th habit book, a better execution in an organization comes from 1) aligning goals and systems, and 2) empowering others. A startup can really be innovative since the common goal of the group can be easily conveyed and everyone can be empowered to do his/her best.

Combining the creativity and execution is therefore relative easy in a startup and entrepreneurs should really bring innovations to the group by doing it themselves.

(5) Persistence
Starting a company or being a pioneer is not an easy task since entrepreneurs will face all kinds of frustrations and difficulties during the process. When facing frustrations, being able to insist on the chosen path is essential for a successful startup. However, persistence can sometimes become stubborn when setting an unrealistic goal. Entrepreneurs can set some milestones as checkpoints to decide whether or not to continue the startup project to avoid becoming stubborn.

Persistence comes from self understanding of the inner voice of an entrepreneur. When an entrepreneur starts a company that fits his/her inner desire, his/her basic needs in body, mind, heart and spirit can all be fulfilled. Such entrepreneur would then have better chance to persist on what s/he chooses.

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