Do You Have the Characteristics of an Entrepreneur?

Are Your Traits and Abilities Suited for Self-Employment?

Businessman in conference room
••• Are You Cut Out to Be an Entrepreneur?. Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images

What personality traits make a successful entrepreneur?

There are certain traits and attitudes that make some people more suited to running a successful small business than others.

In one study where entrepreneurs were given a list of attributes and asked to rate their importance for success, the seven most highly ranked qualities were:

  • perseverance,
  • the desire and willingness to take the initiative,
  • competitiveness,
  • self-reliance,
  • a strong need to achieve,
  • self-confidence,
  • good physical health

(William E. Jennings, "A Profile of the Entrepreneur" in Entrepreneurship: A Primer for Canadians).

None of these are particularly surprising; you'd expect a person who was a successful entrepreneur to be self-reliant and self-confident. The entrepreneur characteristics that the same group ranked as least necessary for success may surprise you, though; a strong desire for money, patience, being well organized, and having a need for power all ranked at the bottom of the list.

Human Resources Development Canada presents a very similar view of the qualities needed for entrepreneurial success. Their "Reality Check for Small Business Owners" emphasizes qualities such as persistence, self-confidence, and flexibility.

For instance, entrepreneurs "believe that they control their own destiny, they refuse to be at the mercy of others or of events.

As a result, they take the initiative in starting projects and getting ideas off the ground."

Assess Yourself

If you like quizzes, you'll like this Entrepreneurial Self-Assessment from the Business Development Bank of Canada. Once you answer these questions and press submit, you’ll see a score that shows how your answers compare to the personal background, behaviour patterns, and lifestyle factors of proven, successful entrepreneurs.

You can also assess your entrepreneur characteristics with the Are You Ready to Start a Small Business? Quiz on this website; I've designed the quiz to provide an overview of both the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs and the resources necessary for starting a business. See also 6 Traits You Need to Move From Employee to Self-Employed.

All of these sources equate being a successful small business person with being an entrepreneur. That is, the underlying assumption is that you need to have a sufficient number of entrepreneur characteristics to run a successful business. You'll find more quizzes and the like to measure your entrepreneur characteristics in the Are You An Entrepreneur? section of this website.

Feeling better about how your personality fits the profile of a successful entrepreneur? Good! You wouldn't be reading this article if you weren't a self-confident, energetic person who enjoyed challenges. But even if you have every characteristic of an entrepreneur every study has ever listed, you won't get anywhere if you're not equipped to put all those positive traits into action.

What abilities do you need when starting a small business to become a successful entrepreneur?

According to studies conducted by the Bank of Montreal Institute for Small Business, "The Six Success Factors" for starting a small business are:

  • self-motivation,
  • business and industry knowledge,
  • organization and management capabilities,
  • marketing skill,
  • customer/vendor relations,
  • and vision.


Business and industry knowledge should be near the top of anyone's list of requirements for small business success. After all, how many skis or snowboards are you going to sell if you don't know anything about the products or the sport? You can acquire this knowledge through trial and error when starting a business, but you will probably have to declare bankruptcy before you learn all you need to know. My theory is that lack of knowledge is one of the prime reasons so many new business fail.

Organizational Skills

While successful entrepreneurs themselves didn't rate being well organized highly, ((William E. Jennings, "A Profile of the Entrepreneur" in Entrepreneurship: A Primer for Canadians), it's logical that organizational and management abilities are also absolute necessities for being a successful entrepreneur. You're not going to be able to satisfy many (if any) clients or customers without these skills, and you'll certainly quickly run afoul of the Canada Revenue Agency without them!

Managerial and Administrative Skills

People keen on starting a small business sometimes forget about the managerial and administrative skills necessary to run a business; if you're going to start a successful small business, you need to have or develop expertise in business planning, money management, managing people, directing business operations, and directing sales and marketing operations. Business Management Basics will help you learn how to manage these aspects of starting a small business.

Other Abilities

What are the other abilities you'll absolutely need to be a successful entrepreneur? When twenty-one inductees into the Babson Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs were questioned about the principal reasons for their success, only three abilities were mentioned by all twenty-one successful entrepreneurs:

  • responding positively to all challenges and learning from mistakes,
  • taking personal initiative,
  • having great perseverance

("Assessing Your Potential for an Entrepreneurial Career", Manitoba Industry, Trade and Tourism, 1999.) As the authors point out, all three of these successful entrepreneur behaviors can be learned!

Investing the time to learn the skills you need before you start your own business is especially wise because once you've decided to put so much energy into starting a small business, you're going to want it to develop into a viable, thriving enterprise.

In Conclusion

When you're wondering if you're suited to start your own business, quizzes are fun, but it's important to remember that getting a low score on any of these "tests" doesn't mean that you're not cut out to be an entrepreneur and that you should forget all about ever starting a small business. Research leads to many generalizations that are not true in the individual case - and you may be the exception.

What do you really want to do and why do you want to do it? "Do what you love" is still sound advice; having a passion for what you do will fuel your commitment and give you the energy you need for the long haul. Thinking of starting a small business? What is your "burning desire" and how can you shape it into a reality that will provide you with both satisfaction and a profit? That's really the only question you have to answer when starting a small business of your own.

See also:

Thinking of Starting a Small Business?

Starting a Small Business - Overcome Fear of Failure

Why Do Small Businesses Fail?