Starting a business 20 years ago typically meant opening a brick-and-mortar location to share products or services with the local public. You might remember scenes from the movies of executive board rooms, full of stuffy suits, making the most important decisions for a company’s success from behind closed doors. But here we are, 2022, and the definition of entrepreneurial success is vastly different. I just watched a young couple on their established YouTube page launch a global coffee business from their off-grid living site in Panama. And they’re making bank.
So, yes, a lot has changed in the entrepreneurial landscape in the last couple of decades. And while the channels for reaching clients and methods of conducting business have shifted, there are still some constants. Entrepreneurs, at least the most successful ones, have different perspectives on business and life than most. They meet challenges head-on, usually with a thumbs up and gritty smile. And it’s this different mentality and unique set of characteristics that seem to transcend to even today’s digital market of scrappy startups.
Here’s what makes up an entrepreneur today. And you might find some characteristics that resonate with you. Do you have what it takes?
1. A Natural Curiosity
Entrepreneurs are innovators. They’re inventors of new things and developers of better methods. And those ground-breaking ideas come from a natural curiosity and ability to question everything. The most successful leaders are always asking, “is there a better way” or “what would make this process easier.” It’s that constant thought-provoking self-reflection that leads to brilliant light bulb moments and solutions. And it’s the routine fighting of the status quo that leads to the most revolutionary innovations.
2. Flexible Adaptability
Entrepreneurs seem to be made for the unpredictability of business by nature. They expect road bumps and curves, often greeting challenges head-on. They embrace technology and industry innovations with open arms, which allows them to surge ahead of slow-to-change competitors. To be a business leader today, even more than ever before, you have to be resilient and flexible with your journey and your goals. Expect and welcome changes, good and bad. And don’t let the world affect your business when your job is to make your business affect the world.
3. Creative Nature
Startup founders and company owners are naturally creative. They dream big, lofty dreams and envision themselves building something that’s never existed before. They’re doodlers and visual learners, eager to show their ideas and inspire others to get their creative juices flowing. Creativity is often baked into their professional “why statements” as reasons for innovating, too. Everything is a blank canvas just waiting to be turned into a masterpiece.
4. Wicked Persistence
Entrepreneurs don’t let the “no’s” knock them off course – like ever. They’ll welcome negative responses and criticism without hesitation. And they’ll sponge any feedback they can get. But there won’t be a “no” that forces them to stop moving forward. It’s that wicked persistence that tends to lead to professional and personal growth that others won’t experience. And a power to move through the roadblocks is a common characteristic all successful entrepreneurs possess.
5. Easily Decisive
The most successful entrepreneurs today recognize that business might as well move at the speed of light. There’s no room for paralysis by analysis, or opportunities will most certainly be missed. Today’s leaders aren’t cavalier about making decisions; they’ll do their homework and assess their risks first. But they won’t research a minute more than they have to before making decisions. And it’s this ease of decisiveness that allows them to continue evolving quickly in the lightning-fast markets today.
6. Team Building Masters
Today’s business titans are usually fans of one or more superhero characters. And much like The Avengers or The Justice League, today’s leaders recognize the need for a team. Assembling a tight group of like-minded, similarly motivated professionals will also provide a complementary force of unique strengths. Entrepreneurs know it’s this balance of superpowers in business that allows for more sustainable growth and success. An additional layer of skill lies in the leader’s ability to avoid toxic team members and won’t work with anyone who can’t bring their A-game to every endeavor.
7. High Tolerance for Risk
Here’s the other thing about super-successful entrepreneurs. They aren’t as afraid of risks like other managers or leaders tend to be. To the entrepreneur, risks come with the territory and, in most cases, translate to an even sweeter victory. This doesn’t mean that you should throw risks out the window when making decisions. Quite the opposite. Today’s entrepreneurs evaluate all the risks first, but instead of calculating the negatives, they perceive those risks as validators for the best decisions. There is still room to be conservative about taking risks, too. But the best of the best know the greatest achievements usually come riddled with the heftiest risks.
8. Contagious Passion
You know that when you talk to someone who’s really successful at what they do, they’re ridiculously passionate about explaining it to you. The passion that drives a top-notch entrepreneur is really their fuel. But equally powerful is just how contagious that passion can be to others. It’s partially why the greatest leaders are the best at assembling teams who are just as enthusiastic about the goal as they are. If the passion isn’t authentic, they won’t be able to talk about it in-depth or at length. But when you encounter that leader who gets genuinely pumped to talk about business, you know it comes deep and from a place of true passion, and that leader is destined to be successful.
9. Unworldly Motivation
Today’s entrepreneurs are beyond motivated. When the rest of the world is dragging their feet and posting on social media about how drab Monday feels, the most successful leaders have already had their morning coffee and hit the gym. They’re dedicated to self-care and sticking to the healthy routines that lead to great things. It’s not to say they don’t occasionally have a setback. But the motivation to continue forward, upward, and toward success is inherent and downright unworldly sometimes.
10. Subtle Confidence
The best leaders don’t have to brag about being the best. But they certainly won’t deny it either when you tell them they’re the best. It’s a subtle confidence in themselves, their skills, and their abilities that allow them to find that fine balance of confidence and humility. They’re aware there is more to learn, and they know there is always someone doing it better. It’s the confidence, however, that allows today’s entrepreneurs to remain in growth mode and sure-footed about everything they do.
11. Communication Savants
It used to be that the biggest executives isolated themselves away from the day-to-day, maybe on a different floor of the building that no one without C-Level clearance could enter. And no amount of The One Minute Manager advice out there was going to change that. But today’s leaders and startup giants are vastly different. They get in the trenches, too, and share ideas freely with everyone involved in the mission. If they see a problem, they address it openly and roll up their sleeves to help find a solution. If efforts are positive, they recognize and reward praise publicly. They’re approachable and constant about company culture initiatives. And it’s this mastery of communication that allows them to be so effective with colleagues, clients, and staff. It also allows them to articulate precisely what it is they want to achieve and what needs to be done.
12. Unbridled Optimism
Mistakes are going to happen, and unforeseen company circumstances arise. The pandemic taught everyone that. The difference between the mediocre leaders and the most successful is perspective. The super-successful entrepreneurs see these pitfalls as opportunities to improve, learn, and grow. They possess an unbridled optimism that allows them to act and react realistically, too. They aren’t going to panic where others might. They aren’t going to cave when others feel defeated. They instead take a position of optimism and move forward with the outlook of, “wow, that could’ve been worse” or “what an incredible opportunity to learn.”
13. Vision Over Mission
You often hear the terms mission and vision interchangeably. But there are key distinctions between them. The mission is more about what you’re doing today to reach the goal. The vision is the lofty, long-term objective that you’re nowhere close to meeting yet, but are hopeful of reaching. Today’s entrepreneurs understand these differences and never lose sight of the vision of success. The mission will help them get there and is attainable. But it’s the vision of the future that keeps them motivated and surging forward, striving to reach new heights and accomplish what no one before them has been able to do.
14. Uniquely Collaborative
Teamwork is essential in today’s business success stories. And we touched on that trait already. But even beyond assembling the dream team of titans, today’s entrepreneurs are uniquely collaborative. It’s a characteristic you didn’t see much in decades past with leadership roles. Back then, executives and founders wanted to keep their secrets and solutions to themselves. But today’s leaders recognize that when they can collectively improve an industry or niche segment, even among competitors, everyone wins. Yes, there will always be a strategy for securing the competitive edge. But you’ll find a lot of today’s leaders working side by side with others in their field to improve the overall health of their industry.
15. Empathetic Supporters
When you scroll through some of the thought-leadership articles and podcasts online from some of the biggest and most successful business leaders, you’ll notice they’re often empathetic supporters of everyone. They won’t excuse bad behavior, but they’ll always seek to learn about what causes the behavior and problem-solve from a position of support. If a client, colleague, or employee makes a mistake, the most successful entrepreneurs will look internally to see how they themselves can change to inspire better among those around them. They’ll give breaks when situations warrant forgiveness. And they’ll improve their relationship-building and management techniques because of the insights practicing empathy affords them.
16. Masters of Their Universe
When you talk to leaders in business, you can gauge pretty quickly whether or not they’re knowledgeable about their products or services. Knowledge and expertise go beyond memorizing the company slogans and sales pitches, too. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t just know their core offerings; they know their company, their competitors, their industry segments, and beyond. They’re masters of their universe when it comes to education and expertise. There won’t be any “faking it ‘til you make it” with these leaders. They’re genuinely on top of their game and every contributing aspect of it.
17. Avid Learners
Piggybacking off of being masters of their universe, today’s entrepreneurs are only great because they recognize the importance of continued learning. They’ll always be exploring new strategies, attending conferences, and absorbing knowledge from mentors and others. Nothing in business is constant, and there’s no point at which you’ve “arrived.” These monster leaders know success in business is an ongoing endeavor. And like Simon Sinek says, it’s an infinite game with no definitive winner or loser. There are only those who grow and those who grow stagnant.
18. Top Performers On and Off the Stage
Some business leaders and startup founders are only on top of their games when there’s an audience. They’ll recite words of wisdom and carry themselves with grace and class whenever there are others around to influence, inspire, or intimidate. But today’s top entrepreneurs are executing on a higher level in all aspects of their lives, on and off the public stage. They’re just as motivated and passionate about their health, their families, and their personal growth as they are when addressing staff and boardrooms. They’re leading authentically in every segment of their lives, not just those that have an audience.
What other characteristics would you say describe today’s entrepreneurs? And how many of these characteristics describe you? Today’s definition of entrepreneurial success is vastly different than it ever was. And whether you’re selling coffee beans from Panama with a YouTube channel or leading a global brand with thousands of employees, your success will be defined by your ability to tap into these traits.