A successful entrepreneur does not have to be a natural-born genius. All it takes is an idea, motivation and self-discipline... and a handful of other traits.

By Eoin O'Hara

A successful entrepreneur does not have to be a natural-born genius. All it takes is an idea, motivation and self-discipline, and a handful of other traits which happen to be shared by the most successful entrepreneurs, thought leaders and cultural figures.


“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Failure is the foundation on which all successes are built. Look at any successful entrepreneur and you will find failures in their past. It is the ability to move beyond these failures and inevitable setbacks that separates the entrepreneur from the dreamer. Do we not teach our children that when they fall off their bike they should get back on? That failure is a lesson to learn from? The successful entrepreneur listens to his or her parents! And even XLP, the London charity Workspace supports, agrees.


“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” – C.S. Lewis

Perseverance might be the number one personality trait for a successful entrepreneur, but flexibility is tied strongly to it. There is a fine line between seeing your goal and doggedly chasing it down, and outright foolishness. Your final product or service may only bear a passing resemblance to the initial design as you adjust and modify as you go. This goes for the overall business model as well as the individual product or service. An entrepreneur should not be afraid to admit it to themselves when reality is not quite aligning with their dreams. To adapt is not to accept defeat; it simply demonstrates your perseverance.


“Turning your passion into your job is easier than finding a job that matches your passion.” – Seth Godin

A successful entrepreneur is driven not by a desire for money but by their heart. They cannot perceive a future in which their business does not exist – where they are not doing precisely what they want to be doing and getting paid for it. They believe that their product or service will make the world, or their own small part of it, a better place. In the lean times, it is an entrepreneur’s passion that sustains them while simultaneously driving the business towards the next payday. When others are telling them to quit and ‘get a real job’, it is passion that will stay a successful entrepreneur’s course.


Fear management

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Fear is the mind-killer. This is as true for the entrepreneur as it is for Frank Herbert’s imaginary friends. Uncertainty, failure, lack of funds, naysayers, even sudden personal emergencies taking you away from work: there is a lot to be afraid of when you are an entrepreneur; a lot can go wrong and when you are the person upon whom everything could collapse, it’s easy to let fear control you. Instead, in the face of adversity, the successful entrepreneur knows how to control the fear.


“Ideas can become empires.” – Alastair Cameron

The future is uncertain and unpredictable. A successful entrepreneur is able to predict it anyway. This is why some of the most successful venture capitalists and even stock market investors are also entrepreneurs. They have the uncanny ability to sense when an opportunity should not be allowed to slip by. The trouble is communicating this to others who cannot see what they see. It’s not always easy to predict the future, of course, or else we would all be millionaires. Sir Alan Sugar may have done well for himself, but he made a bit of a mistake when he said in 2005 that iPods would be done with by Christmas. We’re all fallible.

Strong communicator

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot Strong

Communication skills are important for any entrepreneur. Face-to-face meetings are one thing, but when your business is digital, you will probably find the majority of your communications taking place via email, phone or, at best, video conference. For the digital entrepreneur, then, communication skills are even more essential. We take for granted the amount of information we get across to people with hand gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice. When some or all of these things are removed, it becomes vital that an entrepreneur gets their point across with no room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding.