Top 10 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs

For more than a decade, I have maintained a list of the top 10 traits that define the mindset of successful entrepreneurs: How they think, how they are wired, where they set priorities. 

Here it is:

  1. Bias to action: Every strategy and plan is merely a set of hypotheses until put into action, and that’s what good entrepreneurs do. Markets change quickly, customer preferences evolve, technology and products have accelerated lifecycles and competitors are nimble and fast.
  2. Experiment, experiment, experiment: The best way to test assumptions is to run lots of experiments. Prototype and receive feedback on different versions of your product and pricing. Compare channels and partners. Test ads and offers. Track metrics for all of these.
  3. Welcome and create change: Entrepreneurs thrive on change. Change, in technology, platforms and infrastructure, trends, demographics, laws and regulations, creates opportunities. Incumbents who don’t respond effectively to change quickly find themselves flanked by fast-moving competitors.
  4. Optimistic: Entrepreneurs expect positive outcomes, even though we know 80% of startups fail. We expect our startup will beat the odds and succeed, one way or another. Plus, we are leaders and team builders, and who wants to follow a pessimist?
  5. Resourceful: Most startups begin with an idea, a vision and very little else. Typically missing from this equation are capital, products and customers. Entrepreneurs find a way to attract all of these and more, building great companies from humble starts.
  1. Intensely curious: In addition to running experiments all the time, entrepreneurs consume huge amounts of information and look for patterns in their sector and elsewhere. We read voraciously, our inboxes are filled with newsfeeds and we attend many events and ask lots of questions.
  2. Understand and manage risk: One common concept of entrepreneurs is that we are risk-takers. While that is true on some levels, the best entrepreneurs are really experts at managing risk, figuring out how to de-risk ventures at every phase. We run experiments to see what works and what doesn’t. We raise capital in stages, risking less capital in early rounds. We are disciplined in how we go to market, succeeding in small beachhead markets before expanding our efforts.
  3. Failure-savvy: Successful entrepreneurs try to fail in ways that provide insights into markets, problems, products and customers—and that don’t kill the company. We know that today’s failure is a lesson for tomorrow.
  4. Know our customer: Entrepreneurs talk to customers every day and know them intimately. We understand our customers’ experiences and the customer lifecycle. When someone says, “I don’t talk to customers, I have people for that,” they are clearly not an entrepreneur.
  5. Ask for forgiveness, not permission: Entrepreneurs constantly try new things and aren’t afraid to break a few rules. We enter markets in unconventional ways (see Uber). We drive changes in industries, channels, customer habits, regulations and laws. Surprisingly, this approach can also be effective inside large enterprises when corporate entrepreneurs know how to manage risk and manage their stakeholders.

Do you see yourself in some of these? I hope so. Go out and break some rules!

Mark Coopersmith Strive MagazineThis list was taken from “The Entrepreneurial Mindset” by Mark Coopersmith.

Originally published in Strive Magazine, January 2019.

Full article on Strive Magazine (below):

The Entrepreneurial Mindset

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