The 5 Core Qualities of Every Successful Entrepreneur

Friday, January 08, 2021

Zach Payne, Senior Vice President of Product and Marketing

Zach is a three-time entrepreneurial success. He’s now the Senior Vice President of Product and Marketing at Heartland, managing a $1.6 billion portfolio.

When we’re teenagers imagining our future selves, there’s often a desire to break free from the norm.

We want to be bold and adventurous, imagining careers far more exciting than the options readily available to us.

It usually takes a few years of maturing to realize that for many Americans, growing up means working at a job they dislike. A Gallop poll conducted from July-September 2020 showed 51% of U.S. workers were psychologically unattached to their work and company.

In many ways, entrepreneurship is the final frontier. You spend months or even years scanning the market waiting for which way it will break, looking for what’s broken or missing, to find the one opportunity that others have glanced over or haven’t yet discovered.

I’ve had the opportunity to lead three companies from seed-stage to exit, in various industries from semiconductors to consumer electronics to fintech, and each one has taught me something new.

There are no guarantees, though. In fact, 90% of startups will fail. How do you know if you’re up for the challenge? Let’s talk about five of the key qualities successful entrepreneurs share.

  • 1. Moxie

    “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” – Brené Brown

    The risk of the unknown and the feeling that comes with it never goes away, whether you are on your first venture or tenth. Entrepreneurs take on the financial risks that come with running a company, whether it’s your own personal capital or the lifestyle stability of the salary that you left behind. That also means you can’t afford to give up when things get tough (and they most certainly will). Successful entrepreneurs stay focused on the long-term strategy, not their short-term defeats.

  • 2. Foresight

    “I begin with an idea, then it becomes something else.” – Pablo Picasso

    In adversity or ease, you always need an eye on strategies for the future. Vision works as the North Star that keeps you and your team moving forward despite the obstacles that will come your way. Having a business plan is a prerequisite for any startup, but business plans will (and must) evolve to the changing conditions of the market, be it budget, market demand, competitive landscape, or a hundred other variables that you can’t control. Vision, on the other hand, is a constant. It is the one thing, whether it’s been the best of weeks or the worst of weeks, that you come back to.

  • 3. Initiative

    “Make something people want” includes making a company that people want to work for.” – Sahil Lavingia

    Titles don’t lead people. Leaders lead people. There will come a time when you delegate work to others. The business will grow, and its success will demand that you focus your time on critical initiatives. Tasks like bookkeeping, order fulfillment, scheduling and customer service have to be delegated. Those moments are an opportunity to lead by example, demonstrating the sense of ownership you want to see in all employees. Ultimately, the weight of success or failure belongs to you. But building a culture based on mutual accountability and ownership benefits everyone.

  • 4. Grit

    “Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.” – John C. Maxwell

    For some, the primary draw to entrepreneurship is being your own boss. Finally, a chance to call the shots! But it’s not all glamour. 82% of entrepreneurs work 40+ hours per week. In every venture I’ve led, I spent no less than 70 hours a week for the first year doing the necessary tasks to keep the ball rolling forward. Having the ambition to set goals is easy. Having the guts to follow-through is critical.

  • 5. Principled

    “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” – Alexander Hamilton

    My success has always hinged on my ability to build a leadership team aligned by values. Markets change, values shouldn’t. Having a common understanding of your company’s values simplifies decision making in hiring, marketing and countless other parts of the business.

If these are traits you already possess or are interested in actively pursuing, congratulations! You have the foundation of a future entrepreneur. Consider reading John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” as a next step. It’s proven a valuable resource for me.

I wish you well on your journey. Maybe one day I’ll have the pleasure of reading an article written about you.

To learn more about Heartland’s suite of business solutions, click here.